On our last morning in New York, Arabella and I decided we should try to relax and unwind and so we went across the road from our apartment to Washington Square, an extremely picturesque park at the end of Fifth Avenue in Greenwich Village. We had a really lovely time sitting in the sunshine by the fountain, listening to the buskers and watching the New Yorkers walk by.
But then it really was time to leave so we walked back into the building we had called home for the past 12 days. I had already packed and was ready to head to the airport but had ignorantly assumed Arabella had done likewise. But she hadn’t and meanwhile I was toe-tapping trying to encourage her to hurry along so she didn’t miss her flight.
‘I’ve never missed a plane before, mum’, she said, as if it could never happen.
‘There’s always a first time so hurry up’. Finally we were able to head down to the lobby with our suitcases bulging at around 30kgs (66lbs) each together with our bursting-at-the-seams hand luggage and hand bags.
What we didn’t factor into our timing calculations is that ordering a taxi at 2.45pm in New York isn’t easy. That’s because 3pm is the changeover time so the first three taxis hailed by the doorman refused to take us. It was some 20 minutes before we were finally away and by then I was feeling twitchy.
The traffic was a nightmare and the Van Wyck had almost ground to a halt. While I sat there with a strained face, Arabella was so relaxed she was having a nap.
Having booked separately, Arabella was flying Virgin America at 4.30pm from Terminal 4 and I was flying American Airlines at 6.30pm from Terminal 8. I said I would see her onto the plane then catch the Air-Train over to Terminal 8. We struggled up to the counter and after Arabella produced her documents the woman behind the counter said, ‘You just missed it. This flight was closed a minute ago’. Arabella looked stunned and like she couldn’t comprehend what was being said.
The woman said, ‘You can pay $50.00 to reserve a seat on the next flight or you can pay nothing and take your chances. What do you want to do?’
‘What time is the next flight?’ I asked.
‘It leaves in four hours’.
‘But she has a connecting flight to China. Would that give her enough time to make the connection?’
‘She’ll have 40 minutes’.
‘Is that enough time to collect her baggage and get to the other terminal?’
‘No, that’s not enough time’.
‘Well I’m flying American Airlines at 6.30, can she fly with me?’
‘I don’t have access to American Airlines’ bookings’. Arabella started getting stressed.
I said, ‘She cannot miss this flight; she has a connection to China then another connection to Sydney. If she misses this plane I’ll have to buy her another ticket all the way to Sydney’. The woman became sympathetic.
‘I can get you on this flight but you will have to come with me now and you’ll have to leave your luggage. But you have to come now. Like right now. I’ll get you through security. What are you going to do because the flight is boarding and we have to leave now’.
‘Mum, can you take my luggage to Sydney?’ Un-bloody-believable.
‘Yes, okay; hurry, get going’. And so we gave each other a quick hug and a kiss and said, ‘See you in Sydney’, and with that she was off, running to security behind the woman in the Virgin America uniform. Meanwhile, I was looking for a trolley for the three suitcases weighing around 75kgs (165lbs) plus my handbag bulging because of an enormous toy for my nephew that I couldn’t squeeze into my luggage.
I hauled the suitcases onto the trolley then queued for the tiny elevator to take me down two levels for the air-train. I was about to board the air-train when my mobile rang. ‘Mum, I’m on the plane but I was so stressed at check-in that I forgot my hand luggage’.
I couldn’t believe it. ‘What the (very bad word) do you mean you forgot your hand luggage?’
‘I don’t know, I just don’t have it. Can you go and get it for me?’
‘I’m not there anymore. I’m about to step onto the air-train’.
‘Mum, please’. I kept her on the phone. ‘See if you can get off the plane and meet me’. I turned the trolley around and ran back to the elevator. I pushed to the front of the queue telling everyone I had an emergency. ‘I need to get on this lift, my daughter’s about to miss her flight, excuse me, excuse me’, etc.
I exited the elevator then ran with my trolley to the check-in counter. I could see the bag; it was still there, all by itself and amongst all that airport security no one had noticed a loan bag sitting at the counter. Never mind. I screamed to the staff, ‘My daughter forgot her hand luggage; how do I get it to her?’
They looked stunned but said, ‘Go down to security’.
‘Watch my trolley’, and I shoved it at them. ‘Where’s security?’ And I started running through the terminal. As I neared security I could see a queue a mile long. I ducked through the rows of black tape pushing through people yelling I had an emergency situation. I reached the front of the queue and then I hit the TSA Agent. Now there’s a helpful breed.
‘Mam, you can go no further, you don’t have a boarding pass’.
‘I have to get this bag to my daughter’.
‘Mam, you’re going no further’. And like a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown I was screaming the situation to him. He remained stoney-faced. Meanwhile Arabella was running from the plane to security saying,’Where are you, mum?’
‘I’m at Counter 10; they won’t let me through.’
‘I can see you, mum. I’m running. I don’t want the plane to take off without me; everyone’s on the plane’.
‘Just hurry; run faster’. Everyone in the queue was staring at me. Arabella found me but she was on the other side of security’. ‘Mum!’, she screamed’.
‘I’ve got your bag’, I yelled.
The stony-faced TSA Agent said, ‘That bag’s not going through. She’s going to miss her flight’.
I lost it. ‘This bag is going through and she is not going to miss this flight; let her through’, I screamed. Stunned silence from the crowd. And reluctantly and slowly he ushered Arabella through security in reverse.
I handed Arabella the bag. ‘Now run to the plane. Don’t you miss that flight’.
‘Okay, mum’, said Arabella, all shaking and quivering.
And then the TSA Agent said to her, ‘You’re going to have to go back through security. Take your shoes off’.
‘She just took her shoes off five minutes ago’ I screamed at him.
‘Mam, she’s going to have to take off her shoes’. So Arabella flung off her shoes and threw the bag onto the counter and ran through the radar and yelled, ‘Love you, mum; see you in Sydney’. And she was shaking like a leaf and there were tears in her eyes.
‘Get on that plane and I’ll see you soon’, I yelled.
And then the sympathetic woman who helped Arabella at the check-in counter approached me with my trolley of luggage and told me she would see Arabella onto the plane. I could have hugged her.
When I was on the Air-Train, Arabella phoned to say that when she arrived at the plane, all hot and sweaty from the ordeal, heat and stress, the pilot was there to greet her. He stood at the door of the plane and said, ‘Welcome aboard; I wasn’t going to leave without you’. And Arabella hugged him.
How lovely are the staff at Virgin America!
As Arabella took her seat, I began manoeuvering all our luggage back to Sydney.
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