Monday, June 9, 2008

Get Outta Here: The Flying Nun

So I’m sitting at the gate at Reagan National, minding my own business and trying not to care that the storm on the other side of that window has shut down the airport. (All good stories start with this “minding my own business” gig.) The lady next to me sees me take a break in my book, and starts a conversation.

She turned out to be a very nice person – polished make-up, nicely styled hair, dressed rather decently for an afternoon at the airport. She’s going to Bentonville, Arkansas, to visit an old friend and she’s not sure with this weather if she can make her connection in Charlotte.

Uh, this gate was for a direct flight to Indianapolis. So I asked when her flight was supposed to leave, thinking perhaps my flight was behind hers and I’d better start staking out where I wanted to eat dinner in that airport because I wasn’t going anywhere for a half a day. “3:30, “ she says very casually.

Get out of here. MY flight at this gate was scheduled for 3:35. No way did USAirways plan to send two planes out of the same gate at the same time. It’s physically impossible.

She was obviously lost. I politely told her there had been some kind of mix-up, and she should check the board to figure out where her flight was leaving from. She did – and came back saying that board listed three flights to Charlotte, but it was definitely gate 25.

Great. I was in the presence of a flying virgin. How would you find a tactful way to steer her in the right direction? I could think of plenty of blunt ways, as in “Are you really this clueless?” But finesse takes me a few minutes. So we talked about other things while I puzzled out a plan, then I strolled over to the board myself. Yes, there were three flights for Charlotte listed, but not a freakin’ one of them even had a 2 in the gate numbers. She was so off-base, she was in the wrong terminal.

So I rushed back to my seat with an important update: “They just changed your gate. You need to report to 37A.” She was so grateful I was sweet enough to check her flight, too. She grabbed her stuff and took off down the carpet.

Sweet? I didn’t mention she had to go back through security in the other wing.