I don’t think of myself as being a particularly anxious airplane traveler, and I’m truly not, once I’m on the plane: even when there’s extreme turbulence, I have a (likely irrational) confidence that everything’ll be just fine, and I sit there munching on my chocolate and drinking my tea and reading my New Yorker and existing in a state of sweet, sweet oblivion. This is what the pilot’s trained for, right? Aren’t there studies showing that it’s more dangerous to ride in a car? Might as well lean back and trust that I’ll live to eat another pita with mayo and iceberg lettuce.
But “once I’m on the plane” is a pretty big caveat, and in the three-hour period until I get to the airport, I am, generally speaking, a nervous wreck. There are, you see, a million things that could go wrong while in transit, causing one to miss one’s plane (not to make you anxious the next time you need to catch a plane or anything). This is why it’d be my preference to check in three hours early for a domestic flight, longer for an international one. This usually leads to “discussions” between me and my husband, who’s more of a “check-in-when-you’re-supposed-to” sort of person.
Another major source of travel anxiety for me are tight and/or tricky/problematic connections: I would much, much rather have a three-hour layover than a fifty-five minute one (for example). For whatever reason, the idea of missing a connecting flight and having to deal with rearranging my itinerary is horrifying to me, even if I intellectually understand that I probably wouldn’t die if this were to come to pass. In fact, I know I wouldn’t; it’s happened before, and I’m still alive and kickin’ (some days more rigorously than others).
And so when I saw earlier in the week that thunderstorms were forecasted for both Montreal, where I was changing planes, and Toronto, my final destination, in the exact timeframe of my 2.5-hour layover, the panic began.
My husband assured me that everything would be fine, “no matter what.”
“You have lots of relatives in Montreal,” he said. “Even if you get stranded there for the night, it wouldn’t be a biggie.”
The possibility of anything more than a simple delay hadn’t occurred to me until that very moment. I immediately resigned myself to a night sleeping curled up in fetal position on an airport bench, waiting for electric storms in both cities to subside so I could be reunited with my life partner. #anxietydisorder4thewin
But the universe had different plans for me. It was when I was biding my time before the Charlottetown-Montreal leg of my trek home that the end-of-vacation miracle occurred. The gate agent, a fellow from Cape Breton (thanks, Angus: I’ll never forget you), announced that they had overbooked the flight and were looked for a volunteer. Someone who was flying directly to Toronto. Could that someone be me? I was practically shaking with excitement as I approached the desk.
Angus the Gate Agent seemed super grateful that I was willing to be switched to the direct flight departing a few hours later. Mutually beneficial situation much? It was only a few minutes later that I realized that this adjusted travel itinerary meant that I would get home two hours than I was originally supposed to since my layover was eliminated from the equation. I would also be given a $200 voucher to be used for future travel. I even received a $10 meal voucher in case I got hungry while waiting for my new, superior flight. Everything went according to plan, and I landed in Toronto before I had been scheduled to take off from Montreal.
This should probably be a lesson to me: a lesson in how—brace yourselves, because this is a shocking realization—despite what my anxiety tells me, the worst-case scenarios I construct in my head are not inevitabilities. Indeed, it’s possible for the world to snatch your worries from you and give you, in return, the gift of an ideal trip back to your loving husband, who’s eagerly waiting for you at the luggage carousel with an umbrella to shield you from the brewing storm outside.