A few years ago, I was travelling on a business trip. Now, you must know that as an engineer I am generally a cheapskate when it comes to paying for airfare. I will spend days and build a few spreadsheets to make sure that I’ve considered all options available to book the least expensive flight possible. This usually means travelling on a red-eye or something very close. The one thing I refuse to do any more though is “save money” by taking on a bunch of connecting flights that make the 2 hour direct flight an 18 hour expedition. It’s not worth the stress and anxiety worrying whether my flight will land on time to make my connecting flight as I have to push and prod my way past the herd of other selfish passengers who stick their backsides into the aisle and like a cork in a bottle stop everyone from going anywhere.
On this particular trip I was feeling pretty particularly frugal. I parked my car at a “park-n-ride” near where I live and then my gracious wife drove me to the airport. All I was going to have to pay was the return bus fare from the airport to the park-n-ride. I could just feel the savings pile up; I might even fill the rental car gas tank all the way full instead of leaving it a couple gallons shy – it’s sometimes good to be an engineer and know the tolerance of an electronic gage…
Nonetheless, the conference was great and I was on my way back home – late at night of course. In fact, my arrival time back in Denver was at 10:55 pm. Now, the only sight challenge at this point was that the busses don’t run 24 hours a day. In fact, the last departure time for the bus that night was at 11:25. Quick math – I had 30 minutes from my plane landing to the last bus leaving the station.
I’m an eternal optimist – so I didn’t get too stressed out when my flight was already10 minutes behind schedule. Certainly we’d make that up over the course of a two hour flight in the middle of the night. Sure enough, my plane landed nearly on time which eliminated one of the fatal flaws for the evening. The next few minutes of taxiing down the runway to get to the terminal seemed like an eternity. My margin of error was getting smaller and smaller – but still doable. The plane docked at the gate at Concourse A and I was now “that guy”. I grabbed my carry on and rushed to the front of the line using my best pick and roll techniques from my days playing youth basketball.
For those who know the layout at Denver International Airport you know that Concourse A is connected to the Terminal via a skyway that bridges over one of the runways. This is a key element as I could run across the bridge instead of waiting for the train.
So there I was, racing down the corridor with a flailing carry on bag in one hand, bus schedule in my other trying to figure out where I was suppose to catch the last bus to make it home that night. I flew across six lanes of traffic with agility of a ninja and the focus of an Airborne Ranger locking in on his target. 40 more yards and I could make my jump and relax in mass transit comfort and the smell of stale upholstery. As I neared the loading zone, the last bus was starting to pull away. With a super powered burst of adrenaline, I was able to jump over the six-foot median and stand squarely in front of the accordion door beckoning the driver to let me in.
With minor annoyance and a wee bit of reluctance he opened the door, asked for my fare and gracefully closed the door before burying the gas pedal into the floor board nearly throwing me to the back of the bus.
So there I was – victorious. Unbelievable really. I had a feeling of accomplishment that hurrying down the aisle of the plane, jogging across the bridge and pulling a 4.4 in the last 40 had all paid off in my effort to make my connecting ride home. Somehow, this feeling began to slowly diminish as I took a better look at my surroundings. Everyone else seated in the bus worked at the airport. This was obviously their ride home for the night. But where was home for them. Could it be that an inordinate amount of airport workers lived in the same neighborhood I did? It’s amazing what a little focused perspective can bring to light.
As I sat, mostly in a controlled state of hyperventilation, I began to question the obvious. Did I just run my little heart out just to get on the wrong bus? The answer is – yes. Low and behold as I approached the driver and sheepishly asked where he was going – it was absolutely the wrong direction for me. So, reality hit, and my best option was to get off at the first stop and call for a ride as there were no more busses heading my direction that night. Thank God for my little brother who I knew would still be awake and answering his phone. He picked me up and drove me to my car that night, so I didn’t have to wake my wife and three kids on a school night, just to pick up dad – who through a hurried state, forgot the most important question of all “where are you going?”
How often do we fly through life, jumping on the moving bus, just so we don’t miss the ride? The most important questions are sometimes the one’s we don’t ask. And being in a hurry, at least in my case, led to the wrong destination 😉