Thursday, March 12, 2015

Snapshots: Late for the Plane

(1) Ducks in a Row

Families fall into three camps, usually. We're either: (a) anxious, (b) depressed, or (c) both. Not a scientific fact, just my humble opinion. My fam, depending upon the weather, runs on high anxiety. Discussing it at a recent wedding, obsessed with shooting photos and getting them right before stuffing our mouths, even the younger cousins agreed that yep, most of us run scared.

For those who worry and over-think situations, not dinged with technical OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) or GAD (generalized anxiety disorder), but symptomatic enough to get sick with worry, the thought of leaving on a jet-plane is exactly as Peter, Paul and Mary sing in that l969 song about leaving on a jet plane; don't know if I'll be back again. Leaving on a jet plane is loaded with meaning.

Rationally you know you have a round trip ticket. But emotionally, you're not sure. It is that return trip in the back of the brain, talking trash. Will you make it home?

So you make sure the flash drive with all your tax information from 2014 is updated and in the clear plastic box clearly marked 2014 Tax Information, and that your sweaters are folded in your drawers, your kitchen counter swept for crumbs, refrigerator clean. It could take days to prepare to leave for a one-day vacay. Because you know, anything can happen.

The wedding is on a Sunday, so Saturday night I'm engaged in all of the above and notice my AmEx card is missing. Not like there's no back-up credit card, but it bothers me. It is a credit card, after all. So while straightening up, watering plants, putting away dishes, etc., even though we leave in the morning, get back in the evening, I am obsessed with finding it. I remember taking it out of a wallet, stuffing it into a drawer, but it isn't there. The online balance checked out so it isn't stolen, has to be here. Somewhere.

The rational brain tells you, don't worry. It will show up. Go to sleep and be fresh for the early morning flight. But it is Daylight Savings Time and sleep will be difficult under any circumstances. Flying, you know, on a jet plane. And FD has gone to the office to tie up his own loose ends, hoping this way nobody will need him while we're gone. He has asked for a 5:00 am wake up call at the office to make sure he gets home for the flight.

Forget that. He wakes me before my alarm. He's ready to go, hyped up, hyper for him. I leisurely dress. We're on time.

But in the car, he's kind of worried we're late. This is odd because usually it is me, not him, worried about missing the plane.

There are some things that really are binomial, and opinions about the right time to get to the airport are like this, one or the other. Some prefer to be at the gate at the very minimum, a half an hour before boarding, preferably an hour. The rest of us love the game, the excitement, the challenge of getting to the gate at boarding, as the groups are called, when everyone is lining up. Many marriages have their best fights about this one. Many times I have threatened divorce.

So he turns to me, even though he is making insanely good time on the road, we have not even had to stop for a Metra passenger train, and asks, "Why are you not nervous? Why am I the one who is anxious here?" (This is a process question, for those of you who look for such things in couple dynamics).

This has to be worked out, why the low anxiety. It is a game changer. We could say, for sure, that I burned it all last night, but that doesn't feel true. The credit card is still missing, that program still running, but I have let it go. I am not anxious. The question is legit.

We answer questions with a questions. "The real question is, what's going on with you?  Because you usually are into this, getting to the gate without wasting any time waiting there for the plane. You never worry about missing planes."

We brainstorm, determine that it is a combination of things, usually the case. (a) He had no sleep the night before, feels out of control. (b) It is Daylight Savings Time, and DST always plays with a doctor's head, patients not showing up, showing up too early or late. And it is likely to mess with flight times. The time zones are all different. Does anybody really know what time it is?

Whereas I always let it go, DST. My patients traditionally do show up on time, and because I'll only see five, maximum, at a shot, they get a call to remind them on Friday.

But here, face it, we can't exactly call and remind the flight crew and the pilot to say, "Stay sober Saturday night! There's this family wedding in New Jersey Sunday and these people start on time, so do me a favor and don't oversleep. Remember, spring forward!"

We park, rush to the gate, our phones buzz. The plane is delayed, naturally.  The flight crew is late.

(2) Straws
Biodegradable straws

I buy a bottle of water at a concessions counter, the adult alternative to Starbucks, but forget to get a straw. Tempted to take one from Starbucks, I hesitate. That's stealing. But I need a straw. Straws make me happy. The woman manning the straws laughs at me, asking her for permission. Of course, take two.

