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  • It was one of those days where the time just seemed to get away from me. Every time I noticed the clock, it was later than I thought it would be. I was trying to get so much done in my limited time, and as the clock ticked and the hours flipped by, I kept pushing back when I would leave for the airport, trying to get it all done.

    As a rule, I like to plan to be there 2 hours before my scheduled departure. This is especially true for any of the airports in the D. C. area. I got burnt one time, flying out of BWI. I’d left for the airport in what should have been plenty of time to get there 2 hours before my flight, but there was an unpredicted snowfall, just enough to slow everything down. I’d still gotten to the airport by the 2 hour mark, but there was all kinds of construction, it took a lot longer to get to the ticket counter than normal, and by the time I’d negotiated my way to it, they told me I’d never make it through the hellish security line and to my flight on time. I’d had to reschedule from my direct flight to St. Louis, to a switch-over in Detroit, and lost half a day that I’d planned to have on the other end. Of course, after all that, I did get through security in plenty of time, and walked past the gate of my original flight just as they were beginning to board it. Bastards. That was, like, 9 years ago, but I usually stick to my 2 hour rule, and it gives me piece of mind. I just make sure I have plenty to read, and I’m good.

    But yesterday, I had too much to do, and it was Washington National, after all! (Sorry, one president’s name is enough to attach to an airport. I never could get used to calling it Reagan Washington National – one too many presidents’ names going on there. Besides, wasn’t Reagan the one who fired all those Air Traffic Controllers? Some kind of irony there, that he got his name tagged onto an airport. It’s like the building in D. C. that bears his name. This guy who came in to office preaching smaller government, winds up with his name on this humongous government building. That one at least fits – the government did grow like wildfire on his watch, despite the rhetoric.) Everyone always waits to the last minute to dash off to National. You’ll see them in a meeting, glancing at their watch. It’s 3:00 – “What time’s your flight?” Oh, it doesn’t leave until 4. “You didn’t leave an hour and a half ago? Are you crazy?” I see people do this all the time.

    So, I violated my rule yesterday, and kept pushing departure time back. I had all these performance appraisals to get started on. I had my own accomplishment report to write, yet. I had fires to put out. I still had to pack. I had bills to pay and stuff to drop off at the cleaners. All the stuff I’d had to put off to yesterday morning, and when I got all that done, I still had to cut the grass. And, neighbor Joe’s grass. Then shower. We were afraid that if I didn’t cut it before I left, he’d wind up going out there and trying to do it, himself. Joe’s reached the point where he really can’t cut the grass anymore. He had a stroke a few years ago, and he’s been going downhill ever since. But, he’s a real stubborn hardhead, and we just didn’t want to take that chance.

    My flight was at 3, so I figured, if I leave by 1, I should be cool. As long as traffic wasn’t too bad. D.C. area on a Friday afternoon, it’s a real crapshoot. Earlier, I had moved the stuff out of my car that I didn’t want sitting in it while it sat at the airport parking lot. My bike, the box of stuff we still have to ship out to J.B. in California. My car has one of these automatic start things on the key fob – when you click the lock button 3 times, the car starts up. I must have clicked it one too many times when I was locking it, and it started up without my realizing it. Later, while I was cutting the grass, I noticed the lights flashing, which it does when it was automatically started. Crap, it’s running. I checked it, and it had stopped running, so I didn’t worry about it.

    So, it’s one o’clock, I load it up with my bags and my cleaning to drop off on the way, I have my bill to pay at the bank, I turn the ignition, and get a “chug-chug-sputter-kapoot..” I know that sound. That’s my car’s way of saying, “Sorry, pal, but I’m out of gas.” Oh, great. I knew it was low, and then it sat here running, and ran itself out of gas. No problem. I have the gas for the lawnmower. I did that, and it still sputtered when I tried reversing it to back up the hill enough to pull out. J.B.’s car was parked right in front of it. No time to mess with this now – the clock’s ticking, and I’m under 2 hours, and haven’t even started to the airport yet!

    So, I throw my bags in J.B.’s car - forget about the cleaners until I get back next week, I’ll get by - just gotta hit the bank on the way and I’ll be fine. Vienna has its usual Friday afternoon heavy traffic up Maple Ave. I pull into the bank’s drive-through, pull up to the vacuum box, take the tube out to put my check payment in, and there’s someone else’s check and license sitting in the tube. I ring the teller and she says to just send it back in along with my check and bill. I try to do that, but the vaccuum thing’s door has closed, and she can’t get it to open back up. Really? The clock just keeps ticking. It’s beginning to feel like the universe does not want me to get to Memphis today! I go over to the other drive through vaccuum thing, and send it in from there.

    Then, I realize J.B.’s car is on empty. Of course it is. I stop to put some gas in it, and just pray there isn’t too much traffic. There isn’t that much, but of course, there is construction. But, I manage to negotiate the airport with an hour and 20 minutes to go to my flight departure time. Parking in the Economy lot. There was an electronic sign as I pulled in that said there are 9 available parking spots. In the whole damn lot. There were 9 out there, somewhere. There was not a light flashing above the available spots. You were on your own to find the suckers. I drove around that lot, up and down every row, back and forth, over this way, down that way – Really? Finally, between a big pickup truck and a bigger SUV, both parked crookedly and taking up more than their spots, was a sliver of a spot that I almost drove right by. One of the 9! Good goddamned thing I’ve got J.B.’s little Hyundai, and not my van. I squeeze in, and finally get to the bus to take me to the terminal.

    Still an hour to flight time. I finally made it. From that point on, everything is cool.

    I like to travel – I just don’t like everything leading up to getting the hell out of Dodge. No matter how I try, I always have a hell of a time getting to that point where I’m on my way. There’s gotta be a better way to do this!
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