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December 23, 2008

Asking in the airport

December 23. Day 176.

"Look at all those people," my Mama pointed out as I was checking in at the curb. I was getting about to leave to Texas, to spend Christmas with my dad and stepmom. A line of travelers with suitcases was stretching all the way from the terminal to the parking lot, over the skybridge (pictured, line-free).

And then it struck us: Those people weren't waiting to check in upstairs. That was the security line.

For all the disadvantages of living "in America's biggest small town" (to quote a reader who commented here a few months ago) one of the big plusses is the airport. No. Lines. Ever. I've traveled in and out of San Diego at least a dozen times in some years, so I can say I've seen this airport from midnight to midnight in all seasons -- and there has never been a security line like that.

I asked the baggage handler if I should try to cut to the front: "My flight is leaving in 30 minutes!"

"You should be fine. It's moving fast," he answered.

No fast enough. From the looks of it, it would take at least 30 or 40 minutes.

So I did what anyone would do, asker or otherwise: When I got upstairs, I went to the First Class/priority lane. "My flight is at 11:30--" I began, and showed my boarding pass.

"G0!" she replied.

Gained I: Caught my flight.

The flight left late -- and landed late. I had a tight connection, with the next plane boarding in 10 minutes, two terminals away. And I was sitting in the last row.

I'd learned my lessons years ago, after so many mishaps and misadventures: Don't ever expect to make a tight connection if you're sitting in the back of the plane. Don't expect people in planes to move fast or get out of the way because others are in a rush. Don't expect the man with the connection clipboard to send you to the right gate or even right terminal. Don't expect the gate printed on your boarding pass to be accurate. Don't expect anything from anyone when flying.

So as the plane was taxing, I asked my neighbor to let me out so I could sprint ahead. When the plane reached the gate and people started getting out of their seats, I waited about a minute to see if the line would move, saw everyone standing still, and did what would have once been unthinkable: squeezed through the full aisle, saying: "Can I please get through? I only have 10 minutes to my next flight. I'm sorry. Happy holidays!"

People made room, some wished me luck, and I caught a go cart to terminal E -- and made the flight.

Gained II: happy holidays. Thanks, Continental passengers!
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