Taking off for South Africa. First stop, London. The departure time for my connecting flight is at 9:05 pm with boarding time at 7:50. I’m still on my first flight and we are already late. We land at 8:30 but I’m sitting all the way at the back of the plane, and people take a gazillion years to get all their luggage and then leave the plane. I’m standing up waiting in the aisle for 15 minutes, which feels like an eternity because I am constantly checking my watch. Finally, people start to move slowly and take up the whole hallway so it’s impossible to pass them while they’re lugging the contents of their entire house behind them. And so begins the long, winding maze of walking through what feels like the entire airport following those endless “Connecting Flights” signs that should give me some sense of how close I am but really don’t. Instead I feel like I’m endlessly wandering while time is pressing in on me.
It feels like a labyrinth.
And then I discover that the maze only takes me back to where I had just gotten off the previous flight, but in such a roundabout way that I am out of breath. I must say, airports are a great workout when you are rushing to make that connecting flight. I actually find that it’s quicker to speed walk next to the moving walkway than to get on it. I think next year I’m going to join a power walking team. See ya suckers going slow in the fast lane! So I finally make it to the terminals where you have to go through a security checkpoint, again. Got to take out the laptop, put everything in a bin, and wait for it to get spit out the other end. All sweaty now. Thank goodness I don’t have to bother taking off my shoes in the London airport. Ok so now I’m feeling better, feeling closer. But in reality, I ‘m not close at all. Now I have to weave in and out of a ton of people walking in slow motion who have hours to kill before their flight leaves and are in “la la” land. Out of my way people, I’m on a mission here.
I’m following signs for Gate 21 but all I keep seeing are vague signs that point me in the direction of Gates 1-22. Notice how 21 is next to 22 which means it is second to last. I turn a corner and see a straight away with an escalator. Sweet, I can run on the deserted escalator. I’m running so fast that when it ends I practically face plant because the ground isn’t moving anymore. The escalator starts back up again. Up ahead I see some people who are taking up the whole path. “Excuse me.” Louder. “Excuse me!” No response. “EXCUSE ME!” Either they didn’t hear that or they are choosing to ignore me. So I bulldoze through them. Just kidding. But I just nearly run them over as I squeeze past.
Still haven’t passed any gates. This gate is seriously at the end of the world. Am I getting on the same plane that I just got off of? Is this a funny joke? I must look so ridiculous right now slightly jogging with my laptop in my hands. I check my watch: 9:01pm. Gates were supposed to close a half hour ago. But I believe I can make it. I’ve got to be getting close now. Passing all the teen gates. There’s another guy running up ahead. How comforting. Almost there. Is that really a sign for Gates 20 and 21 that I see ahead? Yes it is! I finally see the glowing GATE 21 sign. All the Virgin Atlantic flight attendants in their long, red coats are waiting for me. They’re impressed. I made it.
I follow the flight attendant onto the plane and everyone is sitting all comfy and cozy in their seats, just staring at me. They have no idea what I have just been through to make this flight. I’m so sweaty and still breathing heavy. I just want to get to my seat. Of course I have to walk all the way to the back of this big airplane to get to my seat. When I finally sit down at a window seat, I take a deep breath and laugh to myself. Somehow it always works out when I’m traveling. Somehow I made it from my previous flight in 20 minutes.
But unfortunately my baggage didn’t…
When I arrive in Cape Town and get through customs, I head straight for baggage claim. On my way I hear my name over the loudspeaker. Great, they must have found something suspicious in my bag or something. So I head over to the baggage desk and the woman informs me in a matter-of-fact tone that my luggage is still in London. I laugh. I guess the baggage people aren’t as fast at transferring the bags as I am at navigating the entire airport.