It takes 22 minutes to drive from our house to the airport. Given the right incentive, however, you can make it in 12.
This fact was established through first-hand experience and observation between 5:17 a.m. and 5:29 a.m. on a recent Monday morning.
With all the security regulations currently in place (“Sorry, ma’am, but that bottle of contact lens solution is over three ounces. You’ll have to put it in your checked bag.”), even our small airport requires passengers to arrive at least an hour ahead of scheduled flights. A 6:00 a.m. departure, then, means getting to the airport by 5:00 a.m., which means setting the alarm for 4:15 a.m. in order to leave the house by 4:30 or 4:35 a.m.
But when I opened my eyes that Monday morning—without having heard an alarm—the sky seemed lighter than it should have been. I turned over and squinted at the inch-high red letters on the digital clock. Even without my classes, I could read them if I leaned over far enough. It was 5:12.
Expletives were said. (Only a couple; there was no time to waste on them.) Clothes were thrown on. Shaving and toothbrushing were skipped. By the time we started backing out of the garage, the clock in the car said 5:17.
Fortunately, no early walkers were out on our neighborhood’s curved, hilly, no-sidewalk streets. Fortunately, the paper carrier saw us coming in plenty of time to swing her car back into her own lane. Fortunately, there’s little traffic on the new bypass road before 5:30 on a Monday morning. Fortunately, the five miles of road construction on the airport road was free of both traffic and construction workers.
As for red lights, all I’m going to say is that we were lucky. Of course, sometimes it’s necessary to make your own luck.
Eventually, we careened around the last curve and screeched to a halt in front of the terminal. My spouse leaped out, grabbed his suitcase and his computer out of the back, and dashed toward the nearest door. I drove around the loop and parked in the hourly parking lot, then followed him inside, fully expecting to hear that he had missed the flight and we’d be heading home.
As the revolving door spit me out into the terminal, I heard my name from on high. No, it wasn’t a direct message from the Almighty (Had said Almighty been inclined to deliver any personal messages that morning, a wakeup call at 4:20 would have been helpful.) It was my spouse at the top of the escalator, already checked in and ready to go through security. No wonder it only took a few minutes; there was no line, since all the other passengers had finished checking in half an hour ago.
The time was 5:37 a.m.
The departures screen showed the flight leaving on time, at 6:08. That goodness for that extra eight minutes.
After waiting until it was clear that the traveler would get through security in time to actually board the plane, I headed home. I observed all the speed limits and waited obediently at all the red lights. It took me 22 minutes. I didn’t need any tea for breakfast; the adrenaline rush was more than sufficient to get me through the morning.
One morning this week, a 6:20 a.m. flight gave us a chance to try again. This time, we set two alarms, for 4:45 and 4:47. This time, we made sure they were set for a.m. instead of p.m. The first one went off as scheduled, and we got up calmly, without a single expletive and with plenty of time for brushing teeth and putting clothes on right-side out.
We left the house at 5:17. We drove to the airport, not even having our blood pressure raised by the semi ahead of us that relentlessly maintained the speed limit all the way through the deserted construction zone. We pulled up in front of the terminal at 5:39.
I dropped the passenger off, kissed him goodbye, and drove home in a relaxed and deliberate manner. No panic; no drama; no adrenaline rush.
It took me three cups of tea to get energized for the day.