30 November 2011

breaking the rules {part II}

To get the full effect of me breaking the rules, you may want to start with Part I.


There were hundreds of us—thousands of us—who'd all gotten up before 5 to make it here to O'Hare for early morning flights.

I wanted to stop a random sampling and ask, "Where are you going? Did you also set your coffeemaker to auto-brew this morning so that you'd wake up to the smell of coffee? Are you excited for your trip? Is it vacation or work or something else entirely? Have you ever seen so many people here this early?"

Sometimes, the thought of the stories going on around us can be overwhelming. Do you ever look around a crowd and think—everyone here has one memory that always makes them giggle. Everyone has a heartbreak, and everyone has a favorite book or song or movie.

It sounds naive, but the wealth of stories can make me feel both incredibly small and blessedly in awe. It also reminds me of a quote I have written somewhere: "Be kind to everyone you meet. They all have troubles and joys of their own."

But faced with hundreds upon hundreds of people in the security line at O'Hare, I didn't want to consider anyone else's trouble. For the moment, it was all horribly, selfishly about my trouble: even though I'd done everything just as I should—checked in online, printed my boarding pass already, packed just a carry-on, worn uncomplicated shoes {read: easy to take off}, and arrived 75 minutes early—there was no way I was going to make my flight.

Hundreds of people literally stood in my way, each of them with their own giggly memory or whatever else I was just waxing lyrical about, not that I was thinking about that crap just then.

I was more thinking: if I get a good enough running start, can I hurdle over these people and what would the TSA think of my ninja move?

Because I'm not a ninja, I did the next best thing: I talked to an airline employee.
Me: Why, good morning, Sweet Airline Employee (SAE)! Gosh, lots of people here today. I wonder why that is.

SAE: It's because a lot of people bought plane tickets to fly today.

Me: Oh, yes, a very astute point. You're quite clever and a little sarcastic. I like that about you. Also, you look very sharp in your uniform.

SAE: [blank, bored stare, as if she hates her uniform] Can I help you?

Me: I sure hope so! [flash former cheerleader smile, hold for a few beats] Now, my flight is at 7:15, and I've been in this line for about 20 minutes. I'm a little concerned about how the line stretches from here to Iowa. I mean, look at that! There should be porta-potties and benches along there.

SAE: 7:15? Oh, you just might make it, honey.

Me: [encouraged by how she called me honey] Ok, it's that "just might" that has me worried. I have a lunch meeting at a very good pizzeria in Montclair, NJ, and I'd like to be there for it. You'd love this pizza, especially the salsiccia, I think—all their pizzas are cooked in an incredibly hot kiln sort of thing. Tastes just like Italy. But this line is in the way of my pizza. [flash cheerleader smile again, although I'm starting to get the impression that maybe this lady didn't like the cheerleaders at her high school. They must've been the snotty mean girl variety.]

SAE: Well, honey, maybe you should've planned ahead better.

Me I know you don't know me very well {beyond that I like pizza}, but that's the thing—I did plan ahead, and I never ask for exceptions, but...oh, you're walking away. And laughing. I see how it is. Bye!

My boss called just then, saying that he was at the gate and wow, there were a lot of people flying today and where was I?

"For how far I am from the gate, I may as well still be at home in bed with my little pug snoring away in her little bed," I told him as I eyed the unmoving line.

"You can always try going through the Priority Access line. That's what I did," he offered.

"Yes, but you actually have Priority Access. I have an American AAdvantage credit card: do you think I could flash that as proof that I'm special?"

"It's worth a shot."

"Flashing my credit card? That'd be like Hugh Grant in Notting Hill trying to get into a press conference by showing his Blockbuster card and saying he worked for their in-house magazine."

"No, not flashing your credit card. Just walk through Priority Access like you know what you're doing." As he said that, I stepped out of line and walked toward the empty Priority line.

"All right, I'll see you soon. I hope. If I don't get on the plane, assume I've been banned from the airport for life for breaking the rules. And maybe also beat up by all these other people in the security line who are obeying the rules."

I briefly considered keeping the phone at my ear as I handed my boarding pass to the TSA guy.

I'd pretend to be on an Important Call and say things like, "You let Frank know that his proposal is laughable. As if the ROI he's promising is even possible. Tell him to be realistic and get me a revision by the time I land. Yes, I'll be in the office for lunch. Get me that kind of pizza I like from the place I can never remember the name of. And a salad, but not with the funny kind of lettuce. Also, make sure my schedule is cleared for a 5-mile run at 3:30. I hope you know where my running shoes are. On second thought, tell Frank that was his last shot. He's done."

By the time I finished pretending to be Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada {is it bad that I was imagining being so many movie characters all in one morning?}, the TSA guy would've checked my boarding pass, overheard that I was an Important Person with a Schedule, and waved me through.

But I didn't do that, of course.


Coming tomorrow: Part III, aka The Ending When I Actually Tell You About the Sandwich and the Sick Baby

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