A Rush and a Push and the Air Is Ours

After a day and a night enjoying the city of Oslo, we woke up this morning knowing that we had only a few more hours to soak up the world’s most expensive city before catching our 4pm flight to Istanbul. We ate a breakfast of liverwurst/Jarlsberg roll-ups (Austin’s new favorite snack), walked to a cafe where David enjoyed a comically large mug containing his drug of choice, stopped by the art supply store for a glue stick (obviously an essential travel item) and then made our way to Vigeland Park, a beautiful green space featuring over 200 massive bronze and granite sculptures (many of which explore the concepts of life, death and the human condition) by artist Gustav Vigeland. The plan had been to enjoy a leisurely morning and then catch the train to the airport at 1pm to allow for plenty of delays, or barring any delays, plenty of time for more coffee.

Our leisure took longer than expected however, and we found ourselves at the train station at 1:25pm cutting our recommended 2-hour window for international travel decidedly short. Austin felt her anxiety slowly ratcheting up as the minutes passed and the little errors and confusions of traveling in a foreign country began. We stood in the wrong line, then fumbled with the automated ticket dispensers that rejected our debit cards, then we stood in another wrong line for a human ticket dispenser, then learned we were patronizing the wrong train company, then finally purchased our tickets from a different ticket machine and found our way to the platform in the bowels of the station. We had 10 minutes to wait for our train in which time David helped talk Austin down from her anxious state and we agreed that the worst case scenario – missing the flight and staying another night in Oslo – wasn’t such a serious problem and was pretty unlikely at that, since the train would get us to the airport by 2:30pm. There would probably still be lots of time for coffee.

It was just a few minutes after this that David looked up from the travel document he had been reviewing and reported with a gentle look and calm tone as if attempting to minimize any subsequent panic that might arise and said, “I may have some bad news.” Austin, reminding herself that the worst case scenario we had just reviewed was not the end of the world, took a guess, “We’re heading to the wrong airport?” (Oslo has several), she conjectured. “Not the wrong airport,” offered David, “but the flight leaves at 3pm, not 4.” It turns out 15 o’clock is actually 3pm. Oops. Some quick math (perhaps the same quick math to blame for our timing mishap?) revealed that we would have a mere 30 minutes to figure out where to go, make it through the security checkpoint and passport control and navigate the crowds of people to get to the far end of the airport before the plane left without us. A challenge was afoot!

We hopped off the train and began the well-known airport sprint. Bypassing the escalators full of people we opted for the stairs, bounding up them two at a time. We made our way through the winding security line in record time (though slowly enough for Austin to bite her nails) guzzling the remaining water in our bottles, disrobing and putting ourselves back together again before resuming our sprint. Checking the departures monitor to identify in which direction we should be running full speed we found our flight and gate number followed by the command, “GO TO GATE”, which at the time felt like it was there solely to admonish us for our misbehavior. With 10 minutes until takeoff it was a race against the clock. We zoomed, dodged, zigged and zagged, hurdled small children, pausing only momentarily as we crossed our fingers at passport control and then arrived heaving and sweaty at the gate, confused to find that the plane was still boarding. The scene was a bit surreal as we caught our breath and looked around to see many others calmly standing in line or seated. We had a difficult time grasping how the last 40 minutes of panic, anger, disappointment, self-flagellation, sweating and completing an airport obstacle course could lead to waiting in line at the gate with extra time. The mental image of racing alongside the taxiing plane, imploring the pilots and attendants with wild gestures to let us aboard would not become reality. The months of concern around David’s exit from the Schengen zone were muted by the panic of the airport race and oddly incongruent with the cortisol in our brains. But at least we got some quality exercise.

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7 thoughts on “A Rush and a Push and the Air Is Ours

  1. WHEW !!!! Great writing! You captured the scene amazingly – my heart rate is up. In 1973 our VW bus battery failed on the way to Chicago to catch a flight to Mexico City. A guy offered to race us 30 miles around the toll-way in his Cadillac (speeds over 80 at times). Judy and George met us at the curb to exchange something before we could board. We raced through O’Hare toward the gate where one directly boarded the plane, and saw the door being closed. After pleading with all, they re-opened the door.

  2. Oh my. I’m laying in bed but i feel like I just ran around the airport w you! Yes, great writing! Thx for the adventure:). Now I have to read another one in hopes that it will calme me down so I can go to sleep. Xoxo.

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