Emily Parnell — An unkind cut leaves two family members stranded

04/01/2014 5:40 PM

04/01/2014 5:41 PM

Is it OK to cut in line? What if someone you know is in the line? What if you’re kind of in a hurry? What if you think you’re a tad more important than everyone else in the line? Do those things make it OK? What if you’re about to miss a plane?

I’ll begin my tale about an hour before the line cutting ensued. Our glorious trip was coming to an end. I could wax poetic with picturesque language heralding turquoise seas, sunrises over the sea and history-drenched culture, but it might bore you. Our mishaps will be entertaining.

We arrived at the airport, none too soon. Some might even say too late. Our son was exhausted, and our poor daughter had a fever that had spiked to 104 degrees in the night. The taxi driver flagged a dude with a cart, who loaded our bags and took us past the ropes, straight to the ticket counter.

“Did we cut in line?” I said quietly through the side of my mouth to my husband. “Weren’t we supposed to be in that line?”

Thad turned to survey behind us. “I don’t know.”

Perhaps this set our bad karma rolling.

One suitcase was overweight. I immediately knew why. The kids had collected oodles of shells. We picked the best and put them in plastic bags. This included several conch shells. Some things you may not know about conch shells: They are heavy, and after a few days in a plastic bag, they stink. I’d packed smart, outfitting my backpack and a shoulder bag with practical items such as jackets, meds, and even toothbrushes and clean underwear — on the off chance that we got stranded somewhere overnight. One can never be too prepared, right?

What could I do? I removed the useful items from my bags, and filled them with extremely heavy, stinky shells. I did it for the children.

Our tickets, as on the way out, were only quasi-confirmed, semi tickets. They were in the system, yet devoid of certain seat assignments. The ticket agent worked furiously to get the system to spit boarding passes, but we stood there for quite some time. Until, in fact, there was nobody else in line at all. Zombie-like Sylvia burned with fever, and the stinky shells weighed heavily on my back.

Finally, the boarding passes printed, and we hurried off to customs. The line was endless, and it seemed everyone — hundreds of people — had flights at the exact same time. We slowly moved through the line, and people filled in behind us.

The woman behind us had exquisite posture — perhaps to emphasize the apparent investment she’d made in her upper lady parts. Agitated, she asked me repeatedly how she was going to make her plane — which happened to be our plane as well. People in the rows ahead of us assured us their departures were the same time as ours.

But she was a squeaky wheel, and her husband was the rubber tire that rolled along with the squeak. They cut in line — jumping a full 2 rows ahead. “She cut,” my zombie daughter said, as I prayed she not spontaneously combust right there in line. I was hot, too. Boiling. Livid. Incensed. But I brushed it off. How could it matter?

We did, indeed, miss our plane, as did the line cutters. I felt somewhat vindicated — until the next flight boarded. The cutters’ names were called — and they received two seats on the plane. And then our names. But there were not four seats for us — only two. The cutters who had been directly behind us in line had taken two of our family’s seats.

My husband and the burning child took the two available plane seats, and my son and I were left behind. For 18 more hours, we waited, slept on benches, shelled out some clams for a hotel, and hauled heavy, stinky shells in our bags. Every now and then, I wished Miss Great-Postured Cutter could just know that she’d split up a family and displaced a mom and a kid.

It turns out, she did know. Ironically, she was seated directly beside my husband.

“You saw me cut,” she said to him.

He nodded. (He’s pretty chill.) “My son and wife didn’t make it on the plane. But my daughter and I are going home. She has a 104-degree fever.” He said the woman looked nervous of him the whole way home.

You can learn a lesson from your mama, or you can learn it by experience. But maybe the worst way to learn it is from your own conscience. Cutting isn’t cool.

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