A few months ago I missed my flight. I was supposed to travel to Jakarta; there was no pressing meeting immediately after I landed. Probably, that is the reason I took it easy. I overslept; I had not pre-booked the taxi so it took me a while to get one. The traffic was a lot worse than usual and worst of all despite all my travel experience I had forgot to tele-check-in. I knew well before I reached the airport that I may not be able to make it in time. So I started praying to none in particular, I mean who do you pray to and what do you say? So I just wished that some miracle happens and I reach there before time.
But I didn’t. I got down from the cab and ran towards the check-in counters. They were crowded so I went to self-check in counters and entered all my details. The faithful machine won’t give me my boarding pass. So I looked around helplessly, when the sales person deputed to help the self-check-in customers found me and took me to a special counter. My despair took a positive turn; I started seeing imaginary light at the end of the tunnel.
The person at the counter informed me that the flight had been closed for check-in and there is nothing he could do.
I refused to give up and said, “I don’t have any check-in luggage. I will zip through the immigration. Please do something and issue a boarding pass”
He gave me a wry smile, supressed his irritation and contempt for passengers who turn up late and irritate him and said, “Sir, the counter closes 50 minutes before the departure. You are late. Very late.”
“I got stuck in traffic”, that was my spontaneous excuse. But why should he be bothered? Why should he go beyond call of his duty? But all these questions never occurred to me. I just wanted to miraculously make him change his mind and get that boarding pass. I went on for another 10 minutes without making any sense and he lost his patience.
He said, “Please meet my duty manager” Actually, he was turning me down but I felt as if he has given me another opportunity or told me another approach which might work. My awful feeling inside was going through sinusoidal wave.
I ran to the duty manager who was busy speaking in his walkie-talkie. I explained my ‘unique’ problem to him and requested him to issue me a boarding pass. He typed something on his keyboard, furiously looked at his computer screen for a minute or two and said, “Sorry sir, we can’t help you. The boarding has already started. They are about to close the gate. We have to go by rules”
It became clear to me that I am not boarding that flight. I had nobody else but myself to be blamed. I sat for a while to think about the repercussions. Firstly, I had to find the next flight. Communicate that timing to my office in Jakarta to ensure the pick-up arrives on revised time. I was planning to meet a friend over dinner which had to be changed to drinks post dinner. I had to inform wife who might be tracking my flight and landing time and may get worried. There were so many loose ends to take care of.
I first booked my ticket and checked-in. Then called my wife to inform her she was quite concerned but I assured her that I would be able to manage the situation. Then I messaged my team, my Jakarta office, my friend etc. It took me next 30 minutes to set things right.
Although, it was a relatively minor incident and my missing flight didn’t really matter much, I became very alert. I would leave for the airport 30 minutes too early; I would ensure that I was tele-checked-in and carry a printed boarding pass no matter what. I always pre-booked my taxi and watched the map before I left to see the traffic conditions and choose my route wisely. Ever since then I became extra cautious and determined not to miss my flight ever again.
I have been travelling for work for last 19 years. This was probably the first time I missed my flight due to carelessness. But it just shook me out of my complacency. It helped me to re-focus on the way I was planning my travel and helped to improve some aspects of it. Although, the pain of uncertainty and fear of losing face were temporary, they made their mark. They became the constant reminder not to slip back in comfort zone and take things for granted. All in all I had taken the entire episode very positively and worked on it to make things better for me.
How exciting would it be, I thought to myself, if we are able to treat our life experiences this way. How nice would it be if we are able to take a minor spousal argument this way and make necessary changes to ourselves to be a better couple? Or how productive would it be if we took that small order loss seriously and reviewed the entire sales process? Or how punctual would we be if we took that minor slippage in deadline seriously to put the entire project back on track? May be these small slippages in life or work don’t cause so much pain as missing flight would cause. Or maybe we don’t own it up and blame someone else for the slippage and therefore miss this opportunity to set everything right. Or maybe we don’t try to fix the right problem. Whatever may be the reason, I thought that we don’t react to these small inconsequential slip-ups in life as much as we could. May be choosing to react to them in a right way may change life for better.
…So try and lose the flight once in a while, you may not regret it!!