Don’t you dare close that boarding gate!

Let’s just say it was bad luck, poor judgement and chronic idiocy all rolled into one that caused me to cross a very thin line between writing about a pre-departure story as opposed to writing a no-departure story. I arrived at the Manila NAIA airport early. That wasn’t a problem. The problem was I allowed someone to talk me into being dropped off the airport. You know that kind of airport “talk” initially set to a couple of minutes that turns into hours that turns into a verbal battle of “don’t go, I’ll miss you.” “I don’t want to go” which is really pointless because you know you would never waste 4-weeks worth of non-refundable travel expenses for some cutesy bitsy talk in between meals.
I thought I was finally growing up when I found myself following the web-check in instructions 7 hours before I was set to leave. I would soon realize this wasn’t the case as I have forgotten the printed receipt of my counter check-in which practically rendered my web-check in efforts worthless. I lined up an hour and a half before my set departure and soon found myself in deep shit. For some unknown reason assisted by some stroke of bad luck, my queue was under a trainee’s inefficient hands. The trainee, fresh from training at this point, would follow all the listed steps and verify all the useless information known to man with complete caution. Caution in this case meant verifying information twice with grave mental deliberation (I assumed that’s what the long pauses were) and typing on her keyboard slowly – very slowly. While this was (partly) no fault of her own, the queue was just getting longer and the people older by the minute.
I reached her desk 15 minutes before my set departure and after 5 minutes she said “There’s a problem
with your documents”. Now, this is just one of the things I have always asked my own trainees not to do – never use the word “problem” when speaking to customers as the word in itself connotes negativity and automatically unwarranted triggers panic. Then there’s the most dreadful possible combination of words you can ever hear as a traveller: “problem” and “documents”. I had a split second decision as to whether I was going into a rampage and trash the queue. I chose to clarify “My passport or my ticket?” “Your ticket”. Whew. So that shouldn’t be a problem, they can just figure it out in the system and work it out themselves, I wouldn’t have to do a single thing. Then it occurred to me in horror, I did have to do one thing. I had to wait. It was 5 minutes past the boarding time before they figured out the supposed glitch in my “documents”. PAST the boarding time and I had to plead the dilly dallying airline personnel to ask their staff in the boarding gate to hold it open for one more passenger. I was carrying a 60-Liter backpack, which was fine even in my 5’3 stature but this was a different case because I literally had to run – fast. I kept thinking back to a local flight I had where I had to buy an entirely new outrageously expensive ticket from Boracay to Manila because I missed my boarding by 5 minutes. I went through immigration easily with more pleading from the personnel and skipped through several queues. And again, by some stroke of bad luck, my boarding gate, gate 41, was at the farthest part of the airport and so I was running, skipping, wobbling for 10 minutes past hundreds of responsible people waiting for the proper boarding time for their airlines. I could almost hear everyone thinking “Here comes the late one. For every flight, there’s always one.”
Out of breath, about a few feet away, I could see them closing the door for my flight! I wanted to say, “Don’t you dare close that boarding gate!” but instead was reduced to a mere incoherent “No,no,no,no,no!!!”
I would wake up the next day with an undeniable pain in my entire body from the unwanted workout but at least I was able to say “Good Morning, Vietnam”.


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