Thursday, January 25
You’ve been looking forward to it for months: a unique gathering of interactive fiction authors, organized around the huge gaming convention PAX East and the new IF documentary GET LAMP. As is your habit, you’ve arrived at the airport plenty early — you pull into the the shuttle parking lot at 9:15pm for an 11:25pm flight. You open the trunk to see your suitcase and… wait. What about your laptop case? What about your little travel bag? Good lord, what about your TICKET?
DRIVE LIKE THE WIND
A non-interactive recounting by Paul O’Brian
Shuttle Parking Lot
It’s dark, and the lot is full. The bus waits to take you to the airport. Of course, the airport is for people who have plane tickets, unlike yourself.
Your car is here, with the trunk open.
> LOOK IN TRUNK
No matter how many times you look, your other bags do not appear in the trunk.
That doesn’t help. Well, maybe it helps a little.
> CLOSE TRUNK. GET IN CAR.
You climb back into the driver’s seat and shut the door.
The air in the car is still warm, and so is the engine.
> CALL LAURA
You start talking on the answering machine, and Laura picks up the phone. “Okay,” you say, “is my backpack sitting by the front door, or am I just having a bad dream?”
“Oh, and your little black bag too,” she says, her voice full of concern. Immediately, she’s trying to figure out how to help. Can she meet you somewhere halfway between the airport and the house? Sure, she’s been sick with a horrible intestinal bug and Dante just got tucked into bed, but she’s ready. What a partner. Still, you can’t quite bring yourself to drag them out of the house to make up for your stupid mistake. Not when you still have a chance. You tell her to sit tight, and that you’ll call her if you need her to go somewhere.
> DRIVE HOME
First things first. You have to find your way out of this shuttle parking lot, which you’ve never used before. You waste precious minutes looking for exit signs, and when you finally find one, it points you back down the trail you just came from. Finally, you’re out of the parking lot and back on the road.
The time is 9:20pm. Your flight leaves at 11:25, and the gate closes at 11:10.
> DRIVE HOME
You’re back on Pena Boulevard, driving as fast as traffic allows, wondering if there’s some smarter way to get home.
> OPEN GLOVE COMPARTMENT
Opening the glove compartment reveals, among other things, a GPS.
> GET GPS. SET GPS FOR HOME
With practiced thumbs, you tell the GPS to take you home by the fastest route. Yeah, you can still do this while going 70mph.
> PUT GPS IN BRACKET
Probably not the best idea, but you reach forward awkwardly, trying to snap the GPS into its mounting bracket on the windshield. The car swerves as you lean against the steering wheel, veering off the road at alarming speed!
Last turn undone.
> DRIVE HOME
Holding the GPS against the steering wheel, you follow its prompts back onto I-70, then I-270.
The time is 9:50. Your flight leaves at 11:25, and the gate closes at 11:10.
> RECRIMINATE ME
Done, once again. Man, you spent the whole day making sure everything was ready, and then you drive off without half your stuff? What’s up with that? Laura said it was because you’re fried, and she’s not wrong about that. Aside from the fact that your day job has turned into a day, night, and weekend job, there’s the fact that you’ve been nursing both Laura and Dante through the same icky illness. You’re low on sleep and burned out. That’s part of why you were looking forward to this trip. Well, it’s certainly starting out relaxing, hasn’t it?
> DRIVE HOME
You arrive in your driveway and Laura, bless her, is immediately hustling out the door with your bags in her arms. She throws them in the car, gives you a quick goodbye and you’re back on the road.
The time is 10:00. Your flight leaves at 11:25, and the gate closes at 11:10.
> DRIVE TO AIRPORT
The trip goes without incident, but not one minute faster than you had hoped. You’re still pushing your luck. As you approach the airport, you can drive to the shuttle lot, the economy lot, or the garage. The closer you get, the more you pay, but then again, doesn’t every minute count?
> DRIVE TO GARAGE
Garage it is. $18 a day, but that’s a lot less than trying to rebook a flight, isn’t it? You find a space close to the terminal and park.
The time is 10:45. Your flight leaves at 11:25, and the gate closes at 11:10.
> ENTER AIRPORT
You quickly haul your bags out of the car and sprint into Denver International Airport.
DIA, Terminal East
It’s late, and all the stores are closed, not that you have time for shopping. You offer a silent thanks to JetBlue, who allowed you to check in online. Your gate is in Concourse A, and you can head straight to security. The north security checkpoint is to the north, and the south security checkpoint is, well, to the south.
Your feet pound against the smooth floor and your heart pounds in your chest.
North Security Checkpoint
A long, winding snake made of freestanding posts connected by extensible rope-line barriers. You can enter security from here, or go north to the Concourse A bridge.
Concourse A Bridge
The bridge to Concourse A is uphill — of course it is — but it also seems to be under some construction. The security checkpoint is ahead.
> RUN TO SECURITY
One of the workers stops you. “That security checkpoint is closed,” she says. So how do you get to security? There’s only one checkpoint open this time of night. Which one is it? It’s the south one. Of course it is.
Still not helping. Much.
The time is 10:48. Your flight leaves at 11:25, and the gate closes at 11:10.
> S. S. S.
North Security Checkpoint
DIA, Terminal East
South Security Checkpoint
Oh, no wonder the other checkpoints looked so deserted. Everybody’s at this one. Who knew so many people took redeye flights on a Thursday night? The line winds around a few times, and seems to be designed for your personal maximum inconvenience.
By the way, your burning legs have informed you in no uncertain terms that you will not be doing any more running in the near future, so don’t ask.
The time is 10:53. Your flight leaves at 11:25, and the gate closes at 11:10.
> ENTER SECURITY
The line entrance is at the other side of the — no wait, it’s on this — where the hell is the line entrance?
> DUCK UNDER BARRIER
Trying not to knock anyone or anything over, you attempt to smoothly slide under the fabric of the barrier. Of course, you’re not used to wearing a backpack, so you do knock over the the posts on either side, and manage to make the extensible line reel back into one of the posts. A kind woman helps you reassemble it. You feel like such an ass. You can’t help thinking of Homer Simpson charging through a crowd, shoving people aside, saying, “Out of my way! I got here late!”
> CALM ME
You take a few deep breaths and try to pull it together. The line in front of you seems impossibly long.
> Z. Z. Z.
Time passes, and you finally make it to the front of the line. The security people are very friendly and reassuring. “You’ll make it,” they keep telling you. More deep breaths. Shoes off, coat off, laptop out, etc. etc. You get through the line, and then reassemble. Laptop away, coat on, shoes on, etc. etc. Past the checkpoint, down the escalator, to…
This is where you can board trains to any of the concourses. The train is not here.
The time is 11:00. Your flight leaves at 11:25, and the gate closes at 11:10. The minutes seem to be stretching out now that you’re getting close to your goal. About time those minutes did you a favor.
Finally, the train arrives.
> ENTER TRAIN
You board the train, which whisks you to Concourse A past 5,280 spinning propellers mounted on the passage walls.
From here, it’s smooth sailing. The train deposits you at the concourse, and a brisk walk takes you to the gate. The doors are open, and you get straight onto the plane, with 5 minutes to spare and adrenaline jetting through your body. Oh yeah, you’ll be sleeping soon.
*** You have won ***
Your score is 100 out of 100, giving you the rank of Tired Traveler.
More soon about the actual trip. I just had to recount my most ridiculous act of self-sabotage so far this year.