Much as I enjoy traveling, I’m a nervous traveler. Weeks before I travel I begin drawing up lists. They start innocuously enough - things to carry, gifts to buy, people to meet… As the departure date draws nearer, the lists grow more elaborate, and urgent - things to do before I reach the airport, things to do when in the airport, things to do while on the plane, things to do if not seated next to interesting company, things to do if plane crash lands over the ocean etc. Drawing up lists keeps me occupied, and keeps me from chewing my fingers to ragged bits.
This hypervigilance usually has one unfortunate consequence, and that is, I end up overlooking something elementary. Like remembering to collect the ticket from the check-in counter. Or leaving hand luggage at the money exchange counter, and almost setting off the crews with sniffer dogs.
Today will be different, I vowed (like I do every time). I had covered all bases, and had decided to leave office early and check in my luggage, thereby eliminating one possible stressor. According to the list titled ‘Things to do in the final hours before leaving home’, I reckoned that I even had time for a quick nap before the midnight flight.
I hit the airport road, and although there was a fair bit of traffic, I figured it would take me not more than half an hour to reach the airport. And then a ton of bricks fell on my car. Or that’s what it felt like. It took a few moments to figure out that the ton of bricks was actually a beaten up Lancer, which had rammed into my bumper. I quickly headed for the hard shoulder and got out to inspect the extent of the damage. The bumper with minor scratches now sported a gaping hole. A bearded man got out of the jalopy, looking dismayed and repentant. ‘Really sorry’, he said, looking like a child who’d just broken an expensive vase.
I felt bad, because he looked like he would burst into tears. Two young men came out of the car and inspected the bumper.
An old woman also got out of the car, and started wailing. ‘Forgive him, he didn’t mean it. Please, we’re from Abu Dhabi. He didn’t know the roads. Let us go, I beg of you.”
No, no I hastened to clarify, nothing will happen. We just need to get a slip from the police and all of us can go.
Consoling people who’d smashed my bumper, definitely didn’t feature in the ‘Things to do…’ list, but I had to improvise.
The next hour saw enough drama with wailing, coaxing, being threatened and more, until the police arrived and gave me the green slip of ‘innocent victim’.
I got through that unexpected crisis quite well, and felt quite composed as I sailed through the airport gates and reached the airport check-in counter.
And that's when I realised I'd forgotten to carry my ticket.
P.S. All’s well that ends well. I’m posting this just before I board the flight.
P.P.S. Posting will continue on the other side of the Indian Ocean.