How to Miss Your Flight: Study Abroad Diaries
“Text me when you get to your gate, and text me when you get on the plane, text me when you find your study abroad group…” my mom told me listlessly as I sat in the front seat. I was filled with confidence.
“I got it. There’s nothing to worry about.” We got out of the car and said bye. I walked through the large automatic doors seamlessly rolling my bag over those fun, bumpy things on the sidewalk.
I downed my 32-ounce hydro flask and got in the international check-in line. Checking in was a breeze. Airport security took ten minutes— which left me with three hours to kill at the gate. First off, I meditated. Then I finished some of my tedious virtual assistant tasks. My stomach began to grumble as I stared at the empty excel spreadsheet. I threw my overstuffed backpack over my aching shoulders and made the trek to the sushi place— passing through the greasy aroma of airport food with impeccable self-control. They were out of wasabi which was disappointing, but it was fine because I had spicy mayo.
My point in including these details is that I really didn’t think about the fact that there were planes in this place, taking people to specific places at specific times. Turns out that by the time I got my sushi roll and came back, my flight had both boarded and left.
“Huh.” I thought. “Guess it hasn’t come yet.” There were already a good bit of people, who were definitely going to make their flight, waiting at the gate. An interesting man in hunting attire sat near the window.
“Are you on the flight to Atlanta?” I asked him.
“Yeah. I’ve been sitting here forever!” We bonded over our narrow common ground and then he started sharing things about his personal life with me. I went into journalist mode, letting the guy talk himself halfway into circles and then carefully directing him out of them. It was such an inspiring conversation. This man was incredibly quotable. At one point, I asked him what he would say to his young self if he could travel back in time. He replied:
“I don’t know if I would tell him anything. I’ve never been one to want to know the future. There are some people who pick up a book and read the last page first or read the back of the DVD before they watch the movie. But I’ve always been the type to flip to a random channel and just watch the movie…”
After this man stopped talking, I fell into a time warp. I whipped out my laptop and wrote a 2,000-word short story capturing the interaction. Boarding was called for the next flight to Atlanta, I got up and zipped myself into the line forming in front of the terminal. As I slid my boarding pass across the scanner, there was a flashing red light that was by two ominous beeps. The attendant, who had a thick Russian accent, told me to go see the flight attendant at the desk. I began to worry for the first time all day as I followed the direction of her acrylic nail.
I parked myself in front of a lovely woman in a purple uniform.
“How in the world did you miss your flight? It left two hours ago!” She then told me there was no way I was going to make my connecting flight to Barcelona.
“No way?” I asked. She nodded. “Like no way at all?” She again confirmed the unfortunate news. After I strung a few coherent sentences together, informing her that I was a college student on a study abroad trip, she saw that I wasn’t a complete idiot. She was genuinely sympathetic to my unfortunate situation. She told me that it would cost several hundred dollars to rebook my flight for the next day. I told her to go ahead and book it. My shaky finger pressed my mom’s phone number.
“Mom…” I said wearily, “I missed my flight.” Her voice raised eight octaves and I apologized like twenty-four times. Everything seemed to pause in that moment, and then speed up all at once. I internally yelped like a puppy dog while trying to suppress the crocodile tears that were trying to escape my eyes. I took a deep breath.
“How much is this going to cost?” She asked. After I told her, she said my name in that way all moms say their kids’ names when they’re upset.
“I have it in my savings. I’ll pay for it. I really didn’t mean to—“ I repeated my apologetic mantra. The flight attendant’s face fell long as she heard my mom’s voice on the other end of the phone. I hung up the call and pulled out my wallet. She printed out boarding passes and circled the boarding time on each of them.
“Listen, be here at 11 a.m. tomorrow. Don’t be late.” She handed them to me. I took out my credit card and she shook her hand. “Free of charge.”
My mouth dropped open. “Really? Are you sure?”
“Be here tomorrow at 11 ok? Don’t miss it.”
I thanked her profusely and walked away. If my life was a movie, I think the back of the DVD would say: “Warning: This girl might be a little too lucky for her own good… and this story definitely does NOT have a clear take away” but hey— I’ve never been one to flip the channel.
Want more stories like this one? Check out Abbey’s blog!