Sunday, April 01, 2007

Now Leaving from Gate...

I wish when “givens” were being passed out to babies the year I was born, I’d been at the front of the fast-moving line. I would love to have had such “givens” as: leave twenty minutes before having to be at a destination ten minutes away and never arrive late. Or this one: never have to wait at a doctor’s office or in an emergency room. And wouldn’t it be nice to be the person who lucked out with: breeze into any restaurant and always get a table right away?

But no, I was stuck in the back of the slowest-moving line (a predestined “given,” I suspect). My givens were all floating around in muck at the bottom of the barrel. Some of them, I’ve just come to accept without much thought these days: if there's a stall in a crowded women's room that won't lock, that's where I'll end up, necessitating all kinds of acrobatics with arms and legs to at least suggest a sense of decency to those on the outside, because there certainly isn't an ounce of it on the inside. Blizzards will only strike on days in which I’m supposed to be somewhere far away. I will never get sick at a convenient time when I’m dying for an excuse to lie abed reading Agatha Christie, eating crackers, and drinking tea for a few days, but rather when I’m traveling, have company, or have tickets to some once-in-a-lifetime event.

However, the given that never fails to frustrate me time and again is: my plane will always be departing from gate Z99. No matter what airline I’m flying. No matter what city I’m in nor where I’m going, I will always have miles to walk to get to my gate, and the less time I have to catch my plane, the farther away the gates will start to get from each other. I might think I’m almost there when I’ve reached gate Y79, but silly me, I’ll soon discover there’s this whole other wing of the airport, once you get past the Y gates, where the Z gates reside. Or, maybe I’ll get a little excited, because I get my boarding pass and discover my plane is leaving from Gate C3, but after following the poorly-marked cement-tiled trail that leads to the C gates, I’ll find I’m being herded onto a train that drops me off at a building in another city (you think I’m joking, but have you ever been to the Atlanta airport? I’m convinced half the planes that fly out of it are really leaving from Savannah), and I still have another mile to walk once I'm in building C to get the the actual gate. Every once in a while, I’ll get a boarding pass that announces I’m leaving from gate A10 (never “1,” but maybe “10”). This will be the airport designed by sadists who had a great laugh over the fact that they were going to put the gates in reverse order, so A99 is actually the first gate one reaches after making it through Check Point Charlie Security.

I’m sure I wouldn’t be quite so frustrated by this given of mine if I were one of those women who checks huge bags of luggage and carries on nothing but a tiny little purse and a Reader’s Digest magazine. But, I’m not. I’m one of those women who even if she’s checked luggage, still has a computer bag whose zipper is going to break any minute from the overload of laptop, plugs, books, toiletries, and work files. It weighs about as much as a hefty toddler. (Another given is that I will forget when I’m packing such a bag that I’m going to have to carry it for ten miles.) If I’m bringing my wheelie carry-on with me, it will not roll smoothly along like everyone else’s wheelie carry-on (probably because theirs has nothing heavier in it than a pair of slippers, a toothbrush, and a lightweight pair of pajamas), but will teeter on its wheels, get cranky if it spots something in the distance it might at some point have to maneuver around, and topple over at the mere suggestion of turning a corner. Place a computer bag on top of it, and it will refuse to move.

I’ve decided I’m turning over a new leaf, though. I am no longer going to let this given frustrate me. I’m going to laugh at it and tell it what a favor it’s doing me, with all the aerobic and strength-training exercise I’m getting. I’m going to make it wish it could go back to the bottom of that barrel.

Now, I just need someone to come along and remind me of this tomorrow when I’m gasping for breath, racing to find gate Z99, as my computer bag strap slips off my shoulder, yet again, causing the bag to go smashing into little old ladies, sending them to the ground to break their hips. Anyone want to volunteer for the job?


mandarine said...

Gate allocation often depend on the airlines. A guest airline at a competitor's hub is bound to have only gate scraps at the other end of the faraway cargo terminal, while the ruling airline keeps the lion's share and the nearest gates.