The straw falls into the bottle, irretrievable. FD offers to fish it out and I push his hand away, this is just weird. People stare.

We board uneventfully, and having thought it through, I tell him the real reason I didn't worry about being late this time. CBT works. The drive to the airport, typically high anxiety, didn't faze me because of repeated reminders, little messages to myself, the night before while packing, and then again in the morning, brushing my teeth:

(1) We had Pre-TSA, a perk of  frequent flying, being not-so-young anymore, so the line is short at security.
(2) United is notoriously late flying east, probably would not fly on time. If we were late, they would be later still.
And (3) No luggage, not even carry-ons. Nothing to shlep. We could run to the gate if we had to, and we wouldn't have to, haven't in ages.

So although my bag brimmed with many unnecessary objects, a second pair of shoes, nylons, etc., and now the straw, there really seemed to be every indication that things would work out fine. Just chilling, exhausted from the night before, eye-shades in place, FD to my right, flight magazine in hand, my mind scans the house. Still looking for that AmEx card.

(3) The Return: Uber and airport golf carts

We're in pretty good physical condition, but the days of running through the airport to make a plane, having dawdled too long at a wedding, are over. Never again.

He's lost in the dancing so at 6:10 I leave the party to get our coats, shoot him the following text:
Come on! We gotta go.
In good fashion, he tells me: 
Too early. Flight leaves 8:15, 30 min to airport.
He wants to have dinner, and they are serving.

Rationally, it is true. We have two hours, and we are Pre-TSA again, should buzz through security. The airport is 15 minutes away in decent traffic. So I take a deep breath or three, have dinner, and we say our goodbyes for the last time.

Uber replies right away, at 7:00, but then the driver's pic and plate disappear, so I try again. This time they want more money. Traffic is horrible, you can see it from the hotel and there is a line of limos and cars leaving that can't even get on the service drive to the highway. Uber offers me the chance to double my money and get a car, so sure, what other alternative is there. A driver responds. He calls, we talk. We tell him we'll meet him on the service drive, hoof it past the limos in line. Our driver flashes his lights when he sees two anxious people in black raincoats waving.

Except only one of us is anxious. We will miss the plane, of this I am sure. We will have to pay for another flight in the morning and a hotel, and I will have to call to tell people, "Um, I may not make it in time for our appointment. I'll call you as soon as I know." We have, at this point, 35 minutes to get to the gate. Traffic is crawling.

But he is skilled. We are there in 20 minutes.

At security we are told that the Pre-TSA line is closed. But they hand us a card and we are able to skip over the line. FD gets through, starts to run. It is 8:05.

I am stopped. An officer is checking my bag. Apparently that bottle of water is still in my purse. I bite my lip, wait. He hands the bag back with a smile. It is my turn to sprint, which feels good, but in 200 yards, that's it. Walk, run. Walk, run.

And then. The guy in an airport trolley pulls up next to me from nowhere and says, "Hop in."

"Who, me?"

"Yes, I'll take you to your gate."

There is a god.

He zooms through the terminal. We see FD and I tell the driver, "That old guy in the grey hat! Pick him up!"

FD is stunned. His machismo speaks to us, "No,go without me. I'll make it." I growl/shout. "Get in!!*!"

He obeys.

We make the flight.

When we land, walking through a dark, nearly deserted Ohare, shop-keepers closing up shop, we begin to process the whole thing, how he chatted for 18 minutes about sports with the Uber guy while the man gunned it through traffic, my nails digging into my skin; how we never dreamed of flying through the airport on a golf cart; how the other passengers looked at us when we got there and the woman in front of us in line somberly confides, knowing. "You didn't have to rush, they never fly on time at Newark." We laughed and laughed until it hurt, and he told me that yes, he loves that challenge, the test, eeking out those last moments to the gate, he hadn't worried, not for a single minute. And I told him that I hate it, truly do, and we can't do this again, we just can't, and he will have to get his own ride to the airport the next time.

Just like I have told him, so many, many times before.

therapydoc

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I know you are cautious to tell your readers that the stories aren't true...but you have a beautiful marriage.

meansomething said...

I love this story and the way it acknowledges the roles we occupy in our relationships and the scripts we play out over and over. There's joy in seeing them and realizing that they suit us rather well.

therapydoc said...

I know, Anon, who could make this stuff up?

Mean Something, you're dead on.