Seeing as my flight was at 1:15p.m. today, there was absolutely no reason for me to be late. I was not drunk the night before. I was not coming from work. It was not rush hour.
And yet, there I was sitting on the Stanstead Express as it slowly ch-ch-chugged along to the airport at nearly 12:40p.m. We arrived and I flew out the doors, up the ramp and toward security. I had half-hour to get through and make my flight to Ljubljana, Slovenia, which was leaving from an unknown gate in less than half-hour. Oh and I had to “wee” (as they say in London) like freakin’ Seabiscuit.
I took off my bangles and my jean jacket, and removed my laptop and the two clear pastic bags of liquids (aka, creams and gels). I thought it’d be smooth sailing.
Then it happened: The guy sitting behind the scanner casually dropped a laminated red “flag” that didn’t at all look like a flag into my bin.
“Excuse me!” I said to one of the security officers.
Oh yeah. I was going full American on them.
“What is that? Why is my stuff on that side of the X-machine?”
“I’m sorry miss, it needs to be checked. You’ll have to wait.”
“But my flight! It leaves in 15 minutes!”
“Well, I guess you should’ve left yourself more time to get here then.”
Right. Thanks. So my things sat in a queue. (And there’s no jumping queues in London!)
I stood there tapping my Nikes, watching as five — FIVE — other bags were searched before mine.
“You going to Ljubliana?” asked a guy, also rushing, but gathering all his things.
“That’s the plan,” I said, gloomily.
“It’s not looking good. For either of us.”
Then he was off.
When they finally got to my bag, I was reprimanded for not removing my Kindle from my handbag and for having not one, but two clear pastic bags.
Right then and there I had to go through my “liquids” and decide which of my carefully curated beauty products were coming with and which ones were about to be banished to the “hazardous waste” bin of Stanstead Airport.
I tossed the Charles Worthington shampoo and conditioner (they were free samples and I had washed this morning), my Jurlique cuticle cream (just had my nails done), and body lotion (I kept the SPF). The rest of the “liquids” were either too expensive (Clarins face lotion and SPF, Bobbi Brown eye cream) or too important for my hygiene and vanity (toothpaste, contact lens solution, Korres lip gloss).
Just when I thought I was in the, er, clear, I had to make sure the bag completely zipped, which took some rearranging.
Thankfully, they all came out from the scanner a second time without a laminated red non-flag and I tossed it all back in my luggage and ran like Forest Gump in search of my gate. All the exercise I haven’t been doing was pretty damn obvious as I huffed and puffed my way to…
Oh no. I had to get on a shuttle train!
Breathe. Believe. Receive.
I wasn’t giving up. I was getting to Gate 7.
Thankfully, gates 1-19 were accessible from the first stop on the train.
Not-so-thankfully, I wasn’t getting there without first going up two sets of escalators. (Actually not very escalating when in a rush with a rollie!)
Finally, I reached the top, rounded the corner and actually yelled, “Wait! Please wait!” as I ran toward them, my DVF rollie trailing behind me and my passport and boarding pass in the crook of my elbow.
I couldn’t believe it.
Apparently, I wasn’t the only latecomer to arrive shvitzing and out of breath. Seems security was super tight today and Easy Jet had some “check in” problems.
I was so verklempt that I didn’t even really notice the handsome man with piercing blue eyes sitting in my seat.
Just kidding. I totally noticed. But had absolutely no game whatsoever. Instead, I was unabashedly flustered and all, “Ohmygod, I can’t believe I made it!”, disrobing my scarf, my jumper and then my jacket until I was down to a tank.
He offered me some solace in the form of a smile, and then moved to the seat behind me.
Before I sat down, I caught a glimpse of the guy I saw at security. We silently smiled and gave each other the Travel Recognition Nod. You know, the one where no words are needed, just a casual acknowledgement that you’ve either seen each other before, or are complete strangers on a similar path. Love those.
Eventually, we were up, up and away and I was able to relax a bit.
Two hours later, I arrived in sunny Ljubljana, where the skies were blue, the mountains snowcapped and the language hard to pronounce without sounding like a complete fool. The insanity of the last few hours were now a mere giggle-inducing memory.
Just as I got to the shuttle to take me to Lake Bled, about 45-minutes north, I saw them: The Eyes. The guy from my seat! Unfortunately, he wasn’t going to Lake Bled, but rather a small city in Austria where he lives and works. So small, that the only way to get there is to fly into Slovenia and take a shuttle (MY shuttle!) to a train to a car.
This time, we talked travel and work and Croatia and Budapest, where he’s from. He spoke English really well. And those eyes!
When he got off to continue on his journey, a mere 20 minutes later, he asked me how long I was in Bled and whether I was on Facebook. I told him, and am awaiting a friend request.
But even if it doesn’t come, it’s little moments like those that make the journey — albeit a sometimes heart-palpitating-rush-of-a-one — even more stunning than the destination.
Though, the one I reached ain’t half-bad.
**Addendum: For those curious, I’ll be New Girl-ing About several different towns over the next few weeks. After Slovenia, I’ll be cruising the Dalmatian Coast in Croatia, followed by a quickie jaunt in Stockholm (random layover!) before landing in Tel Aviv where I’m meeting my mom before returning to London for two nights prior to heading back to the states. I hope to continue to update along the way, so please do come along for the ride!