New York Times best-selling author and guest Treat contributor
Airlines will have you believe there are three kinds of fliers: first, business, and coach. But if you’ve spent time in any airport you know there are only two kinds. There are The Sane (such as myself), who get to the terminal with hours to spare, more than happy to sit around, waiting. And then there are The Others (my wife, for instance) who, what can only be due to some unfathomable thrill-seeking addiction, are beyond-happy to pull up to the curb with minutes to spare as possible.
You don’t know my wife. But you probably have traveled on business trips with a colleague such as her, forced to endure their madness, as I had to with one coworker. Like the time in Paris some years ago, when he and I were booked on the 10 a.m. return flight to New York.
“What time should I book the car for tomorrow?” he asked me the evening before, while we were having a pre-dinner drink at the hotel bar.
I told him 5 a.m., thinking that if it were up to me we’d leave right then and there and I’d spend the night sleeping in a chair at de Gaulle.
He laughed and booked it for 8.
I nearly had a stroke en route the next morning.
Look, I know I sound like a crazy person, but here’s my rationale: I hate stress. Period. And to me there is nothing more hellish than worrying I will miss my flight. You may think the best part about flying is arriving ahead of schedule. For me the best part about flying is arriving early at the airport. I mean it. I don’t care if I’m there five hours early. The way airports are loaded with amenities these days, with just about any indulgence you can seek — restaurants with amazing food, shops of all stripes, spas to enjoy a massage, salons to get a haircut, studios to do some yoga, probably even places to shuck your own oysters, for all I know — how bad can it be? Airports are like a vacation before the vacation. Plus, I get a lot of my best writing done at an airport lounge. So, win-win.
Which brings me back to my wife. Some spouses want separate bathrooms. I think she’d like separate cars to the airport. In fact, I know this. We’ve discussed it. But I’ve learned to compromise. Sort of. When we first met, I’d want to get to the airport at least three hours before a flight took off. Now, it’s two.
We’ve made one other adjustment, too. In days past, I was the guy you no doubt saw in the airport, arms flailing, on the verge of a panic attack as I “talked” to my wife because even though our flight was not leaving for 90 minutes, she had the insane idea that she wanted to go to use the bathroom.
“We’re going to miss the flight!” I said — even though we were standing at the gate. And the plane hadn’t even pulled up yet.
She rolled her eyes. “One, we’re not going to miss the flight. Two, you may not believe this but you don’t get a gold star for being the first person on-board. And our seats are our seats. No one is taking them.”
Then, a few years ago, she’d had enough. One day she told me, “Board the plane when you want, but I’m going to look around. Get some magazines. Some gum. Water. I’ll see you on the plane.”
And off she wandered off into the terminal. When they called for boarding, of course I was right there, the fourth person on the plane (no gold star). As the plane filled up and the minutes ticked away, she was nowhere to be seen. Finally, the plane was almost full.
A flight attendant on the speaker: “In just a few minutes we’ll be closing the cabin doors…”
No, I thought to myself, I am not getting off the plane. She is going to have to learn a lesson. Even if I take off without her. Still, my thumbs hovered over my phone, waiting to send my text WHERE ARE YOU?!
“Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve just completed boarding and closed the cabin door…”
I couldn’t believe it. She was missing the flight.
Yet, I confess: deep down, I was content. If this is what it takes to teach you a lesson, I thought, so be it.
Then I heard, “Excuse me?”
There she was, standing in the aisle — magazines, water, and gum in hand — and a smile on her face. She sat down beside me and gave me a look.
“You almost missed the flight!”
She looked at me and smiled. “But I didn’t. Did I?”
The Others. They’re all so smug.
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