One Minute Early

I’m going to tell you a secret

I am going to tell you a secret. It is a secret because it is not the kind of information that I would normally go spreading around; it is not the kind of information you will go spreading around.

On June 1, 2016, I went to board a plane at  Boston Logan International Airport destined for London. My flight was to leave at 9 p.m., and I arrived at the check-in desk at exactly 7:59 p.m. I know this because I checked the airport clocks. I know this because, up until a month ago, I wore the same Casio watch on my wrist for four straight years. I know this because my watch beeped on the hour, and it beeped right when I was speaking to the airline agent, when she told me that I could not check in to board the plane. This I know, and I want you to know that it’s the truth because it happened and because my watch had been running for four years and had never skipped a second nor ever needed a new battery or rewinding.

Do you know what the airline agent said? She said that I was late and that she needed to go help passengers aboard the plane. She was hurriedly packing her bags to leave and did not stop to greet or speak to me, as most airline agents do. I asked, kindly, for her to check me in. I asked her colleague to check me in, and the man placed his stuff on the chair beside the computer and started to attend to me. He greeted me and asked for my travel documents. She forbid him to check me in. He looked at me then at her. Me then her. It was then clear that she was his boss, for he abandoned checking me in and decided to turn off the computer instead. He did not speak to me. He did as he was told—he handed over my travel documents and prepared to leave.

“What should I do?” I asked, when I realized that I was being left on my own at the check-in desk.

“Can I call your boss?” I asked the lady. As she walked away, she said that I should call the airline and reschedule a flight. She said that she would not give me her boss’s number and that she had received clear instructions not to check any passengers in after one hour to departure. This she said even though I was on time. I wondered whether she was just having a bad day, or if my sagging trousers and tattered shirt made her not take me seriously; she didn’t smile or call me sir or even young man. She was just cold. But even if these presumptions might be the case, I was one minute early. My now dead watch knows this, and you know this too.

When she left, I approached the guards who were seated by the opposite desk and asked them for help. They asked what had happened, and I narrated to them the happenings of the last fifteen minutes. They shook their heads and sympathized with me. They said that airline agents never refuse to check passengers in, even if they show up, be it one minute early or 15 minutes late. They apologized, explaining that they didn’t have the number for the airline—they worked for the airport as security agents. One of the guards agreed to lend me her phone so that I could look up the airline’s customer service numbers and call them. I spoke with an agent who told me that I had to pay $350 to reschedule my flight. She said that I had to do this 30 minutes before the plane left, or I would lose my return ticket as well. I told her of my misfortune; I pleaded, I asked to make a complaint. She listened and told me that she could do nothing.

The guards wished me luck and said that I could sleep at the airport. They sympathized with me and shook their heads in disgust. This they did, and then they left to go home as their shift was over.

I was so angry that I decided to finish playing Hitman: Absolution on my computer. For one hour I took out my anger by strangling club bouncers and shooting enemies and non-enemies alike. I was agent 47, and I was meting out my anger and frustration on innocents, not worried about progressing in the game. This is what happened, and I wanted to cry. I wanted to throw down my laptop and scream. I wanted to hit the wall, but I was in an airport, and you know how the security is in airports.  All I could do was play Hitman: Absolution.

To tell you the truth, I wished the airline lady bad things. I imagined how nice it would be if I got the $350 refund and opted to buy her a ticket to the countryside, say Idaho, where she would plant potatoes and surely be unhappy. She is not fit to interact with people, I thought. But then, I was worried that even the potatoes would not be able to stand her, and the potato harvests would diminish.

That is my secret, and I have held it for many months. I could go on telling you about the outcome of this unfortunate incident, which I did pursue with the airline, but to cut a long story short, justice was not served. The lady got away that day for I did not take note of her name, and the airline did not care enough to find out who she is. Now that I have told you my secret, I hope that you understand that I was one minute early, and I missed my flight to London and had to pay a $350 fee to reschedule my flight. I hope you now understand why I wished the airline agent the fate of farming potatoes that would never grow. I hope that this secret of ours remains between me and you.