The cost of rushing

Written in response to: Set your story in an airport, as someone rushes for a flight.... view prompt



"Last call for all passengers, flight KL6008 to Amsterdam, please go to your gate immediately." 

Oh, come on, hurry. I make a few jumps as if that would make the sale in front of me any quicker. Besides, there's a man in line before me and heaven knows how long he will take to... I try to look what the man in front me holds in his hands. A newspaper, a magazine, maybe some candy? Way too much anyway. Oh hell, fuck it. 

I step out of the line and dramatically place the book I had in my hands on the top 10 non-fiction display and run outside the store. I catch the grin on the face of the man behind me in line. Schadenfreude. I would have reacted the same. 

As I run towards my gate and curse the pizza slice I had earlier. I knew I probably wouldn't have enough time to eat it, thanks to customs. But I did it anyway, knowing that the food in the plane wouldn't be so good. That is, if I was to judge on my inbound flight. And that's what I did. The slice was worth it, definitely. But it lay heavy on my stomach now. What made me think I still had time to buy a book is beyond me now. 

I’m out of breath when I reach the gate and curse again. They only just now started boarding. There’s still quite a number of people waiting to be boarded. Some are still even sitting down and waiting. What did they mean with last call anyway. I heard the first call, yes. But never a second or a third. And the first call wasn’t that long ago.

Oh well, I’m here now. I rumble in my bag for my passport. My boarding ticket is conveniently on my phone and…  

I feel the blood rush from my face. My phone. It’s not in any of the pockets of my jeans jacket. It’s not in any pocket of my tracksuit bottoms. In the pouch of my hoodie maybe? No. In my bag maybe? Where the hell is my phone? 

I let the people behind me pass me by. The longer I search for my phone, the dizzier I get. I remember the first couple of times when I had the boarding card on my phone. It was all new and I never trust new things completely. There’s always room for little mistakes which is perfectly fine. It’s new. So I always had a printed copy with me. But I stopped doing that after a while. It always worked. I always made sure my phone was charged. And these days there’s a electric socket everywhere on any airport. Fool proof. Unless you manage to lose your phone. 

I don’t know what to do and walk towards the information desk. I tell the lady what happened and if she may be able to print my boarding card anyway, based on my passport. She understands my problem but there’s not much she can do for me now. Where I last had my phone. I try to remember. It must have been in the bookstore. I always feel a million times whether I still have everything in my pockets. I had it in the queue. I think. 

The lady advices me to go back there and look for the phone there. She can’t guarantee the plane will wait. I look aside and see how the very last passengers and going through the gate. I would make it if I were Usain Bolt. But if I were Usain Bolt, they would probably let me on board. Instead of trying to make it anyway, I stand still and ponder on what it the best course of action. But the airplane lady disturbs my line of thoughts. She asks me to step aside, so she can help the man behind me. 

I look at the ground when I step aside and feel how the ground is slowly swallowing me. This is the last flight of the day. I lost my phone and my boarding ticket. The best thing I can do now is go back to the bookstore and at least find my phone. No idea what will happen next. I take a deep breath and make my way to the bookstore when the airline lady calls my name. This surprises me. She barely looked at my passport and in all stress I hadn’t mentioned my name. But she calls my last name. I have an unusual last name so I stop and turn around. At the desk there’s a man with his back in my direction. The lady at the desk is waving at me, signaling me to come. I have nothing to lose, as I lost the most important things of that day anyway. 

“Is this your phone?” 

On the desk lies a red iPhone. I press the start button with my thumb and see how the boarding ticket pops up, before it unlocks my phone. It’s my phone! But how? I need to show my passport to verify that it’s really my name on that boarding ticket. A minor annoyance I gladly undertake. I can go on this flight! I mean, I can right? She’s not giving back my passport. 

“So, are you able to rebook?” 

It’s the man next to me. He wants to rebook something. Well, that’s his right. But the lady has still my passport. So that means it’s still my turn. 

“Excuse me.” I try to sound polite and calm. I know myself and fail. “I’m trying to catch this flight and she still has my passport so it’s still my turn?” 

He ignores me. The lady looks pensive. “I thought you knew each other?”

“I never said that.”

“Well, no.” The airline lady sounds confused. I’m confused. I want my passport back. She wants to hand it back to me, but the man stretches out his hand between me and the lady. 

“What the hell?” 

“She’s had a rough day. Wasn’t able to buy the biography of Barack Obama because she thought she would miss her flight. And while she left the queue at the bookstore and ran out of the store her phone fell on the floor. I want to make her day a bit better to upgrade her to business class. It’s a long flight.” 

