Monday, November 16, 2009

Not So Fast

Our flight out of Washington was scheduled just late enough that Pipi and I had time for a quick lunch with my grandparents. I knew we were lingering a little too long over dessert, but it was mid-day, we had our boarding passes, and the airport wasn’t too far away, so what did we need extra time for?

Finally tearing ourselves away from the meal, we stopped a mile or two down the road to top off the gas in the rental car. I’m glad I stopped there and not someplace closer to the airport because as I tried to activate the pump, I realized I didn’t have my wallet with me.

I got that sick feeling that you get when you know you’ve messed up very badly. I was too worked up to think clearly, and it took me a long time to remember the last place I’d seen my wallet. Although checking for I.D. is normally a part of my packing-up routine coming and going, I wasn’t actually sure I’d seen the wallet since dinner the night before.

At first I thought I must have left it at Pipi’s aunt and uncle’s house. I knew we’d never make it back there in time to catch the flight, so I started formulating a plan to drop Pipi off at the airport, extend the rental car, and then spend the rest of the day driving around Virginia by myself trying to retrace my steps.

Suddenly, though, I realized what had probably happened: Just before lunch, which we’d eaten at the dining hall at my grandparent’s retirement community, Pipi and I had stopped by their condo to print our boarding passes. I must have taken my wallet out of my knapsack to retrieve my frequent-flyer card, and left it near the computer.

A quick call to my grandmother confirmed that this is exactly what I’d done. We made a rapid return, and my grandparents met us outside their building with the wallet. Then it was back to the gas station. I might not be able to avoid paying a rebooking fee for our missed flights, but at least I could head off the $8-per-gallon fee for bringing a car back empty at National Airport.

We filled up, got to the airport with the needle still indicating “Full,” and dropped off the car. Security wasn’t bad, and we got to our gate just as they were announcing that the last boarding group was free to get on the plane.

I’m not going to say that our making the flight was miraculous. It was very lucky, though. Let’s call it a happy ending to what could have been a painful lesson about the importance of allowing extra time when traveling and keeping track of your things.

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