Sundance Film Festival: How a package of karmic Kleenex got me to Park City


It was the Kleenex that saved me. I’m sure of it.

I had an early flight to Park City this morning, and my beautiful, fantastic girlfriend (sorry, but she’s way better than your girlfriend) was kind enough to drive me to the airport. I arrived in plenty of time for my flight, which would head west to Detroit for a tight layover of under an hour before I was able to wing it westward for Salt Lake City.

Almost immediately after I passed through security, my phone buzzed. The Detroit flight would be delayed by almost an hour, wrecking my chances at getting a connecting flight.

I got in a long line of other passengers with other connecting flights to see what my options were. I noticed that the young woman behind the counter was telling people the delay might not be that bad, that it might end up only being a half-hour late. I also noticed that she had a bad cold.

Sure enough, the sign at the gate adjusted the departure time up by 15 minutes, then another 15. Only 20 minutes late – shouldn’t be a problem.

As I was in line to board, I rifled through my backpack, and found a travel-sized pack of Kleenex I had brought on a previous flight and never opened. When the woman took my ticket, I offered her the packet of Kleenex, which she accepted gratefully. I felt like a good guy, imagining her telling her co-workers in the Delta break room about her Passenger of the Month. That’s the sort of thing I fantasize about these days – that strangers will find me really cool.

The flight to Detroit was uneventful, except that were a little late getting out of Madison because of deicing, and a little later finally getting into the gate at Detroit. My layover was whittled down to 19 minutes – 11 minutes by the time I was off the plane.

The good news was that all my luggage was carry-on, so I didn’t have to worry about a suitcase not making the connecting flight.

The bad news was that, I discovered when I entered the terminal, I was at the absolute far end of Terminal C.

The really bad news was that, I discovered when I checked the monitor, my connecting flight to Salt Lake was at the absolute far end of Terminal A.

And the really, really bad news was that all my luggage was carry-on.

I started hustling, two bags and an oversized winter coat slung over my shoulders. I’m just getting over a bout of pneumonia, so my lung capacity is not yet back to normal. Also, I’m a 45-year-old movie writer. So I was huffing and puffing pretty hard as I moved. Coming up behind people on the moving walkways, I must have sounded like a steam-powered version of one of those electric golf carts that ferry old people around the terminal.

They got out of the way.

Down Terminal C, through the tunnel tat connected the terminals, up the escalator and down Terminal A. Gate 76? Honestly, it sounded like a joke. Who needs so many gates. Finally, at exactly 10:10, I came up on Gate 76.

And the doors were, incredibly, still open.

I hoarsely thanked the gate agent for waiting until the last minute and hurried inside. She shut the door right behind. Still huffing, red-faced, bedraggled, I staggered onto the plane. I still think the Kleenex somehow got me there.

I sank into my seat, heart pounding, coughing. I dug for my inhaler and took a couple of drags to settle down. And then, once I had gotten my breathing under control, I turned to my seatmate.

“This plane is going to Salt Lake, right?” I asked.

He paused, looked me straight in the eye. “No,” he said, puzzlement in his voice. “Chicago.”

My face went from tomato-red to bone white in an instant.

And then he grinned.

Son of a bitch, I thought to myself, laughing with relief. I hope you get a runny nose too. Because I don’t have any Kleenex to give you.

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