Cutting it Close

“Madame, you are very late” he chastised me in his French accent at the check-in counter.

“I know,” I answered, breathless, “I’m trying” was all I could stammer out because frankly, I was sort of in a daze. I didn’t really think I was that late. My flight didn’t leave for another hour. Looking back of course, for an international flight, I was, for sure, running late.

I spent the afternoon and evening before with my friend Nirvi in Brussels, catching up and having a great time just being around my friend who now lives so far away. The two of us called for an Uber to the train station in the morning of my flight around 7:45. He didn’t show for another ten minutes. I wasn’t concerned. Once we got to Brussels’ train station, Gare du Midi, she kept me company while we waited an additional twenty minutes for the next train headed to the airport. That ride would take twenty minutes and I still wasn’t fazed. I left the house at 7:45. That’s SO early, right?

I arrived at the Air Canada counter where there were two people being checked in. No line. I asked the woman donning Air Canada garb “Excuse me, but may I check in for my Air Canada flight here?” There were so many monitors above so many counters, and you never can tell if the line is for business class of whomever.

“We are about to close!” she told me. This response both criticized me and failed to answer my question. “Where are you going?” she asked haughtily, also with a french accent.

I told her Montreal and then on to Boston. “Well, we’re closing soon so you better hurry or you’ll miss your flight!”

Really? I thought. You’re going to close with only me standing here and only one bag left to check? You’re not a bus that I’ve just missed. YOU ARE A STATIONARY, UNMOVING CHECK-IN COUNTER!

I quickly opened my luggage, jammed my jacket into it, expanded the luggage by unzipping one zipper then in a panic, closed the entire case with the other zipper.

After being tsk tsked! one more time by Mr. Madame You Are Very Late, I hauled my butt to security where the lines were thankfully very short.

As I came almost in reach of the bins on the conveyor belt, a TSA officer slowed things by questioning the man ahead of me in line. From the other side of the conveyor belt, he asked him about his destination and what was in his bag (I won’t mention the traveler was a black man…but the man was a black man). Later I saw his bag take a different path from the other bags at a fork in the conveyor belt (never noticed those before).

When I was putting my items into the bins, the officer asked me if I had perfumes, etc. I told him no and he pointed at my water bottle. “That’s not allowed.”

No shit, dude, “I forgot to empty it” I told him, handing it over forlorn. I always bring an empty water bottle so I can fill it with tap water on the other side of security, but I forgot to empty out the water in all the commotion of the morning.

Once through security, I headed quickly in the direction of the gate but was stopped by Border Control. Well, more accurately, I was stopped by the line of hundreds of people slowly making their way through border control (getting their passports stamped).

Remembering something the Frenchy at the check-in counter told me ten minutes ago, “You plane boards in ten minutes”, I did something entirely new to me –  I asked every tenth person, with not an ounce of fake panic in my voice “Excuse me, but do you speak English?” If they nodded, I’d say “I’m so sorry, but my flight is about to board, would you mind if I cut ahead of you?” Pretty much every tenth person would say go ahead, and I would thank them profusely before counting to the (roughly) tenth person ahead of them. At one point, one of them was an American and she waved me in front of her “Go go go!” as if to say Girl, have I been there! I appreciated the vigor with which she helped me.

I was mortified by this, and happy to be able to say with confidence that I have never done it before in my life.  I hope to never have to do it again.

The last person I asked to cut in front of was the least amused by my request (or perhaps he only vaguely spoke English but I think it’s more likely that he was just thinking I was a stupid entitled American…which, I guess I am, but damn it, I’m not gonna miss my flight!). When I was done with all my begging and groveling, I was sixth from the front.

I felt like a total jerk for not leaving the house earlier.

When I was next to see the border control officer he slowed things down taking his sweet time chatting with the young woman currently at his window. My turn went quickly and once I got to the really-far-away gate (B28) I was relieved to see that the line to board was still really long.

An un-fed Cyd is an unhappy Cyd, so I stopped by a cafe, stood in line probably dancing on my feet subtlety like I had to pee, and ordered a chocolate croissant and a bottled water (makes me so mad to pay for that water and use anotehr plastic bottle).

Towards the back of the line of people boarding the Air Canada flight, there was another woman checking passports. She furrowed her brow as she looked at mine (great, what now?) and asked “Where is your security sticker?”

“I’m sorry?” I responded, thoroughly confused by the question. I asked if she meant the stamp in my passport. She mumbled something indecipherable to me and sent me out of the line and into another line leading to the gate counter a few feet away. There were quite a few of us rejects in the line. She was rejection happy, I think. At least I wasn’t alone.

Before I even got to the counter another rep stepped up to me, glanced at my passport and ticket and directed me out of that line to board the place. Phew!

In the end, the flight itself was lonnnnng and boring, but at least there were multiple screaming babies on board, so that was good.

PS While the chaos of the morning was a bit much, and I found the staff at the airport a bit unpleasant, I have to say that my multiple experiences with Air Canada during this trip were really good. The flights were relatively comfortable, they provided us with clean blakets, pillows, and headphones, and the food and snacks were really decent. (No, I’m not providing a plug, just letting you know for future reference. )


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