Two and a half hours before my international flight from San Francisco, I was placidly ambling down Crissy Field. “Oh look, a seal,” I thought to myself happily. Check in officially closes two hours before an international flight and I still have my bag in the trunk of a car that’s a 40 minute drive from the airport. I’m not even pretending to be in a hurry.
I drive through the streets of San Francisco to the airport, still in no rush. La la la. Driving in San Francisco is an ugly thing. Narrow streets thronged with people with no depth perception and a desire to always be in front, and who behave as if they’ve just discovered their car has a horn. I’m still pretty calm though as I poodle to the airport. I’m listening to The Magnus Archives, a podcast that has taken my full attention for a while now. Spooooky.
It’s not until the woman at Avis says “You’ve got an international flight? You’re supposed to check in 2 hours beforehand,” that I start to worry. I look at my bag. Uh oh. Cue adrenaline.
The car rental is as far from International Terminal G as humanly possible on the Skytrain and suddenly I’m overheating as my heart rate goes through the roof. People hold the doors for their friends at every stop we crawl through. All the while I’m working out which of my possessions I’d be happy to throw away if I had to strip down to just hand luggage.
I’ll lose the hot sauce. The clasp knife. They’re both gifts. Sad. They can’t pass security. I’ll have to chuck most of my clothes but they were largely chosen with an eye to disposability. Of course, they might let me put the bag on but I’m running worst case scenario so I’m ready if I meet that human that should by rights be returned for a better version. I’ve met them too many times in the past.
Like the woman at Thai Airlines Heathrow twelve years ago who insisted I wake up the entire Bangkok production team for a film I was shooting in order to verify the credit card that my business class flight was booked on. “It didn’t happen with any of the other actors,” said the extremely put out production manager when I eventually arrived on set, persona non grata before I’d even started. I had been excited to fly business. Happy when I arrived at the desk. She just … decided she didn’t like me, perhaps thought I looked too scruffy to fly business class, and gave me the old “fraud check, it’s out of my hands” routine. I can still see her thin lips, pulled taut, and her little piggy eyes with just the hint of cruel satisfaction. She made a lovely job hard for me, just by exerting the tiny power she had. I still hate her for it, and still wish her ill when I think of her. Which is rarely.
I’m thinking of her when I get to the desk though. I’m assessing the faces, trying to choose someone who looks kind. I find the right person, and my bag goes on. “Just as well you checked in online,” she reprimands me. But it’s done. I’m coming home. Ten hours in the air. I’m not tired or drunk so sleep might be an issue. But there’s my bag, on the conveyor. Phew.