I woke up early today. First time I looked at my alarm clock I think it was 5:32, and the next time it was soon after, and the next time too, and the one after that also. I tried to meditate, and turn around, and count sheep... no wait that last thing was what I tried yesterday, knowing I'd have to get up before 7.
Neither of those strategies worked very well though! I was hyped for the day, early morning wake-up or no, and when I just couldn't seem to relax no matter what I finally set my alarm a few minutes earlier, hoping that knowing I had plenty of time to do whatever it was that I needed to do in the morning (which wasn't much, everything was pretty much ready already) would calm me down and let me rest... for at least the ten minutes left before that alarm would ring.
Power nap, and ten minutes later that alarm rang. I jumped up. I ate breakfast. I did what I had to do and a few minutes past seven we jumped in the car, my dad and I, and headed off towards the airport.
We were in good time, so we didn't stress much the first mile or so. The small roads were nearly empty, and as we sped out on the highway the traffic was sparse and speedy there too, but then it slowed, and it slowed, and eventually we came to a complete halt just before a roundabout.
We made our way through it in a sluggish stream of other cars I imagined were going the same way - to the airport, but as we moved on and started picking up pace plenty of them swerved off elsewhere, and the lane was free, for a while... until we hit the next roadblock.
Road work. Not a lot, but enough to slow traffic to a crawl, and as we crept past a curve I could see a slow stream of cars crawling up a long stretch in front of us. We hadn't even reached the construction part yet!
The clock sped up more and more the more traffic slowed, and eventually we saw the construction signs. Cars started stopping more often as the other lane merged with ours, and suddenly an hour had passed. The trip was supposed to take thirty minutes. How long left? Just a mile, but it was the longest mile ever.
I've never thought that a mile sounded very long, but as we sat there, unable to progress, stuck in the slow stream of traffic in which everyone seemed equally anxious to make it in time, a mile sounded like the longest stretch ever. I started losing hope, yet at the same time it just felt unreal. The minutes ticked by. Somewhere in front of us there was a hall full of people waiting for a plane... but imagine if the hall was empty, and they were all sitting here, with us, stuck in this single lane of traffic. Would they still lift off? Even without passengers? Maybe the captain was stuck in this queue too.
I'd checked in before we left the house, but I opened up my cellphone browser to get a mobile ticket as well. I've never used one before, I like the material ones, but this would let me run through the security check immediately without printing one out. It took a while, but loading issues weren't that big an issue here. The traffic still flowed hopelessly slowly.
I fidgeted with my phone a bit more just to have something to fidget with. The time grew shorter and shorter, and I saw that boarding had started, and we'd barely made a kilometer, and I wasn't even close... then suddenly the road was free again and we picked up speed, and we swerved off the highway and towards the airport.
A slow car drove alongside a bus in the fast lane. We made it past. One minute. A line of taxis blocked the turn by the airport. We were about to take a shortcut around them but then a caravan of cars rolled past from the other side. Two minutes. I jumped out the car before it'd stopped entirely and made my way to the upper level, fiddled with my digital ticket for a few seconds before I figured out how to scan it. Ran up the stairs. Waited in line by the security gate . Another minute. The line was short however, and the metal detectors didn't beep.
I put on my belt knowing that I should probably do that later and just run to the gate, but I didn't want to lose my pants. I cast a quick glance at the signs and ran in the wrong direction, realized this quickly and turned back the other way. Made my way through a stream of people and saw the empty gate waiting in front of me, the gate attendant going about something at her desk, I ran up to them and... it was too late.
I'd missed my flight.
The plane was still standing on the ground, but there was no way I could get aboard. They'd finished their count. They were ready to go. The attendant lectured me on how you need to prepare and be on time, and I had. We were out way in advance. We should've been there early.
I asked if it'd be possible to swap to a later flight, so they directed me towards the desk where you did so, and I went downstairs again (outside the security gates) and did so. I ran into another guy who'd missed the plane because of the traffic jam as well, and was heading the same way. He was later than I was. He hadn't managed to check in his bags either.
I came up to the service desk first, and they pulled up the next flight out... which cost more than four times the price I'd booked mine for. No refunds. No rebates. No exchanges. That's the ticket class I'd chosen, after all. The cheap kind. I said I'd think about it.
I checked their competitors (SAS were a little cheaper), and called my card company in hope they might have an insurance that covered this, and cancelled my bus ticket up North (thankfully they did give a refund on that! Maybe it was still within a certain time after the order), and tried calling my brother because he usually has good advice in situations like this, but he was busy and apparently my card didn't have any travel insurance! I'll have to get back to them on that. I'm pretty sure it was one of the benefits when I signed up for it.
Running out of strings to follow I called home, hoping mom might shed some new light on the situation, but she had nothing new to offer.
It's a shame, but maybe it was for a reason? That was her reasoning. Dad waited by the car, waiting on my verdict.
I called my buddy last, not happy to hand over the news, but he handled it admirably. No worries. It was up to me whether I'd decide to take the expensive flight or take that trip some other time. Such things happen... and considering the price of a new ticket today far surpassed the price of another ticket tomorrow (or some other day), I decided we'd take it some other time, still feeling like such a decision was a certain betrayal. Once you commit yourself to something you follow through. No matter what. So I do wonder if I should have taken that ticket anyway, but all costs considered the wait was probably the wiser choice... I hope so.
I jumped back in the car, and we drove the same way back - only this time on the right side of the traffic jam, and the sun shone, and I kept thinking that if we had just driven off a bit earlier, or switched to the fast lane as soon as we could (other cars kept driving past), or those taxis weren't blocking our route, or I didn't have so big pants they don't hold without a belt, or just took the bus instead of the car this morning - even if that meant getting up half an hour earlier, then maybe all of this extra distress could've been avoided. I was awake half an hour earlier anyway.
It was a somewhat silent ride, but a beautiful morning. On the way towards the airport the sun was still below the horizon, the mist drifted and frost lined the road. On the way back it was sky high already and shining bright but cold, as if to match our pending state of apathy and aggravation. It still seemed surreal. By then I would've been in Luleå, buying a ticket to the bus station. The bus there would be leaving in a couple of hours, so I'd planned to stroll the streets of the city a bit, and maybe find some good place for lunch, seeping in the so common summer sights in an entirely new light and setting.
Then it would have been off to Överkalix, to a couple of nights, and days full of pastime and exploration with that aforementioned buddy. Entertainment and enriching autumn reward. Fresh air. Frost. Empty shops by out-of-season streets. Mountains. Forests. Streams and ice. It would have been nice.
Instead I came home to our concrete withdraw, the construction site towering behind it, the sun streaking over warmed-up wet grass and slimy autumn leaf; falling in through blinds just partially raised in the earlier morning rush.
I took a walk, and have since then been on phone with support, sorting out all possible potential refunds on the two tickets I'd booked, and a newsletter from the same airline I would've flown with just dropped in my inbox: they're releasing a set of cheap domestic flights today. Maybe there is a reason after all... for a trip on a season after fall? Though I'm not sure I like this particular airline as much as I did before.
I'm still super bummed out, and tired, but such is life. Better deal with the setbacks in the best ways possible, and look forward to the next outback instead! Whenever it's time for that climb.
So that's that; I guess I'm back.