My husband and I both decided to work one day during our week of semi-vacation, and swap childcare coverage for each other. I took the kids on Wednesday (it involved the aquarium and Wegman’s, where an elderly gentleman asked if I had room in the cart for him too — ha ha ha). I spent Thursday traveling to and from Orlando to give a speech. I have done this before in one day, and while it is a long day, it is relatively painless. The speech went well and the trip home was great. I read Alain de Botton’s new novel, The Course of Love, on the flight (review to come soon).
The way there, though, was a different story. Not even the flight. Getting to the airport!
I left the house at 6:20 a.m. for my 8:05 flight. That was cutting it a bit short for my tastes. Even though I am familiar with the PHL airport, and I have TSA pre-check status, and no bags to check (ever) I am in the category of people who get stressed and anxious about getting to the airport on time. On the other hand, given the toddler sleep fun going on in my house right now, I had no desire to wake up any earlier than I had to. So 6:20 it would be.
I can take one of two routes to the airport: around the city on I-476 south, approaching the airport on I-95 northbound, or through the city on I-76 east, approaching the airport on I-95 southbound. Around is longer, but generally has less traffic. Early in the morning, through, the city should have been fine. So looking at Google map predictions of 30 minutes and 35 minutes I elected to go the quick route through the city.
Unfortunately, Google lacks predictive power. Shortly before, unbeknownst to me (and apparently to Google), a truck had crossed several lanes of traffic on I-95 south and slammed into a fire truck that was responding to an earlier accident. Fortunately, the news reports I read later said that no one was seriously hurt. But the accident completely shut down I-95 south through Philly.
Driving down I-76 east, I saw flashing alerts that the interstate had been closed. My normal route to the airport (the Platt bridge over PA 291, which meets up with I-95 later) was designated as the detour, so while it wasn’t clear where I-95 was going to be open, even if it was open right by the airport, I knew the bridge would be slammed with I-95 evacuees. So I was pondering a new route, and flustered with the rapidly building traffic. Then it started to rain. Traffic stopped and started, sometimes stopping quicker than other times. One time was too quick. I hit the car in front of me.
The other driver got out and was incredibly nice about the whole thing, checking multiple times that I was OK (he was fine – and mostly our cars were fine too, I think I just looked a little shook up. I was incredibly mad at myself for not slamming on the brakes faster). We pulled over and exchanged info and then I took off again, determined to make it to the airport.
Then it started pouring buckets. I could barely see in front of the windshield. While taking the exit off I-76 to my alternate back route to the airport I drove through a huge puddle of water and started gliding. Was I seriously going to have a second accident on the same morning?
I got control of the car again, but meanwhile the minutes were ticking by.
I finally got to the parking lot at 7:30, and was through security by 7:40. There were no lines. Why would there be? The major highway leading to the airport was closed so no one could get there! At least that part worked out. And so I walked straight onto the plane.
On some level, I think this was a good reality check on timing for me. Even on a morning when everything went wrong (a 30-minute trip takes over an hour and includes an accident?) I did make my flight. That’s with leaving later than I normally would. Perhaps I can start being more casual about when I leave for the airport. That’s probably a strange lesson to take from cutting it close for a flight, but there we go.
Are you in the leave early camp, or do you subscribe to the theory that if you never miss a flight you’re wasting too much time at the airport?
Photo: At the aquarium the day prior