I ran out of my interview at 3:50PM, tie and blazer flapping in the wind. The girl who offered me a ride to the airport (who just happened to have as perfect a face and as enchanting eyes as ever I have seen) texted me to say she would be late. Too late. And too bad for me.
I couldn't wait, so I grabbed my stuff from the admissions office and ran to the bus stop. I must have just missed the bus because I waited 15 minutes for the next one. I got on the bus and the girl called; the bus was moving right along, so I figured I'd be OK on time. I thanked her for her offer and hung up. As soon as I was disconnected, the bus hit traffic. After a slow mile of stop-and-go, it made it to the city and the traffic cleared up. The driver told me where I could catch the light rail and I got off where he indicated.
I headed briskly in the direction I was instructed, and made it just in time to see my train pulling away. I thought I'd just catch the next one. The trains come only every 20 minutes. As I made this mental calculation, I began running, stupidly like a baffled tourist, after the train. I knew it had frequent stops in the downtown region and I hoped I'd be able to catch it.
I ran hard. I'm not the most athletic of people, so my running/sprinting, carrying my luggage wearing full dress clothes and, more painfully, dress shoes, was rather tiresome. But I was able to maintain a good pace. The train stopped just across one last street, with the doors open, but traffic blocked me. I looked for the first break I could, and ran. I made it to the stopped train. I was winded, but relieved. But the doors were closed. The train started moving.
I ran after it again, this time being less careful with traffic, jaywalking and probably looking very silly. After five minutes of hard running, I saw the train stop 100 yards ahead. I kept running, but knew it was hopeless. Sure enough, as I approached, the train left.
I walked the rest of the way to the train stop. I panted and wheezed as I waited the long 20 minutes for the next train. I remembered then, in that moment, failing to catch my breath, that I had athletically induced asthma that is brought on by extreme exertion. Darn it. I took off my blazer and let the cold Portland wind dry my sweat.
I needed a red train. There were only three trains, red, blue and yellow, and I hoped maybe it would come earlier. I watched a blue train stop, and then go by. I watched a yellow train stop, and then go by. The next turned the corner, and I was anxious to get moving. I watched a blue train stop, and then go by.
The fourth train was red, and I found a nice corner of the train to settle down in. The train ride was a nice reprieve. I tried to relax, but the conversation across from me was too loud to ignore. It was a group of high school girls who must have been some kind of athletes; they talked about injuries to the musculo-skeletal system as I only hope I can learn to. It was rather relaxing overall, until a group of three homeless people got on the train, sat down around me. Two of them began publicly to display their affection to one another. The third talked of nothing to nobody; nobody listened attentively.
The train pulled up to the airport terminal. I grabbed my stuff and continued the race. Running through the terminal, I paused long enough to see that my flight was indeed ON TIME at Gate A6. Another runner beside pointed out the inevitability of this particular application of Murphy's Law. I thought how fortunate I was to have an A gate; I thought I was close. I ran to the security line, an undressed as they dictated. Belt, shoes, blazer, pockets, and a ziplock full of toiletries all were put into a plastic tub an run through the X-ray machine. It was 5:27; my flight left at 5:35. I might still have time! I put my belt in my shoes, grabbed the shoes, the blazer, and the bag and ran, sock-footed towards A6.
"You forgot your change," someone with good intentions, but no knowledge of how late I was, offered.
"Keep it!" I replied, with equally good intentions.
I saw the first terminal! Hooray! Wait, no. It was B1. There it is! No, that is B2-6. I kept running. The hallway turned. Escalators...stopped up by slow people. Stairs! I quickly learned that nylon socks don't have grip on plastic stairs, and scrambled down as quickly as I could without getting killed. A1. A2. More running. A6! A plane outside with the stairs down! But where is the boarding information? Where's the attendant?
I asked where my flight was. The person working behind the counter told me she was not working. I asked another. She sounded sorry, and told me how sorry she was. "I'm so sorry," she said, "The flight must have left already."
I looked at the clock. 5:29. "I've got 5 minutes!" I insisted.
She didn't seem to believe that my affirmation of having 5 minutes would have any power in recalling the departed plane. "They must on the runway already."
For the first time, I saw the humor of my situation. I joked, "So I could still catch them on the tarmac?"
She didn't see the humor in my situation. "No... I'm sorry." She looked sympathetic. "You really tried hard!" I laughed. "Can I change your flight to 8:35?"
I sighed and agreed. I collapsed in an uncomfortable airport chair and didn't move. My attendant typed away at the keyboard arranging my new flight plan.
"There goes Oakland," said another attendant.
"I thought it left already?" said the one helping me.
I looked over at the plane I had seen. The door was still open! I got up, grabbed my bag and started for the gate. Immediately, the door was shut and the plane taxied away. I could have caught them on the tarmac. My silly joke was now a cruel irony.
"I'm sorry," my attendant said again.
She finished re-booking me and gave me my ticket. "Could you recommend anywhere to eat?" I asked. "I've got a few hours to kill."
"Stanford's has a great happy hour. You should head over there!" she replied, happy to be able to tell me good news.
I walked over to Stanford's on the other side of the airport. I found a table in the bar, looked at the happy hour menu and started getting really hungry. Running like a crazy man really works up an appetite. Earlier in the day, the medical school I interviewed at had the infinite generosity to provide me with a sandwich as a reimbursement for my two days, my hotel room, and my flight. To compound this, I had accidentally grabbed a veggie sandwich. Needless to say, I was hungry. I decided on a Caesar salad ($3) and a big bowl of soup ($2) to go with my drink. I was tempted to drink away my sorrows, but decided raspberry iced tea was a more prudent (and tasty) choice.
The waitress came and asked with a hint of sympathy, "How are ya?" I must have looked as I felt: exhausted.
I sighed and thought about the proper responses to the question. "Good" would have been most appropriate, but, "OK" was as optimistic a response as I could muster.
"Just OK?" she asked.
"Ya. Just OK. I just missed a bus, which made me miss my train, which made me miss my plane."
She decided to repeat my attendant's sentiments, "I'm sorry," and proceeded to the part I was really interested in: "What'll you have?"
The clouds were parting!
My mouth watered. "Let me start with an iced tea!" I said with a renewed vigor.
The sun broke through!
"If you want happy hour prices, you'd better order now; you've only got 2 minutes!" she recommended.
A glimmer of hope...
Another waiter, who must have known what kind of a day I was having, intent on making my day as bad as was in his power, said evily and with sinister malice, "The computer's not taking happy hour orders anymore."
Was crushed without mercy!
"Should I bring you a dinner menu?"