Friday. Memorial Day weekend. A day etched into my memory. A day that I missed my plane home to Montreal, from Raleigh, NC. The day that I discovered how many Americans travel on Memorial Day weekend (many). I left my last meeting at the Nortel campus a little late (common). I couldn’t stop talking. I hate goodbyes. 20 words of business talk – “I have to go” – 20 more words of business talk – “I really have to go” … and so it went.
Now, the Raleigh airport is not exactly like LaGuardia, or JFK, or Chicago, etc… It’s more inviting. Easy rental car drop off (I don’t like being on someone else’s schedule), kind security greeters (although they cannot take the luggage of internationally-bound travelers), and a relatively easy check-in process. But then “bam” – a security line-up similar to the launch of a Springsteen album at Sam-the-Record-Man.
I took off my shoes, hopped up and down, sighed loudly, watered my eyes. After long days of meetings, I was eager to get home. The holiday travelers, however, had plans of their own. I looked around, tried to make eye contact. Nothing.
Luckily the line shuffled along at a good pace. I threw my carry on (TravelPro crew bag, still have it 20 years later) onto the conveyor belt, yanked out my laptop, turned it on to prove it really was just a laptop, hopped through the security check, threw everything back into my bags, and ran to the gate, with 10 minutes to spare.
But (and this was a first), the airline decided to close the doors “early.” Yes, early. A word that should not exist in the airline industry. Leaving early is against all rules. Especially if you look at the manifest and say “We have a passenger MIA.”
I think I yelled a bit. Probably not too loudly. But loud enough for me to think the gate agent would eagerly run out onto the runway, block the plane and demand that they open the doors.
The gate agent didn’t flinch. She looked me in the eyes, and said “Please go to the ticket desk. They can assist you.” And thus began my 18 hour trip home from Raleigh, a trip that normally took me five hours.