3 months ago, I would never have thought I’d be comfortable one day arguing loudly with someone in French. But the day of my flight to Barcelona, that’s what I found myself doing the third time going through security.
Let’s back up to the beginning…
“Oh my god. I forgot my passport.” Just so you know, these are words that no one ever wants to hear before a trip.
It was noon; we had just boarded the hour long shuttle for our 3:30PM flight, giving us 2 hours once arriving at the airport. I didn’t need to dig through my bag to know what I said was true; I knew exactly where it was and it was back in my new residence, safely tucked in a yellow important-documents folder. This minor detail didn’t faze me very much since it was only at the insistence of some friends that I changed my bus time from 1:30 PM to noon. I had plenty of time—although if I ended up not needing my passport at all this weekend for inter-EU travel, I was going to be pissed.
“You guys go ahead, I’ll catch up with you soon,” I told them and took the 30-minute tram back to my residence.
An hour later, I boarded the bus again and finally headed to the airport, during which my on-off slumber was disturbed by the woman who sat next to me, talking to herself throughout the entire trip. At one point, while breaking the no eating/drinking, she pulled out her iPod to blast what sounded like Gregorian chants. Man, I couldn’t wait until I was through security—15 minutes, tops. My friends were going to look like fools.
There was a minor setback when I wandered the whole of terminal 2 before realizing that I had to go outside to access terminal 3, my terminal. But hey, I still had an hour to kill. I could’ve taken the 1:30 and still had perfect timing.
The line for the security checkpoint was minimal and it took me less than 5 minutes to get through. And this is when everything started going downhill. The guard stopped me.
“Do you have water somewhere in your backpack?”
Shit! I forgot to empty out my water bottle outside. Maybe he’ll trust that it’s water and not some exploding fluid.
“Yeah. It’s water,” I say, pointing to where my water bottle sat, clearly facing him not a foot from his head.
“You have to dump it out outside.” Outside?! I had to walk through an entire building to get to this security check point. I wasn’t about to walk through it all again to dump out water. This is when, looking back, I should’ve just drank it. But I’m not even sure he would’ve let me—what if people drink these exploding fluids and then become exploding people? It just wouldn’t do.
By this time, the line had grown considerably to about twice the size it was when I first arrived. This really shouldn’t have worried me to the point that it did, but I get easily stressed when things don’t run as smoothly as I expect. I could stop planning everything-is-great-there-are-no-problems-at-all-scenarios but what would be the excitement in that?
Sighing, I repack all my electronics and start walking by his top-secret X-Ray computer. He stopped me because apparently, even though that led to the other side of security and to the outside, I had to stop the flow of the entire process by walking back through the metal detector and through everyone in the single-file fenced line. I was definitely still in France.
I did pause slightly at the plastic trash bags for recycling, trash, and paper to debate whether I could get away with pouring all the water into the trash bag, but its transparency and the 20-some people in line staring at me told me no, wait until you find another trash bag without so many witnesses.
It was only after I weaved through all those people, after I paused at the trash bags, that I realized I was no longer in possession of my flight ticket. This was odd because before crossing over to the other side, it was in one of those bins. I tried waving at the man to get his attention, but I figured I would get it once I got back. Why I thought this, I have no idea.
I passed through the first ticket-check guard, where I explained that I left my ticket back there, to right before reaching check-in lobby. There, was a trash bag behind this closed door. Perfect, I thought, and ran back through the first guard and once again, through security. On the way, I threw my travel-sized contact solution, Kobe Bryant style, into the trash bags 7 feet away because I didn’t want to have to go through any of that again.
It was just my luck that I would trigger the metal detectors going through the third time. The female guard gestured me over and give me the slowest and probably the most thorough pat down. Finally, when it was evident that it was a fluke, I ran to grab my bags and to ask about my ticket.
“Excuse me,” I told the man, “I think I left my ticket in one of the bins.”
He asked the female bin-mover beside him if she saw anything. Without checking, she said no, which he relayed back to me as if I didn’t see that entire interaction.
“No. I promise I left it here. I didn’t have it when I left this part.”
“Nope. Didn’t see it.”
“Well, it must be stuck in the machine!” I cried, feeling more and more frantic. I only had 30 minutes left until the gate opened and I was not getting there without a ticket.
He looks at the black blinds. “Nope, I don’t see it.” At this point, my rising volume has drawn the attention of the lady beside him. She seemed to be of a higher ranking since she immediately interrupted.
“If you didn’t have a ticket, how did you even get in here?”
I start to worry that I’m was becoming less of a wronged customer and more of a terrorist in their eyes.
