“American Airlines flight 1051 now boarding passengers with small children or needing special assistance at the Advantage A-1 station. Welcome aboard!”
It was January in Chicago. It had taken me two hours to slush through the fifteen miles of ever-increasing snow from Evanston to O’Hare Airport to make my noon flight to Los Angeles. The de-icers on the runway were in full-blown fury. I didn’t have much hope.
I stood next to the American Airlines check-in desk at Terminal 3 Gate K-16, waiting for them to call my group. They had already gone through First Class, Business Class, Premier AA-XYZ Class, Kids, Special Assistance, and Folks Who Like To Show Off Their Bling Class. I was in Group Z.
A short, slightly plump guy with black receding hair came running up to the check-in desk carrying an iced Venti-something from Starbucks, a thick winter coat over his arm and trailing a black rolling carry-on bag with gold Gucci insignias plastered over the exterior.
“Are you still boarding the flight to L.A.?” he gasped.
There were two desk attendants. They looked at each other. The attendant on the left replied with a smile, “This is the flight to Santa Ana, sir…John Wayne…”
“That’s what I meant!” the putz interrupted, shaking his head in exasperation. “Do I have time to go to the bathroom?”
The same attendant said, “Yes, sir, but…”
The little guy turned and ran off, bobbing and weaving against the incoming crowd with his Starbucks, overcoat and rolling bag, while pulling out his iPhone with his other hand.
“Hello, Linda?” I heard him say as he bumped into three people on his way to relief. “We need to talk…” and he disappeared into the throng.
I chuckled and asked the attendant, “Is that a common question?”
The attendant on the left raised her eyebrows, nodded and said, “Yes…very.”
The second, more senior attendant standing at the adjoining station looked up, glanced at the other attendant, then looked back at me and said, “I tell them: ‘You have eight minutes…your choice.'”
A disembodied voice in the ceiling mumbled, “We are sorry to announce Flight 1051 to LAX has been delayed. Now scheduled for departure at 4:15pm. We apologize for the delay. To repeat…”
I turned to the first attendant and said, “Do I have time to go to the bathroom?”