MyStoryYourStory: Always adjust clocks when herding cats

By Paula Damon

Have you ever wondered about people who don’t show up for their flights at airports?

I have.

“Paging Baltimore passenger José Aldrich, please report to Gate F-6.”

My first thought? Who is this José guy and how in the world could he be late for his flight?

Paula Damon

Paula Damon

“Justin Barker, report to Gate D-1,” a Delta airline gatekeeper announced robotically. “We are preparing for departure.”

Tell me, what could be more important to Mr. Barker than not cancelling his reservation to prevent his name from blaring over the intercom?

When I’m traveling by air, I always worry about missing my flights. Even though I never have, I arrive way early anyway.

“Paging Charles Connor, please report to Gate C5 for Delta Flight 1411, which is departing in one minute.”

My heart sinks, fearing that if Mr. Connor doesn’t appear at Gate C5 in a New York minute, he’s not going to wherever Flight 1411 is headed.

Actually, this wasn’t his first warning. After several calls for Mr. Connor, I wondered if his mother, Mrs. Connor, had the same problem reeling him in from outside on summer nights when he was a scrappy little kid.

All of those slackers who fail to report at their departure gates or can be seen dashing toward security doors as they are being locked down cranks up my air travel anxiety several notches.

I can get so riled about it that I go to great lengths to avoid being late.

Take for example the time my husband, two sons and I were traveling to LA for our daughter’s wedding in July 2000. That’s when I took the desperate measure of turning our clocks and watches ahead one hour just so we wouldn’t miss our flight out of Omaha.

Sounds bizarre, but I had to do it, since getting my family headed in the same direction at the same time can be a bit like herding cats.

My plan worked. They didn’t catch on until we arrived at Eppley Airfield when those darn hard-to-miss airport terminal clocks gave it away.

Because I’m always so early for my flights, I have a lot of spare time to overhear conversations among other travelers.

One such exchange at the Minneapolis airport last July was between a father and son who were seated behind me at my gate.

Their talk, which was more like a lecture, went like this…

“Do know what state Minneapolis is in?” the father quizzed the young man.

No verbal response from the son, although he may have shirked, but I didn’t turn around to see.

“Minnesota!” stressed the father condescendingly, while answering his own question.

“I don’t need to know where Minneapolis is, Dad!” the son dismissed his father’s sense of urgency.

“So, just because you’re out of school now doesn’t mean you don’t have to know things,” Dad grilled sarcastically.

I pictured the father’s red face and his animated body language as he launched his emotionally charged verbal attacks toward the young man, whose attitude, goals and overall lack of gusto was under siege.

“How’d you do on the test?”

“I haven’t taken it yet,” puttered the son nonchalantly.

That was the end of the conversation. I didn’t hear anything more from those two.

Not sure if they left the gate or ended their conversation, but I felt a strange sort of sadness for both of them. I still wonder if the boy ever took his test.

I felt equally sorry for two lovebirds who sat next to me on a Southwest Airlines flight to Omaha from my connection in Las Vegas.

To be continued next week …

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