When my ex-husband and I started dating almost 25 years ago, one of the first questions he asked me was this:
“You have an international departure scheduled at 4 pm out of JFK. What time do you arrive at the airport?”
The question was prefaced with the statement that the wrong answer could be a deal breaker. We were both on the back side of tumultuous first marriages, and the wounds and grievances were still fresh.
“2:00 p.m.” I replied.
Keep in mind that security was different then, and parking, while always an issue, was something that you would actually consider in the 80s and 90s because it didn’t cost almost $100/day back then.
I must have answered correctly, because we eventually ended up getting married.
For years we traveled as a couple, and then as a family, always arriving at the airport with plenty of time to check in, get ticketed, screened, caffeinated (as most flights were the pre-dawn variety) and settled at the gate for a civilized boarding of the aircraft. Few were the frantic scrambles to catch flights, tense moments of searching for tickets or passports, (although there was that one trip to Milan…) or tight connections between terminals. While we didn’t see eye to eye on enough issues to remain married, we did travel in relative harmony over the years.
Earlier this year my son and I had an early flight to Jackson Hole. I asked my Ex for a ride to the airport for a number of reasons, not least of which was I didn’t want the added time burden of parking and walking to the terminal while encumbered with crutches, which were a current fashion accessory due to a torn ACL.
Our flight was scheduled to depart at 7:00 a.m., and I asked him to pick us up at 5:15, which would allow enough time to drive, drop, check in and go through security and still get a cup of coffee.
“That’s really early,” he said. “…we don’t need to leave your house until 6:00.” We swatted back and forth, eventually conceding a 5:45 a.m. departure. Pulling into the terminal I had a moment of anxiety as I looked at the line of travelers waiting to check in. How would we ever get through the sea of humanity to make it to our gate on time? What if we get held up at security? What if we miss our flight…?
I took a deep breath, focused, and within 30 minutes our bags were checked and we were through security, on our way to the departure lounge. As we approached the gate they announced the boarding of our flight. I cast a sidelong glance at the line at the Starbucks kiosk, knowing that coffee was not in the cards prior to boarding. As we walked down the jetway I chuckled to myself, thinking about how people and their habits change over the years – an amalgamation of their circumstances and surroundings. Even five years ago my husband would have timed our arrival to accommodate a myriad of happenstances with built in contingency plans. Now he was dropping us off with literally minutes to spare. And other than a few anxious moments, it didn’t bother me.
It made me wonder if we are both less high strung because we have grown older and wiser, or because we no longer feed off the tension between us.
Or maybe it’s a combination of both….