Looking back, all the signs were in place. Heeding one of them could have made my day drastically different.
As I got through a fitful five hours of slumber this morning, I dreamt about a road trip for which Lucifer was the travel agent. My car broke down en route to the facility; I missed the plane; I couldn’t book a flight to make it to the game on time unless I was willing to connect in Caracas; I rented a car to drive 18 hours to the game — I’m not sure where it was — and it broke down in some unidentifiable stretch of prairie; I walked to the nearest town 17 miles away to watch the game, but found all the televisions tuned to a Canadian Football League game between the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the British Columbia Lions. Instead of watching Jay Cutler and Daniel Graham, I had Jarious Jackson and Matt Dominguez. I shrugged at the futility of it all, walked into a convenience store and asked for a Mountain Dew, only to find out they solely stocked Mountain Lightning, the Wal-Mart equivalent.
Then I awoke. The alarm clock read, “8:15.” Perfect. Beelzebub’s itinerary is quickly forgotten, replaced by a trip to the laptop to check out the result of Manchester City’s early-morning match with Newcastle United. News of the 3-1 win brings a smile, but I quickly leave it behind as I scurry about my home office, noting items on the checklist … computer … radio … audio recorder … credential … extra pair of underwear. I manage to send a couple of graphics to a fellow Web maven and work on an e-mail newsletter for about 25 minutes. Everything’s in order. I’m still on schedule, right?
By 9:30, I am ready to depart. I need to be at the facility at 10:15 a.m., and I’ve given myself a nice cushion to run an errand and waltz into the facility in time for check-in. My doctor girlfriend, hip-deep in notecards as she crams for her board-certification exam, looks up and says, “Nice outfit; I like the shoes.” They are black Skechers, soothingly comfortable footwear that is nonetheless too casual to be worn on the team plane. I inform her that I will have to change into my dress shoes after arriving at team headquarters. The conversation takes five minutes. I think little of the time consumed before turning for the door, but I’m on time, right?
At 9:42 the phone rings. I tend not to answer my phone when I’m driving in heavy traffic unless the same person calls two or three times, which in my family’s cell-phone ethos represents a dire emergency. So I let it ring without knowing who it was, and moments later I find that they did not leave a message. So it couldn’t have been that important, right?
It was a fellow member of the traveling party. Perhaps he was wondering where I was. But what does it matter, since I’ll still make it in time, right?
By 10 a.m., I’m on Arapahoe Road. BBC World Service is spitting soccer scores from England into my ears. I don’t have to be at the facility until 10:15, so I pull into the convenience store for a caffeinated beverage and a newspaper. An apologetic attendant fumbles with the cash register as he attempts to feed receipt ribbon into it. It takes about three minutes, but I think little of it; just two and a half minutes of drive separate me from the facility, so I’ll still be there in a timely fashion, right?
A few taps of the brake and mashes of the accelerator later, I arrive at the facility.
Gracious, there’s a lot of cars here.
But I think little of it. The trip is more crowded than usual, or so I’ve heard. More corporate guests, I reckon. I spend four minutes fishing through my back seat for a pair of shoes, then check my bags to make sure I have everything. It’s 10:10 when I begin doing this, which is no problem, since I’m on time, right?
I walk into the lobby in which the trophies reside. It’s empty. It usually is on a weekend morning — even as a road trip beckons. I walk through the building and my phone rings. Not driving, I answer it.
“Where are you?”
“I’m in the building, why?”
Instantly, my mind races, but my pace does not quicken.
Why are they leaving early?
The answer is clear.
Because you’re a dumbass, right?
Yes, I have somehow managed to confuse the start of the check-in with the closing. The mental engine, operating a few pistons shy of a V-6, had read the travel itinerary wrong. It is suggested over the phone that I call the team’s travel agent to make another arrangement.
No way. You screwed up; you fix this yourself, right?
I wasn’t going to compound the error by attempting to catch up with the bus along the road or otherwise engage in some idiotic show of desperation that would only make this day all the more frustrating. I turned, walked back inside the headquarters building, turned on the laptop and made a reservation for a one-way ticket to Indianapolis.
Which is how I find myself sitting in Terminal A at Denver International Airport, waiting for a flight which leaves at 3 p.m. MDT.
The fact that I am here shows that not much of the nightmare has come to pass. I wasn’t sent through Caracas; the flight is a straight shot. I didn’t have to rent a car; I called a cab, and even picked the right way to go, opting for the Parker Road/I-225 route that shaved about $12 off the fare which was still a bulbous $75, including tip. I made my seat choice while booking the flight on-line, so if it’s overbooked, I hopefully won’t be the one left helpless at the airline counter while everyone else giddily boards.
Oh, and I was able to eat at McDonald’s.
There was a time when I dined at the Golden Arch restaurant here at Denver International Airport on bi-weekly basis. We used to walk through the terminal to reach our waiting plane, which meant going through the security screening at the airport, riding on the subterranean trains and all the usual hulabaloo that accompanies airline travel in the 21st Century.
Not to put too much on McDonald’s, but when the Broncos last won at Indianapolis, I was able to indulge with my usual order — quarter pounder with cheese, fries and a diet Coke. (Two weeks later, looking for something healthier and with a smaller queue, I opted for the nearby French café — and the Broncos lost 41-10.)
In 2005, when the Broncos went 13-3, I was able to partake of McDonald’s on every road trip. Last year, the team moved its security screening to the facility — meaning no burgers and fries before takeoff — and finished out of the playoffs.
So, if there’s a gleam, as Marty Schottenheimer might say, it’s in the return of an old friend that was largely good luck for the season at hand.
So maybe it wasn’t a complete foul-up. It was, in computer-programmer’s parlance, “a recoverable error,” and the only harm was done to myself — and specifically, my wallet, which by day’s end will be approximately $325 lighter for the experience — air fare, cab fare in Denver and Indianapolis and the afore-mentioned junk food.
Of course, I will never live this down. Knowing Kyle Sonneman, he’s probably got a wise-assed nickname already concocted. If he doesn’t, then Steve Harbula — a.k.a. “admin” from the message board — almost certainly does.
Now, everything seems settled. I’ll soon step onto the plane, where I can find my window seat and take a nap. All that bothers me now is a terrific headache. Perhaps my girlfriend’s prediction that I would give myself a stroke wasn’t too far off.
I seem to have been taking a lot of pain relievers for headaches lately.
Maybe I need to get my head examined, right?
Tags: Idiocy on My Part