It’s 9:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning when I wake up. I had gotten into bed at 6:00 a.m. after a late night – complete with concert, Mexican food, and drinks at the W. (Said evening included spotting a parked car in front of an empty parking spot at 2 am – we discovered that the parked car, however, was not empty. There also may have been a mishap where two of my gentlemen friends accidentally were seen leaving a hotel. A young woman, who may or may have not been 17, was seen leaving with them. And then her parents flanked her away. (What? What kind of crowd do you think I hang out with? Have you not been reading this all along like you don’t know me?)
My flight is at 10:45 a.m. For a split second I think, okay, I’m going to miss my flight. I’ll just get on the next one.
No, wait. Hold. Up.
US Airways only has one nonstop flight from BCN to PHL, and it isn’t offered every day. I picture my parents, and me having to call them to let them know the change of plans, etc. My mother, demanding to know the reasons for the change. Interrogating me to know what irreversible decisions in life I have made that have led me to miss my flight.
“What? What do you mean you missed your flight? How could you do that?” The chastising. The lifetime of hearing my mother regurgitate the tale of how I missed my flight from Barcelona, hearing it from numerous friends and family members and even friends of my mother’s friends I’m not really even friends with – for years to come.
It is this, this, that I cannot have.
I can make it, I think to myself, building momentum.
I’m beginning to sweat, beads forming on my lip and on my forehead. Most of my bags had been packed in preliminary staged fashion the day before, but all the other items – accessories and travel documents, dozens of toiletries and cosmetics, were strewn about my nightstand and scattered all over the bathroom. I was stuffing everything into my bags while brushing my teeth and getting dressed, fielding my roommate’s questions and doubtful look while I frantically threw it all together.
“Melissa, do you have everything?” She stood in the doorway of my room, looking on at my frenzied whirlwind.
“Whatever you need, I can just send it to you. Think about what’s important – don’t worry about shampoo, etc.”
I nearly lost it when my roommate continued talking to me while I was trying to pack – it was slowing me down. She vocalized her opinion that brushing my teeth should be the least of my worries. I rushed around, answering that I just didn’t have time. A strange look. More questions. Completely stressed out now, I snapped at her to just “Hold on! I have to get out of here and catch my flight!”. She gave me a confused look. (I staunchly refused to have stank breath – although I hadn’t washed my face or brushed my hair, damn it if I wasn’t going to brush my teeth.) I was grateful when she helped me shove everything to fit into my bags and realized that she had already done downstairs ahead of me and hailed me a cab from the quiet streets of a Sunday.
It’s 9:45 when I get into the taxi. I explain my situation to the cabbie and, sure enough, he’s speeding past other motorists and we’re on our way out of the city.
It is while sitting in the cab that I realized that I had been responding to her in English when she had been inquiring to me in Spanish. No wonder she gave me those quizzical looks. When panicked and under distress, your mother tongue is what comes spitting out of you.
I arrive at the airport a little past 10. I pop into line at the check-in counter. Immediately, I get grilled by the airport personnel. I then get reprimanded in the form of “Why are you late? You really need to get here earlier.” I am thinking the Barcelona airport must have some sort of tardiness record they’re trying to clean up, or else why would they say this to a grown ass woman? If I was 60 years old, would this guy be saying this to me? What was the big deal, anyway? There was still a line waiting for the check-in counter. I was, in fact, the last one in line, and the last one to check a bag in (see above photo), but, hey, there was still a line.
Forget it, this is the airport – best to shut up and do as you’re told, lest you be kicked off of your flight. (Because isn’t that the fear underlying everything about the process?) Fine. I’m a horribly late American. Greatest scandal of the century. (But I’m an Asian in Spain, so I might as well be Chinese.)
The line takes forever. Seriously. Something with the computers being down, three computers were now down to one. The employees at the airline’s check-in counter now seem to be rushing a bit. I am the last one in line. Surely they wouldn’t have me wait in line only to not make it to the terminal, right?
Finally. Checked in. Now for the next mad dash.
One of the employees says she’ll help me/meet me/wait for me/commence whatever the frantic rigmarole is for late passengers. I run to security, get in line, get screened. Then I run to the passport controls line, wait some more, notice that the passport controls guy is kind of cute, get the stamp of approval.
And now, for the last mad dash. I run, I mean, run, after this petite woman, who moves surprisingly faster in pumps than you’d expect, to the gate. I’m sweating, I’m sprinting as fast as I can go with my backpack – the airline employee, she’s carrying my big tote bag. I slow down, I can’t even keep sprinting for this long. I finally make it to the gate, she gives me my bag.
An airport employee stands in front of the gate, one of the ones whom had interviewed me while in the check-in line, had surely seen me begin my race from the ticket counter. Surely.
“Did you buy anything at the airport?” I am floored.
“When would I have had any time to buy anything from the airport? You saw me – ”
“Well you should have gotten here earlier.”
Why, so that I could buy something from the airport? You’ve got to be kidding me.
Miraculously, the conversation ends at that and I move past him and get through. I get on the plane, I sit down. It’s 11:10 a.m. The pilot makes an announcement about half an hour later about how our flight is running late. I’m lamenting my morning, the last cup of coffee I didn’t have, the breakfast with my roommate that never happened. I’m on the plane, closing my eyes, probably the most relieved person to know that our flight is late.
Alright, Mom, you win. You got me on this flight. Lucky for me you’ll never know.
I wrote my roommate an email a few days later, letting her know that I was fully aware of the items I had left behind, which she should consider as gifts/inheritances/great mooching/temporary storage for me/buried treasure:
- One toaster I had purchased brand new, which has a ten year warranty (I know, right?)
- One portable heater for my freezing cold room which has no heating appliance to speak of
- One rug from the fashion stylings of Ikea Hospitalet; also, duvet cover and matching pillowcase from said Ikea branch
- One pitcher
- A whole load of toiletries
- One pair of ripped up jeans that have already been repaired twice
- Perishables, including condiments: nutella, off brand sriracha sauce, raw brown sugar, pims raspberry cookies, a half-full bottle of Cacaolat (nothing but the best!) and a particularly sentimental off brand crunchy peanut butter which is extremely hard to come by around these parts.
Busted out of Barcelona in breakneck fashion. Like a storm. Or that scene in Home Alone.
Still reminiscing over the cafe con leche I never had that morning. That’s right – you might think you can’t reminisce about something you never had. You stand corrected.
Hasta luego, Barcelona.