This trip did not start slowly. I walked off the jetway in Hong Kong with 45 minutes to make my connection and an unblemished naïveté about what it was going to take to do that. Fortunately, the good men and women of the HKIA are used to receiving international jackasses. There were three women at the gatemouth holding signs . One of the signs had my name on it. It also had another, unfamiliar name on it. I indicated to the lady that I was one of the names and she told me to stand by. As we waited for Name 2 it was clear to me that my girl was a little anxious which made me a little anxious so I was relieved when Name 2 showed up, a normal guy in his 30’s with a positive attitude. She checked both of our boarding passes and then she hurried us through a separate line in transfer security. We lost a little time because I had to show them my nail clippers. Listen, you don’t appreciate them until you need them alright?
Once we were through security, the great terminal opened up before us and my face fell. We’re never gonna make it, I thought. I looked to my guide person for reassurance. She took off like a rocket. I mean this woman could move. She was commanding those moving walkways. Knocking mother fuckers out of her way, mostly with her words. I kept up pretty well, never one to shrink from an airport sprint. On the second moving walkway, I chanced a look back at Name 2. He was about 20 feet behind us but seemed to be in good spirits. Our guide told me that we were headed for gate 508. I looked up at our current gate as it blurred past. 35. Mother of god, I thought. Are we going to have to run past 473 more gates? I admit this was a silly thought but most of my blood was in my legs. I resolved to stop thinking and focus on the job at hand. As it happened we did run past about 30 gates. Around gate 20 I looked back at Name 2. He was falling behind but still had a smile on his face, bless his heart. That was the last time I would ever see him.
When guide and I finally got to the elevators she hit the down button and we looked for Name 2. He was nowhere to be found. She checked her watch. The elevator approached. She made an executive decision. “Go on.” She said, “The bus to your terminal is on L4. Gate 508. Follow the signs. You’re smart. You can make it.” I was completely charmed by this unprompted and misplaced vote of confidence. There was no god damn way I was missing my connection now. The elevator doors opened. “Go! L4!” She shoved me on to the elevator just as the doors shut.
Inside the elevator was a much calmer scene. Another airport employee was operating the buttons and she wore a look of mild amusement. I asked for L4. She pushed the button. It was one floor down.
The doors opened and I lit out, smelling victory and whatever I smell like after a 14 hour flight and a 20 minute run. I dashed around a few corners and onto a waiting shuttle bus. There was another guidperson on the bus reassuring people. Some other runners came in after me but not Name 2, poor bastard. I called Joe and let him know I was probably gonna make it. He said he’d wait. After five precious minutes, the bus doors closed and we pulled away from the terminal.
We drove across the tarmac and pulled up to the new terminal. The doors opened and we crowded out of the bus. The guide held up her sign which read Hanoi and started leading people at a brisk but unhurried pace. I set off running, no longer content to wait with the names and with the faith of Original Guideperson speeding my steps. I reached the top of the stairs and finally saw Joe, hands in the air in triumph. I almost leapt over a row of chairs but my pack is pretty heavy and no one needs a sprained ankle on day 1. We boarded the plane to Hanoi, off to a good start.
We just took off from Hong Kong. There are HUGE ships out in the bay. It’s raining a bit. Monsoon season.