There is no drive more stressful than the one to catch a plane that waits for no man, woman or child. Then having successfully negotiated the traffic, you arrive to find massive queues to check in, more queues to get through customs, then they want you to take off your shoes and reveal that sock you didn’t get around to darning, and wait, there is something suspicious looking in your very carefully packed hand luggage which now has to be emptied onto the table. Your life goes from order to chaos in an instant and before you know it you have abandoned that plan for a lesurely drink at the bar and your name echoes through the long white corridors as you run faster and longer than you have since primary school, to the boarding gate rumaging for that boarding pass only to be met by frowns of disapproval for being late.
Recently on my way to South America, I arrived at LA airport the obligatory hour before take-off with only hand luggage and smugly thinking I had already checked in on-line only to discover that I hadn’t and had to queue. The guy in front of me was way over the baggage limit and it took Copa Airlines the best part of an hour to argue a price. Meanwhile my blood pressure was slowly rising to bursting point. Raw fear that I would miss the plane that would bugger up my next connection that would bugger up the next etc. Breath. Check-in staff and perhaps laid back South Americans especially, don’t take too kindly to red faced gringos (even if I am Australian), shouting and crying.
And even if you have checked in successfully and are sitting at the boarding gate, calmly people watching, don’t not listen to all those announcements in a foreign language followed by the English announcements that sound nearly as foreign because one might be for you and there might be a reason that those people you have been watching start to be replaced by different people. Your gate has been changed and boarding is now! The new gate is not next door, it is right up the other end and you find yourself running again along long corridors, hearing your name being called and more frowns from staff diminishing any chance of an up-grade. And when you finally are the last person to board and you find the seat that you booked months in advance, an old Chinese lady is sitting in it. The flight attendant signals for you to go to the last seat at the back of the plane and you submit like a chastened child because, after all, you are late again.