My summer has been a busy one with a schedule full of family vacations and activities. With the fun of the summer also came a great sadness as one of good college friends died this month. It wasn’t a fair way for him to die and I have yet to hear all the details. I don’t understand why the guy hit my friend and caused his death. I do know that I had to attend the funeral and get some closure.
My friend Darrell had a great deal of friends besides me. While I know everyone couldn’t make it to the funeral, my wife and I thought I should go. A last minute flight is expensive but a friend offered a solution flying out of the Portland, Oregon airport into Dallas-Forth Worth, Texas airport. This cut my airline flight cost by 75%. We’d split the cost of the car rental and since I would be returning to the northwest a day earlier, I would return the car.
This isn’t my first time flying or returning a car to the rental place. However, it was my first time returning my car to the discount rental outfit that isn’t based at the airport. They operate out of a little kiosk in the lobby of some 2 star hotel about five minutes from the other rental car complex. To return the car, you just need to bring the car back to the same hotel and catch the shuttle to the airport.
I left in plenty of time to get to the airport and return the car. My flight departed at 11 pm and I stop about 20 miles from the airport around 7:50 pm for a quick bite to eat. My phone battery was a little low and since I knew I was about to use my GPS on my phone, I plugged it in at the restaurant for a quick boost.
I recharged it a bit, fueled up the car at the local gas station, punched in the address of the car rental company and got back on the freeway. Traffic was light and I was making great time. I could see the city of Dallas in the setting sun and again, thought to myself that I’m making great time. I navigated through the freeway interchanges while the GPS lead the way.
My GPS hasn’t let me down in the past and today it held true to form. I was on time and headed in the right direction. The GPS lead me straight to the front door of the rental company’s building….where they house their accounting department. Uh oh. Now it is close to 8:50 pm and I don’t have the address of the kiosk where I’m suppose to go. I can’t remember the name of the hotel where we picked up the car and I have two hours to get to the airport. Everyone knows you need to be at the airport at least two hours before your flight so you don’t actually miss your flight.
I grab the rental car paperwork and call the rental company. They give me the local correct address. According to them, I’m only 15 minutes away. I have about 10% power left on my phone battery. Well, I thought I had 10%. As soon as I entered the address and get the routing map, my phone shuts off. OK. I just saw just a piece of the map. I know I need to get back onto one of the half dozen freeways I’m near and drive south a bit.
The area I am currently in is a construction zone and I have to recharge my phone again. I curse myself for not bringing my car charger and for listening to Pandora (thus sucking my battery dry). I start to tell myself not to panic. Be calm. I still have plenty of time; I’ll get to the airport a little later than I thought. It’s now closer to 9 pm. I have no landmarks to base my direction on. It’s dark and I can’t see the city to get a bearing.
I remind myself, I don’t have any luggage to check in and I’ve printed out my boarding pass already. I’ll be fine. This is what I keep telling myself as I sit in construction traffic on a side road. No, I haven’t made it to the freeway yet. 9:15 pm rolls around as I enter a KFC with my phone and charger. I scan the fast food restaurant like a junkie looking for his dealer, finally finding the electrical outlet (there is one in the whole place right next to the soda machine) and start charging my phone. I turn it on, bring up the GPS and mentally take notes of where I’m at and where I need to go. It is now about 9:23 pm.
Urgh. Now I’m starting to stress out. I see a text message from my friend asking if I’m doing OK. No, I’m not doing OK but I don’t have time to text him back. I decide I’ll text him when I get to the airport. I can see the planes taking off and landing. I know I’m close.
I hop back into the rental car. Following the GPS, I am lead through more construction zones and into more construction traffic. I discover that most people are idiots and don’t know how to drive. It’s now 9:30 pm.
I get onto the right freeway yet they have realigned the freeway and the off/on ramps. The GPS is going nuts and rerouting me thinking I’m on the freeway….no wait…I’m on the feeder road….no, it thinks I’m on the freeway. It tells me to go straight, no wait, rerouting…go left and use the on ramp. There isn’t any left and there is no on ramp. Now I’m really stressing out. It’s got to be 9:40 pm. GPS warns me a toll road is coming up. What? There wasn’t a toll road before. I don’t care at this point as I roll up to the toll booth. I ask the toll booth worker where Airport Freeway is. He looks at me and says I’m going the wrong way. Oh jeez!
Not to worry, he says, take the ticket, use the turn around and head back out to the freeway. Give the ticket to the other toll booth guy and he’ll make sure I get on the right freeway. I thank him, cut from the right lane across six lanes to the left side and use the turn around. I make the turn and reach down for the ticket. I can’t find it. What? I stop the car on the side, get out of the car (making sure to leave the door open so I don’t lock my keys in the car and leave the car running). I run to the other side and try to open the passenger side. It’s locked. I run back around, unlock all the doors, run back to the passenger side and search for the toll booth ticket. I can’t find it.
