The Parisian taxi driver is going 160 kph in the emergency lane. I’m holding onto the seat belt across my body. “Don’t worry” shouts the driver. Then he veers across all lanes at full speed and forces his way to the front of the line of stationary vehicles waiting to exit the freeway. First I prayed that we would make it in time, now I hope we make it full stop. And it is all my fault.
My husband Mike goes on several business trips a year to Vienna, Austria. Instead of spending the weekend together in Vienna as usual, I suggested we meet in Bratislava, the Slovakian capital, a mere 30 minutes train ride away from Vienna for him.
I had set off for Charles de Gaulle airport in plenty of time. When the automated voice on the train announced Terminal 1, I checked my flight details and that’s when I realized I had the wrong airport. My flight to Bratislava was from Orly. Not only are the two airports in opposite directions but this is rush hour. I jumped into a taxi and asked the driver if he could make it to Orly in one hour. He said he would try.
We arrive at Orly a frustrating 25 minutes before my flight is due to take off. The airline uses computerized check-in that automatically closes 30 minutes before a flight. I just spend €100 on a taxi fare and got the fright of my life, so I run to the check-in desk anyway. To my surprise, the attendant tells me that I have another 5 minutes before the computer shuts down my flight. She hands me my boarding pass, adding that I better hurry up to make it through security. I think to myself that I must have got the flight time wrong.
I wait in line at the x-ray machine. I notice on the screen on the wall that the status of my flight is showing “last call”. I also see that the departure time of my flight is indeed what I thought it was. I check my boarding pass: it is for a flight to Budapest, not Bratislava. I run to the front of the line and grab a security staff member, explaining my predicament. He escorts me to the gate.
After a computer check and a phone call, the airline staff agree to let me board the right flight. Only, because I am not on the list of checked-in passengers, they have to hand-write my new boarding pass. An airline staff member escorts me to the door of the plane because, as he explains, the cabin crew would never let me on board with a hand-written boarding pass. I ask him if this has ever happened before. “Not in the 40 years that I have been doing this job”, he replies. I was surely meant to make it to Bratislava tonight.
And, I will certainly know my Charles de Gaulle airport from my Orly airport after this.