I had to leave Ada in Poland and fly home alone . At 5:30 in the morning the two of us took a taxi to the train station . That’s where the FOLLOW ME bus picks up passengers to Berlin . I had a sack of sandwiches and snacks that Ada had prepared for my long journey back to Arcadia. The two of us stood in the snow and said our goodbyes and then Ada took off again in a taxi as the FOLLOW ME bus slowly pulled away . It wound around the dark streets in an increasing snowstorm .
I hadn’t had any coffee that morning , or the glass of effervescent aspirin that Ada set out for me . I told her that I didn’t want to have to pee on the 2 1/2 hour trip to Berlin . As it turned out , I would be riding on a full-size bus that had , as a matter of fact , a toilet . Oh , well ! We have to make the best decisions we can with the information that we have at the moment , even if it turns out that our conclusions are wrong in the end . I should have had that coffee .
The snow kept coming . The driver stopped half -way there to scrape ice off his windshield wipers . I didn’t know what he was pulling off the road for . He gave a quick explanation in Polish . The woman sitting near me happened to be living in England and , of course , spoke English . She had been speaking to her two little children in English . She told me what the driver had said . The bus took off again in a couple of minutes , but I figured that the driver was wishing the entire way that he had better wipers .
We made it to the airport , Schonefeld , in heavy snowfall . The trip had taken longer than it would have taken in better weather . I helped the woman get her kids , one in a stroller , and their luggage , into the terminal . As it happened , we were all going on the same flight to London.
We were all in the long line together headed for the security check until she was able to skip ahead because she had small children . The security personnel took her up ahead to the scanners and they were gone . I didn’t see them on the aircraft , but they must have been in there somewhere .
Where is the other passenger ………….Ada ? the clerk at the Norwegian Airlines ticket counter had asked . I answered . I asked for an aisle seat . I smiled and thanked her . She pointed me to the security line .
Waiting to get to security I kept checking my watch . The time kept ticking steadily away but the line didn’t move ahead much at all . I , of course , had determined a threshold time of disaster , as far as making it on time for my flight . When that point was forty minutes in the future I was cool . Calm . Then it was only twenty minutes away . The line was hardly moving ahead . Now ten minutes away . Now five . I watched the second hand of my Timex cross the designated moment and I knew by then that I might well not make my flight .
Meanwhile , I had to go to the restroom , of course . I had guzzled down a bottle of orange juice and was working on a small bottle of water . The original plan was that I would be a couple of hours early to Berlin , so I would calmly drink the juice , maybe buy a cup of coffee , eat a sandwich . But , no . No , no , no . From the moment of being handed my boarding pass I had to join the long slow security line that I was now in .
But I made the flight . A little jogging may have helped toward the end . I got to my seat , actually to my two seats , and some guy in the window seat had put his jacket on Ada’s seat . I was at that point a little touchy , having been a little stressed out for the last hour . I considered asking him to get his damn jacket off of my wife’s seat . Then I thought , I’ll be calm and courteous about it when I talk to him . Then I re-evaluated the matter once again and told myself ‘ the hell with it ‘ and I just dumped my jacket on top of his . He ignored it . Nothing to fight about . We had a non-aggression pact that lasted the whole flight .
Of course , as par for the course of course , the plane sat still on the tarmak for about an hour and twenty minutes beyond scheduled takeoff time . I was caught in the middle of a ‘hurry up and wait’ situation . I had a connecting flight in London to LA with an hour and a half layover time . As we sat there in Berlin on the runway my latest time threshold of disaster had been passed . Five minutes ago . Ten minutes ago . By the time we finally took off from Schonefeld the Norwegian Airlines captain at Gatwick on my LA flight had probably already switched on the seat belt sign , the flight crew had certainly locked up the toilets and were in the process of checking that all seat backs were up and tray tables stowed . The first class passengers were no doubt doing the last minute things that first-class passengers do before takeoff . Maybe they have to put their champagne glasses somewhere special during takeoff . I don’t know . I wonder if their first class toilet gets locked . I have a sneaky suspicion that it doesn’t .
As soon as the seatbelt sign was switched off after takeoff , I asked a crew member what my options were , now that I would absolutely miss my connecting flight . He assured me that he would find out ; he’d let me know ; but I’m a skeptic , and I suspected that what his reassuring words really meant , translated into real life , was : ” Go away and don’t bother me . ”
Turns out there is safety in numbers . By some odd quirk of fate there were so many other people on that flight from Berlin who were going to LA along with me on my LA flight , that Norwegian actually held the plane at Gatwick for us . I’ll bet the passengers sitting it out on the Gatwick tarmac were not especially soothed when the captain periodically chimed in : Just a few more minutes , folks , and we’ll be ready to go . Sit back and relax .
At Gatwick we all went through the security line again . We rushed along to Gate number 8 , expecting to board . No . No , no no . Passport Control . I had forgotten that there’d be a passport control . One officer . Careful . Meticulous . Diligent . Took his sweet time checking each person’s passport . No hurry as far as he was concerned . I had been thinking about what the Mad Magazine character Alfred E. Neuman used to say : ” What , me worry ? “