I'd had no morning coffee, nothing to eat, and had no mints on me, so when the Continental Airlines representative announced that the flight we hadn't even checked in for yet wouldn't be leaving for another nine hours, quite literally it wouldn't have taken much to kill her. All I had to do was exhale through my mouth in her general direction. I hold up my hands: My name is Laura and I wanted to kill the messenger. There. I said it.
I passed the time chatting with the guy in front of me in the queue. We used the line as a word count for a novel about queuing at an airport. As in, "Hmmm, I think we're at about twenty thousand words now, let's introduce a plot twist," and, "Okay, three people in front of us, sixty-thousand words, let's wrap this story up". We also discussed the merits of an airport-queue-based video game, with all the trials and tribulations that might involve. At one point the queue went from being a straight line to a curved one, and then the staff moved the bollards so that we had to change positions again. It was pretty challenging stuff. I anticipate making millions.
I wanted to write a letter to the bastards. Something along the lines of, "Dear Continental Airlines. You suck ass. Love, Laura" but then realised I didn't consider them worthy of the pen ink. Ironic, then, that I should dedicate a whole blog post to them. I've always been contradictory. In any case, I wouldn't have had time to write anything, as four hours of checking in, an hour at security and two hours to board at the gate (can you say INVASION OF PERSONAL SPACE, and RUBBER GLOVE?) pretty much filled my pathetic day.
Imagine then, waiting another hour for immigration, and hour for luggage collection and then FOUR HOURS to speak to a rep at the other end to figure out how exactly I was going to get to Detroit from Newark when my connection had left twelve hours ago, including some sour-faced cow issuing me a ticket to Washington under the name Fatima Furtaza. Really? Do I look like a Fatima? A fattie, maybe. But not a Fatima. I had to tell the pursed-lipped satan of a ticket issuer that the whole misunderstanding was my fault before she would go about altering the reservation. I could have biffed her on the hooter.
By the time my life was resembling some sort of order it was 2am, everyone had left the airport and I had nowhere to sleep. The airport hotels were ALL fully-booked. All of them, even the over-priced fancy ones. My connection to Detroit left at 6pm the next day and I hadn't slept in 30 hours. So I did the only thing that I could.
"Excuse me," I said, tapping a red-headed woman on the shoulder. "I'm really sorry, but urm... I saw you at Manchester airport... and so I know you got delayed too... and I see that you are with your family so you must be a mum, and well.... "
And then I cried. Full bodied, heavy, from-the-bottom-of-my-stomach sobs. This poor woman looked like I'd just asked if I could poop in her hand luggage, she was that confused. But as a mother, she knew what she had to do.
"Come here," she said, pulling me in for a hug. And she said the magic words. "It's all going to be fine. You're just tired, is all." She let me snot and rub my mascara on her scarf whilst her husband and teenage children looked on, horrified. "There, there." She patted my back. I was aware that her daughter looked like she was going to die of awkward social humiliation, but there was nobody left to watch us. I think when I collected my over-stuffed suitcase on landing I forgot to collect my dignity, too. All I can say is, it seemed like a really great idea at the time. To cry, I mean. Not forget my dignity.
In the end, I had a friend who lives in Brooklyn come and meet me in the city I paid a hundred dollars to get a cab into. I had pulled myself together by then. I couldn't let anyone I actually knew see me in such a state. I mean God, how embarrassing. He just looked at me as I got out of the cab. "Welcome to America!" he said. "Fuck off," I thought.