I do hope you'll be luckier this time, and in any case, I am sure you can "faire contre mauvaise fortune bon coeur".

Froshty said...

This gate Z99 is a family thing. I get it all the time. I get fooled myself sometimes when I find out that I'm arriving at gate C3 and that my plane leaves from gate C35. It always turns out that gates C30-35 are in the "other C" building that necessitates either a two-mile walk or a five mile ride in a crowded bus where there's hardly room for my backback and my two-ton computer bag. Or if "C35" isn't in a new building and I've landed at C3, then the airport is in Texas which believes that its gates should be bigger than the rest of America's because it's the largest state in the continental U.S. The Dallas airport is the worst for that--just one of its gates seems to be the size of most other airports' entire terminal.

But I really hate the opposite thing that you mentioned, Emily. The RDU airport is the worst for that and its false advertising. It'll say Gates A1-25 to the left and you think, "Ah, I only have to to Gate A9," so off I start, only to find that the first gate is A25. Worst of all, I trudge down to Gate 10 only to find that the distance between Gate 10 and Gate 9 is the distance it takes to walk from the parking deck to the airport because Gates A9-A1 are in what used to be the airport's old parking deck.

Rebecca H. said...

Oh, I'm so tired of traveling, and I'm not even doing it! I used to love it, to love flying on airplanes, but no more. Now I just think it's a royal pain. Oops -- but I'm supposed to be encouraging you. Think of all the great exercise you're getting Emily! :)

Emily Barton said...

Mandarine, I must always be traveling on the dregs of the airline industry, then. I may not "faire contre mauvaise fortune bon coeur," but I do, somehow, at least manage to keep a stiff upper lip over my grimace.

Froshty, that's it: RDU! I couldn't remember which evil airport it was that had those backwards gates. What often happens to me when I'm meeting a connection is we'll be told we're arriving at Gate C35, and my connection is leaving from Gate C37. Then, just before landing, we'll be told there's been a change, and we're now arriving at Gate Z99 (this, when I've got twenty minutes between flights, because no airline gives you a decent amount of time to make connections anymore).

Dorr, yes, LoTS of great exercise! Thank you.

Froshty said...

Oh, yes, the last minute gate change. I get that, too. Another time that happens is when I've been assured that I will not have to change planes when there's a stopover somewhere. About 5 minutes before landing, we'll be told that the plane's destination has change to San Francisco (when I'm flying to, say, Miami) and I now must get off the plane and walk to Z99 from A1. The other is the 10-mile hike to the gate of your domestic flight home after an international flight that necessitates your collecting all your baggage and carrying it to another place to check it all over again.

We American travelers should feel lucky, though--at least we're told that the gate is changed. In Peru, they change the gates and don't tell you, so there you are, barely speaking Spanish and you get to a gate only to find that it's for a flight to Caracas and no one can tell you where your flight to Newark has gone.

By the way, a corollary to the Z99 situation is hotel room 1088, which is 87 rooms down the hall from the only elevator on the floor. I am most likely to get that room when I have to stay somewhere for 2 weeks and I've got two massive suitcases, a laptop bag with 3 software manuals stuck in it, and my paranoia carry-on which has all my makeup, haircare items, and a change of clothes, and pajamas in case one of my bags doesn't arrive until a day after I do (which happens to me only if I don't have a paranoia bag, of course).

Anonymous said...

Oh I adore this post! I am right behind you at the back of that queue, Emily. My planes always leave from Z99, I'm also next in line behind you for the toilet door that won't shut and I never get sick unless something I'd really like to do is about to take place. We are soul sisters.

Emily Barton said...

Litlove, it's been so much fun discovering I have all these "younger sisters" out there. I always wanted a younger sister (not that I don't adore my younger brother and older sisters, but I'm the sort who always wonders what it would be like to have what I don't have).