As planned we were on the road by 8. However we were surprised to discover upon getting into the car, that the GPS did not have a location for LAX international airport. After some minor pissing around we found Airport Boulevard on the map, which we reasoned was highly likely to contain the airport. So we got on the freeway and started carefully following all stated directions. After about 15 minutes of a complete absence of signs to the airport we realised we could not be going the right direction, at least partly because we would have been there by now. At this juncture PhD boy had the ingenious idea to set the GPS to the Hertz return point at LAX, which had the GPS immediately send us in the opposite direction than the one we had been driving in.
Not only have we not gone to the right way, we now have to get all the way back from having gone the wrong way. So at 8.20, we are farther from our destination than where we started, and PhD boy is beginning to get pretty anxious, as being the driver he has somehow internally assumed responsibility for the screw-up. At this point I am still fairly calm, possibly because the “shit, will we get to the airport on time??” feeling is such a commonplace one by now that I can’t be bothered fully embracing it, or maybe just because when someone else is panicking I always feel like that part is being handled and so I don’t need to do it.
I admit that I did notice PhD boy was speeding. Or rather, as we were on a freeway and seemed to be going substantially faster than the other cars, I assumed this was what he was doing. And we were pretty late. So while I wouldn’t have asked him to do it I certainly didn’t ask him to slow down. What I did not know was how fast he was actually going, because one of the side effects of not being a driver is not really being aware of distances and speeds in the same way, as you are merely a passive observer. So when there were suddenly some pretty loud sirens I was not entirely mentally prepared. That’s right kids, we were getting pulled over by the cops. We had to drive off the freeway onto a side road, at which point PhD boy has gone from anxious to pretty distressed, as he is not exactly used to being pulled over, and is in a foreign country, in a rental car, and we are already very late. So naturally the cop looks in, combines obvious nervousness with speeding, and concludes that we are pissed drunk. It takes a good 10 minutes to convince him that this is not the case, after which he tells us to sit tight for a minute, gets in his car, waves, and drives off. After sitting there for a minute or two confounded by the conflicting actions of telling us to stay and then driving away, we concluded that we just had to go, and got back on the move.
Some more frantic (but below the speed limit) driving finally gets us to LAX which is, surprise surprise, on Airport Boulevard. It’s just that Airport Boulevard happens to be 10 miles long, and our beloved GPS was sending us to the wrong end. I spotted a Virgin sign for Terminal 2, and we pulled up there at about 8.50. There was a reasonable chance that I was fucked at this point, but after bidding a brief farewell to PhD boy I grabbed my stuff and ran into the terminal. To discover that in fact, I should have been in terminal 6 for Virgin America, this was Virgin Atlantic. I briefly contemplated calling the boy and asking him to drive back, but dismissed this as unproductive, and went looking for a way to terminal 6.
Apparently no-one ever does such a thing as walk anywhere in LA, so the only way anyone could direct me to said terminal was via the bus. At this stage my overall likelihood of being royally screwed was exceedingly high, but decided I’d make a break for the flight anyway. Got the excruciatingly slow bus and eventually arrived at terminal 6 at about 9.05 (remember, flight at 9.25), then frantically ran around wondering why all the signs said “Arrivals” on them. I think I was shouting swearwords at the air and mentally writing off a thousand bucks worth of emergency plane fair home by the time I spotted a Virgin employee walking around and accosted him with multiple frantic questions.
When he realised I was incredibly late for my flight he was unbelievably cool. He just said “right, run this way”, and sprinted up to the ticket desk (which turned out to be a floor up, in my frantic state I was apparently oblivious to relevant signage). I asked if I could still check in and his response was “with me you can”. He had the girl check me in and said that we would try our best, that there was no guarantee I would make the plane but we would give it a shot. We then proceeded to literally run through the airport, throwing people out of elevators, cutting in line, pausing briefly at the security desk to throw away all the liquids I had over 3 ounces, then getting through the check. He couldn’t go through that way but told me to run the last 300 yards to the gate and I might make it.
If I had not gone back to training a month ago I might have dropped dead at this point, but I managed to find the energy to run it, and made it to the gate before the queue for the plane had disappeared. By this time I was breathless, sweating, and incredibly relieved, at which point Steve (the incredibly cool dude who saved my ass) re-appeared from somewhere grinning, and gave me a big hug and a voucher for a free drink on the plane. I officially declared my undying love for Virgin America, and then proceeded to collapse into my seat.
New additions to the rules for happiness
- Never believe you can get anywhere in LA in a reasonable amount of time
- Never trust a small talking box to know where the airport is if you don’t
- Whenever possible, fly Virgin America :)