Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Day Returning Home and The 80 Gate Dash

I returned home yesterday and am back in the office this morning. I was looking forward to a nice, relaxing trip home and the day started that way as Tony, a person who does some work for SKUSA, and I killed some time in Grand Junction.

We went to the mall, and then to lunch, and all the while I was talking without any problems. For one thing this was a one-on-one conversation, and secondly a lot of the talk was racing related. In an hour I'm sure Tony heard me talk more than all the other races he's seen me at combined.

After the mall we went to Barnes and Noble and after that we exhausted all other places we'd want to go in Grand Junction so we headed to the airport four hours early.

As we got to the airport I began to get nervous as I recalled the miserable trip from Friday. Would the journey through security be as traumatic as the one in Saint Louis? As much as I said in yesterday's post about not worrying I sure was failing at that right from the get go.

I worried and worried but when I got to security it was like an episode of "The Twilight Zone". How so? It was like the premier episode when all the people had vanished. There was no one. Was the airport closed? Nope, it's just that Grand Junction is, well, Grand Junction. Smaller airport equals smalled amounts of people at the airport.

From the side came the TSA agents and compared to their big city counterparts these agents were relaxed and had a sense of humor. Don't get me wrong, while they may have been relaxed their jobs still got done and as my flag bag went through the scanner three of them huddled around and tried to make sense of what was in the bag. When this happened I was sure I was going to be deemed some sort of terrorist and somehow my flag stand would be considered a weapon of some sort.

The lead scanner agent looked at me and asked, "Sir, what is that?" I responded with a simple of answer of, "flag stand" and they released my bag and that was that with the crisis averted.

The next step in my day was to hurry up and wait. Thankfully I have plenty of games to keep me occupied on the iPhone as well as continuing to talk with Tony. It was an odd experience to be sitting in the airport and watching the people that were leaving before us. We would be the only ones, then the gate area would have about 40 people, then it would become empty again. I actually enjoyed this time very much.

Time progressed and it was getting near 5:00 in the afternoon with my ticket stating that board time would be 5:40 and departure 6:23. Remember how I stated yesterday that I would be fully relaxed should anything happen because now I knew the protocol? It's one thing to say it and it's another thing for it to actually happen and trust me, I wasn't relaxed. I kept trying to convince myself that everything would be fine, everything would work out and that everything was out of my control. I mean, what could I do? It wasn't like I could magically make our plane get to the gate (only if I could!).

5:10 came, no plane. 5:20, 5:30, 5:40. When 5:45 came about I went into full 'cat' mode. What I mean by that was if you've seen a cat at attention being hyper-vigilant, well, that is what I was; tense, stressed, and ready to pounce.Well, not really pounce, but I was about at my limit for stress. All I kept thinking was, "please please PLEASE let my connecting gate in Salt Lake be close." Tony looked it up for me and we would be arriving at gate E68 and my flight to Saint Louis would be... C1! So it wasn't as bad as Friday's 100 gate dash, but this still, in my books, would be an 80 gate dash. Oh course this was all hypothetical at that point in time as we still didn't have a plane.

At 5:50 the gate attendant lady came on the intercom and said the plane out of Salt Lake City was late and was due anytime. At least I knew the plane I was on existed and was on the way. This helped calm my internal nerves a bit because now I knew what was going on. My imagination of being stranded in Grand Junction until August was now squashed.

Sure enough, a couple minutes later, our plane arrived and the getting the passengers that were on, and the passengers that were waiting to get on process went by astoundingly fast. However fast it might have been we still were late getting off the ground by 15 minutes. I had a scheduled 36 minute layover so time was short. On top of that, per my boarding pass, I would be landing 10 minutes after my next flight would start the boarding process. I was sure I was going to be bumped and stranded in Salt Lake City until, well, August. I was sure life as I knew it was over and there would be no way I could make the 80 gate dash in time.

The entire thirtysomething minute flight saw my body in full alert status. Much like an athlete visualizes how the game is going to play out I visualized the 80 gate dash. Time was of the essence and I had no time to waste.

As we began our decent I did a momentary "dance of the fingers" and another one of the SKUSA staff that was on the flight saw this and asked, "Aaron, are you okay?" I didn't realize that the emotions within me drew me to doing it so I quickly said, "yes" and tried to make myself invisible which was impossible seeing that I was on the plane as I was.

When we landed the time it took to taxi to the gate felt longer than the entire trip up to that point. I knew what was coming, I could see the clock; it was 7:37. "7:37! Ha! A fitting time to be at the airport" a said aloud without knowing it causing the man beside me to look at me strangely. I let it go and didn't want to explain the fleet of Boeing planes. Besides, only a person like me would make that connection. So anyway, 7:37 comments aside, we made it to the gate and I was off like an Olympic sprinter off the start... and then a minute later I was already slowing down as once again I had my office shows on (they are slip ons and are so much more comfortable than tennis shoes while inflight) and my shins had not fully rested from Friday's 100 gate dash.

Despite the pain I trudged on. I was not playing the stranded for hours game again and I was pretty sure there were no more flights to Saint Louis that night. I ran, and I ran, ad then I huffed and was out of breath. I think the run itself would be easy, but carrying to heavy items along with the run is a high task to do.

I ran by the D terminal and then I could see from the C terminals up ahead. It was 7:52 with a scheduled departure time of 8:00. Was I too late? I didn't know, but my heart was racing not only because of the run, but because of the unknown.

I turned the corner and could see C terminal and just as I got to gate C1 the automated message played, "Delta flight 4466 to Saint Louis is delayed due to... late arriving crew..." All the running and all the stress was for not. As I should have learned, and what I said I had learned in yesterday's post, regardless of what I think I have the power to do, in this instance I have no control over the situation. You see, I may know this, and I thought knowing it would have stopped the same thought cycle from occurring, but it just doesn't work that way. In other aspects of my life knowing how/why my thought cycle is the way it is has made huge differences, but with something like this, seeing how I am so routine and scheduled based, knowing did nothing to quell the fear.

Eventually we left Salt Lake and I made it home and when I finally tried to go to sleep my body was still on a high alert status. The whole four day trip seemed like a blur and my mind slowly tried to make sense of all that had happened. I think by 3:00 I was asleep and what did I dream of? Not an 80 gate dash, not a 100, but I dreamed of having to go from a Z terminal, to an A. I woke up 30 minutes before my alarm was scheduled to go off in a cold sweat with my heart pounding. I've had scary dreams, but that was a nightmare!

1 comment:

  1. awwww *hugs*, that's rotten luck having had that experience 2 times in a row and then even relive it in a nightmare.
    By the way, you're not the only one looking at the time like that. At twitter we tweet 1337 time (13:37), referring to a hackergroup. Also, we sometimes point out times like 4:04 (internet error) and 0:00 (ghost time) and more stuff like that. Digital time is just funny like that sometimes. (I do have many autistic friends... Maybe autistic people just notice these things sooner?)