I don’t care what it costs, I’m leaving. I roll up to the exit toll booth. The guy asks for the ticket and I tell him I don’t have it. I tell him I don’t care what you have to charge me, I’m lost, but I have got to get to the Airport Freeway. He signs…punches in some code, tells me to cut across the six lanes and go right (south) on the freeway. I thank him and gun the engine. It is now 9:50 pm. My flight leaves at 11 pm.
My phone dies again. GPS is killing my phone and my nerves. Again, I tell myself not to panic. I devise a plan to bribe the shuttle driver to take me straight to my airline and gate. I also am driving too fast and looking for anywhere to plug in my phone. Again, reminding myself to bring my car phone charger on my next trip. It is now 9:56 pm.
I take the first exit that looks like it as some kind of restaurant or gas station I can get my phone charged at. I have the air conditioner blasting because it is 95 degrees outside, I’m nervous as hell, and I’m stressed like a crazy man. I chuckle to myself with the thought that if my wife was in the car she probably would have killed me by now. Of course, she would have a fully charged phone and would have the right address in the first place. We also would have been at the airport an hour ago and sitting at our gate. Next time, I’m bringing her.
I see a Starbucks and it is actually open late. I run in, plug in my phone but don’t turn it on. It charges faster when it is off and I run back out to the car to get a paper and pen. I’m taking notes this time in case the phone dies yet again. It is 10:01 pm. I let the phone charge and flip it on. I scan the GPS map. I’m 20 minutes away? For Pete’s sake! I run back out to the car. And take off. I’m driving too fast and race around the on ramp (thankfully, I had purchased a 15 lap NASCAR racing car course in June) and avoid spinning out on the ramp.
This time my GPS actually stays on and I make the 20 minute journey in 14 minutes. I whip in front of the hotel front doors and race inside. It is now 10:15 pm. I apologize to the rental guy. He asks when my flight is. I tell him 11 pm. From the expression on his face and the words out of his mouth, I know I’m screwed. He knows the shuttle isn’t going to get me there in time. He tells me to get in the car, he’ll take me himself.
He goes on to mention he doesn’t know which gate my airline flies out of. Luckily, I do. He looks up my flight. It’s on time. We jump in the car and we take off. He also goes on to mention that he hasn’t heard of anyone making the flight after coming in this late. I’m praying I’m the exception.
At least he knows which way to go. I take a mentally note that I would have gone in the wrong direction if I was driving. Again, thankfully he is driving. We get to the toll booth and the guy stops us. The automatic machine can’t read our license plate because the idiot behind us is too close to our bumper. He has to get out of the booth and walk all the way to the back of the car and manually write down our license number. The rental guy says this would happen since we are in a hurry.
We finally get our toll booth ticket. The airport is seconds away. I still need to get through security and then get to my gate. My rental car guy is about to go to the wrong section of the airport. No, gate E33 go to the next section. He pulls up to the curb. I slap a nice tip in his hand and leap out of the car. I haven’t a clue what time it is since my phone has died yet again.
I run up the escalator (almost running over some old lady who sees I’m in a hurry and quickly sidesteps out of my way). I’m at the main level (I hope) and I’m looking for any clue on which way to go. Where is my gate? Where am I? I see baggage pick up, I see arrivals, where is the entrance? Finally, I look to my left and see the “TO ALL GATES” sign. I cut though the crowd and see the line for the TSA check station. I have my license and ticket in hand. Still, I have no clue what time it is and where my gate is from here. There are ten people in line in front of me and half don’t speak English as their first language. I’m never going to get through this line and I still need to go through the X-Ray and body scanner station.
The line actually moves quickly. I’m already taking my belt off and my shoes while the TSA worker looks at my driver’s license. The next station is the X-ray machine and every person in front of me seems to have a huge backpack, a laptop, and a sense of stupidity. Now hard is it to take off your shoes? How hard is it to place your bag on the conveyor belt for the x-ray machine? To the people in front of me, it seems to be really hard. Really? Who carries that many coins in their pocket?
I grab a bin, throw my stuff in it, and throw it and my backpack on the conveyor belt. I cut in front of the people trying to figure out the bin rack. I wait in line for the body scanner (again thinking maybe I should tell people I’m an idiot and really late for my flight maybe they’ll let me go ahead of them). I make it through the scanner, grab my stuff, slip on my shoes and prepare to run for my flight. I look to the left and see gate E15. Oh great, my gate is E33. I look to my right to make sure I’m headed in the right direction and it is gate E33. What? Gate E33 is next to E15?
The seats in the waiting area aren’t crowded. There is no clock at the counter nor a sign telling me if the flight is on time, they are boarding or what time it is. I run up to the counter and ask have you started to board.
No, they haven’t! I made it. My phone is dead and won’t turn on either. I can’t send a text to my wife or to my friend to say I safely made it. They start boarding and I take my seat. On the flight home, I reflect about my mistakes.
As I told my friend back in Seattle this story, I comment that I believe my friend Darrell was watching out for me as my guardian angel. He laughs at me, and says that my friend my friend was probably screwing with me one last time. Yeah, he probably was but at least he made sure I made my flight.
Dedicated to my good friend Darrell DeSouza! Thanks for the memories!