For some daft reason, Katherine and I only allowed ourselves 50 minutes to get to the airport this morning. That’s 50 minutes to lug our 20+ kg suitcases down 110 stairs, 800 metres to the subway station, down another three lots of stairs, onto the train to Republique, up the stairs and onto another train to Gare du Nord, then up some more stairs to buy a special ticket to Charles de Gaulle and back down another set of stairs to catch the train, which, quite UN-serendipitously, wasn’t departing the station for another 10 minutes. By the time we got on board it was 10:15am, our check in cut off was 10:45am, and Google did nothing to assuage our panic, answering my question: ‘How long does it take to get from Gare du Nord to CDG by train?’ with the most unwelcome of responses: 35 minutes.
So I did what any self-respecting person would do at this point, and refused to take responsibility. I phoned Southern Cross Travel Insurance, told them the train was running late and that there was a very real possibility I’d be missing my flight to London, then listened in faux-earnestness as a call centre girl named Harriet told me that I’d need a letter from the French Ministry of Transport admitting that the fault was theirs in order to have a new flight paid for. Her other suggestion was that I called EasyJet (the budget airline) and requested that they hold the plane. In an act of wonderful passive aggression, I hung up without saying goodbye.
Our train went quicker than expected. Perhaps it was the Gods paying us back for terrifying us so, or maybe the driver just felt the need for speed. Either way, we approached Terminal 1 at 10:40am. This is good, I thought, Terminal 2 is just one stop away, we might still make it if we sprint. Upon landing at Terminal 1, however, the driver suddenly decided that three minutes was an appropriate amount of time to allow all 20 disembarking passengers to get off the train.
It was 10:45am when we got to Terminal 2. I yelled, “RUN!” to Katherine and ran, never looking back. Adrenaline kicked in and propelled me at double speed up the 40 or so stairs to the landing, through the ticket check, up a broken-down escalator and along the never-ending corridor to section 2B where I collapsed on the EasyJet counter, panting and sweating and cardiac arresting, only to be told that I was too late, check-in had closed. “Well that sucks,” I said to Katherine, only to realise that Katherine was not the small Chinese girl standing directly behind me.
Katherine was nowhere to be found.
I made my way over to the ticket desk and was informed that two new seats would cost 104 euros, but that the flight itself wasn’t leaving for another eight hours. I acquiesed, and handed over the passports – a gentleman might not always wait for his lady-friend, but he always carries the passports.
The lady at the counter punched in my name and said, “Mr Hindin-Miller, you’re already checked in. Miss Katherine Lowe checked you both in online. Do you have your boarding passes?” I put a hand in my pocket and pulled out two A4 sheets that Katherine had handed to me on the train. I showed the lady. “So you can go straight to the gate,” she said. “But what about our luggage?” I asked. She shook her head apologetically. “Sorry sir, the check-in is closed. It is impossible.” “Oh,” I said. “Wait, you have paid for your luggage yes?” “Yes!” “Then you can try. Go. Go now!”
I found Katherine standing by the EasyJet check-in counter with a helpless look on her face. The moment she saw me, she burst into angry tears. Apparently the ticket machine going from the train station into the airport had broken with her inside it, leaving her stuck between two glass doors. It took a good three minutes of banging for somebody to let her out. As sympathetic as I felt, now was not the time for tears, now was the time for action. I took her by the hand and pulled her towards passport control, suitcases in tow.
At security, a gruff Frenchwoman explained to me in rapid-fire Francais that my suitcase was too big to fit in her x-ray machine. My reply, “En Anglais?” merely fuelled her mounting frustration. After a good 20 seconds, she gave up and allowed us both through. Of course, I beeped going through the sensor, and thus received a thorough pat down. Cupping ensued.
Katherine and I were the second to last people to arrive at the gate. We watched as the English couple before us were asked to place their hand luggage in the size-inspection box, and given a telling-off when it was millimetres too big. I all but gave up hope.
When it was our turn, the flight attendant looked at us, down at our suitcases, back at us, and shook her head. Her facial expression said it all. I started trying to explain how the lady at the ticket counter had said that we could come through. She held up one hand.
Then, she asked a single question. “Did you prepay your luggage?” I nodded furiously and showed her our boarding passes. She shrugged, checked our passports, scanned the barcodes, and said, “Okay.” It took all of my strength not to kiss her.
Katherine and I walked down the ramp together in silence, her anger at being left behind trumped by the satisfaction that comes with winning against all odds. Sometimes, you’ve just gotta believe.
I LIKE YOU!