“I just told them that I left it here. They saw me!”
They looked at each other in confusion. “No, it doesn’t work that way. How did you really get in?”
I stared at the man incredulously. Did he not see me pass through all the checkpoints earlier? Did he even recognize me this time around? I try to catch his eye and do the whole “haha, remember when you told me to empty my water bottle? Good times, good times.”
Now I’m yelling—still in French—because they still don’t believe that I just told employees the truth. “I JUST TOLD THEM THAT I LEFT MY TICKET HERE AND SINCE THEY CLEARLY SAW ME WHEN I ENTERED, HOLDING A GODDAMN TICKET IN MY HEAD, THAT SHOULD MAKE SENSE.” In the back of my mind, I’m a little worried about sounding like a Hysterical Woman.
“You’re telling me,” the woman said, glaring at me, “that you passed through THREE security checkpoints without a ticket.“ She still didn’t believe me. Incredible. And why does it matter where my ticket is if I already passed through security? I obviously went through all the effort to dump out potential exploding fluid. The more important question was how do I get onto my plane?!
20 minutes left.
At this point, I felt a little deflated. The only thing that kept running through my head was I got this far—got my passport, arrived at the airport with an hour to spare—only to end my journey here. I would never step foot in Barcelona.
Finally, the couple beside me decides to take pity on this poorly-prounouncing girl. “Yeah, she basically told the woman over there that she left her ticket here. We saw that happen.”
And, because the word of actual French people counts so much more here, she started shaking her head. “She should not have done this. She should not have let her in.” Hearing this, my hysteria increased. Did I just cost the nicest woman ever her job? What if they fire her!?
“Well, you have to go back out”—you have to be kidding me—“and print your ticket again.” I keep looking back at the clock while she talks to me, hoping that this gesture would get the message across. Although I’m unsure what else I could’ve done to portray “hysteria” more than I have.
“When does your flight leave?”
“Ok. You have time. Just go outside and print your ticket again.” Yeah, let me do that with the portable printer I always carry with me.
“… I have time….??” I said, doubtfully.
“Yes, just go back out to the check-in area and ask them to reprint your ticket,” she said calmly. Thank you. Thank you for not telling me this before retracing my steps inch by inch in a pointless detective game. So I repack all my electronics AGAIN and head back through the metal detectors. They beeped; SHUT UP, STUPID DETECTORS, I’M WEARING A BACKPACK. At this point, all dignity has gone out the window as well as shame. I ran full speed back through the metal detector, barreled through the people yet again in the stupid single-file line, and then ran through the entire check in lobby (of course EasyJet’s kiosk is at the opposite end) and ask them with unconjugated verbs if they could print my ticket. I think they tried to ask where I was from but I was having none of that.
The lady that almost got fired waved me to the front of the 10-person line. I yelled “I AM SO SORRY!” as I ran towards the security checkpoint. One checkpoint down. For the second time that day, I handed my ticket for the “conveniency check-in scan.” Second checkpoint down.
For the third time that day, I was in line for the security checkpoint. 10 minutes left. I stand for what seems like hours as the guy in front of me tries to figure out how a security checkpoint works. I have to give him the benefit of the doubt at assume that he hasn’t traveled, ever, or he didn’t see all of the very prominent how-to signs covering every inch of the room. Let me go first, dude. I’ve practiced three times today already. I got this down perfectly.
By this time, the entire team working the security checkpoint has changed shifts. As I passed through the metal detector the third and final time, the man asked me if everything went ok. When I responded yes, he touched me slightly on my arm, smiled, and said “I’m glad.” Oh good, now that you don’t think I’m a terrorist anymore, you can continue on being charming and French. Third checkpoint down. Home stretch with 5 minutes to go.
I actually ran through the halls of this airport; since I had never flown out of Lyon and there are 30 gates in this section, I was completely unsure how long it would take me to get from one end to another.
With the help of the moving walkways, some speedy escalators, and close-set gates, I spotted my friends 2 minutes later and collapsed on the floor next to them, sweating and panting. This would’ve been a great time to take a few pulls from my water bottle but someone thought it would explode.
“Michelle! You made it! We were getting so worried.”
Ok so maybe they didn’t say that. Maybe this stuff happens to me all the time.
“Yeah, you’ll never guess what happened…”
Now that I’ve had time to reflect about this experience, I’m glad they made sure I had a ticket before heading to my gate. What would I have done at the gate, ticketless? It would’ve been past the point of no return. Although I did manage to talk my way through 3 checkpoints. What would’ve been one more?