Just a quick nap before my flight. That’s all I needed. Sure, I was a bit inebriated from a spectacular night out drinking in Vilnius but I’d be able to wake up in two hours, right? With my alarm properly set and on the other side of the room I’d have no problems waking up to make my flight. And I did wake up at 6am, as expected. I walked across the room and snoozed my alarm figuring that another 5 minutes of sleep was a good idea.
I woke up from the snooze a bit groggy (and very much still drunk) thinking to myself that it seemed rather longer than I expected. It was 7:10am. I was still in my hotel room. My flight was scheduled to depart the Vilnius airport at 7:55am. This was very, very, very bad.
The good news is that I was mostly packed. I put on my clothes from the night before, tucked my laptop back into my bag and headed out the door. Checkout involved me leaving the key on the reception desk and running out of the building without stopping to say goodbye. It was a race against time to make my flight. No chance of taking the local bus out to the airport now; I’d need a taxi. No taxi stand at my hotel but I was staying adjacent to the Novotel. Thank goodness there were cabs in front. I was running on the icy sidewalks, frantically waving at them. They didn’t seem to understand my sense of urgency. After I got in the car the driver very calmly asked, “Oh, are you running late?” Ummm…yes!
And so we made our way out of the Old City and up towards the airport. I was running a mental inventory and hoping that I’d remembered everything from my room (I did) and also trying to figure out how much money I had. Not enough to pay the taxi, at least not in local currency. Definitely no time to visit an ATM in the terminal and still make my flight. I figured I’d try to convince the driver to take a 20 euro note (smallest I had) to cover the ~$11 fare. It turns out they take credit cards so I didn’t have to negotiate that. I had made it to the airport by about 7:45am. And I was the only one there.
At least it seemed that way. The terminal was rather darker than I typically experience but I suppose that’s to be expected when there are no more departures for a couple hours. It was dead quiet; I couldn’t see any others in the terminal. Rather dazed I was scanning the signs, trying to figure out where to go to catch my flight. Two women walked by and asked if I was on the Air Baltic flight. I grunted something which I presume sounded like an affirmative. They were kind enough to let me know that I was quite late. Thanks. At least they also pointed me in the direction of the security checkpoint (I hadn’t figured the signage out yet).
I was the only passenger at the checkpoint which was good. As I passed through one of the guards asked if I was Mr. Miller on the Air Baltic flight. Apparently they’d been waiting for me. I was trying to recombobulate following the screening and he started to walk off with my bag. That’s never good, right? Except in this case it was. He won on his mobile phone with his other hand, calling down to the gate to let them know that I’d made it. I received an escort to the gate at which point he handed me back my bag, the agents scanned my mobile boarding pass and then promptly shut the door behind me as I boarded the plane.
I’ve been the last person to board a flight a few times. Usually I’ve done it on purpose. This time, decidedly not. I was still drunk, more than a little smelly in last night’s clothes and wanted nothing more than to crawl up in a ball and try to sleep it off. Alas, the very strict flight attendants from Air Baltic would not allow me to take a row to myself in the back of the 737-500. I was required to sit in my assigned seat. Never mind that there were fewer than 40 passengers on board and plenty of room to spread out. My row-mate (at least the middle was empty) would be subjected to my snoring as we made the quick hop over to Riga.
Ultimately it was the mobile boarding pass which saved me. The racing to the airport and such would have been for naught had I not already been checked in for the flight with a boarding pass in hand. That little bar code made all the difference.
More stories available from the Baltic Beers trip.