The lady looks at me and smiles. I stare at the man who grins at me. I remember that grin. It was the person behind me in the queue. 

“Well, that’s generous. I can check if there’s room left.” 

“But aren’t we supposed to take of any minute?” She wouldn’t wait for me to look for my boarding ticket, but she has time to upgrade my ticket? Wait, is that guy upgrading my ticket? 

“We have one seat left. But that’s the seat next to yours, sir.” 

“Well, if she wants it.” I continue to stare at the man. “I take that as a yes.” 

“Miss? Do you accept?” I only nod. The airport lady types and types and after a while she prints something and hands me a ticket. Business class. 

“Come on, let’s go or we’ll miss our flight.” I pick up my bag, almost forget my phone from the counter and follow the man and enter the gate to the plane. While we enter the plane I see some people are looking at us annoyed. I understand, we’re the reason of the few minutes delay. 

My generous passenger slumps down on his seat and I slowly sit in the seat next to him. I always wanted to fly first class. The seats on this flight are nothing compared to economy. So much space, not just for my legs but also between my and his seat. I look around and feel way out of place in my training bottoms, hoodie and jeans jacket. Everyone here looks like they’re flying business class on a daily basis and the man next to me is doing his thing as if he’s doing this all the time as well. As casual as possible I try to follow his example and hang up my jacket on a special hook and get the things out of my bag which I may need during the flight. There’s plenty of room for me to store these items. 

He gets up to place his bag in the head lockets. That grin again. “Can I place anything for you here while I stand here?” 

I smile back and hand him my bag and wait for him to sit down. Such space! “I think I haven’t even said thank you.” I say while the safety rules ares being demonstrated. I gather that the are the same here as they are in economy. Maybe we get our life jackets first. 

“You’re welcome. And I have something else for you.” 

I want to say something. But he already hands me over a book. It’s the autobiography of Barack Obama. I’ll be damned! 

“Thank you. But, I can’t accept that.”

“You can accept a last minute seat upgrade but not a book?” He sounds playful. Then I notice that he isn’t dressed that differently from me. Actually, the only thing that gives away he’s able to fly business class is his watch. He looks way too down to earth and friendly to be a business man. Too young as well. Then I realize I’m stereotyping. 

“Yeah, that sounds weird.” I manage to say. “But seriously, why?” 

The plane is in motion and ready for take off. He holds up his hand to say that he cuts off this conversation. I then see how he holds the armrests a little bit too tight as we lift off. He only relaxes when we are well in the air and turns back in my direction. 

“I tell you why.” He says as if no time had passed. “I was just like you. Rushing at airports. Always trying to be in places in time. Always impatient. Always on the run. But why? I think people will sooner or later learn that it doesn’t matter. That no life is that significant that it matters to be somewhere first, or that everything needs to be dealt with on the spot. I was working hard and I still do. But I learned the hard way that wanting instant results, no matter what and where, isn’t the right way to go. You lost your phone. Which wouldn’t let you on the plane. That’s relatively harmless. I lost my mind. Which nearly cost me everything I fought for and what is dear to me. I still don’t have all of my mind back and I never will. But I’ve learned to be a calmer person. Not so rushed and not so stressed anymore. I still do my thing, I still work hard. But with less casualties. Does that mean less success? Yes, it does. But is a little less of a lot a bad thing? Is having a lot worth it if you aren’t able to enjoy it? Because I wasn’t rushing, I was able to notice you lost your phone. I was able to realize where you ran to, because of the announcement you reacted to. I was able to buy some candy and your book. You will enjoy that one, by the way. It’s really good, nice man by the way, always calm and polite when I met him. Anyway, because of keeping my cool, I was still able to get to the gate myself and you were still there. Of course. So stressed out that you had no clue what to do. This was the least I could do.” 

“Thank you.” I stammer. 

“You’re welcome.” He smiles and takes his headphones out. I stare at the book in my hands and think of the words he just told me. Did he just say he met Obama? I thought of all the other things he said. He’s right, I know he is. I want to talk more about it but he’s closed his eyes, listening to whatever it is he’s listening to. I take my own headphones out and cancel out some of the airplane noise. I open the book and start reading. It’s a long flight. I’m comfortable and will probably have nicer food. And who knows I’m able to talk some more with my travel partner. And if not, I already learned a valuable lesson. 

December 24, 2021 16:29

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