For the month of February, each writer’s post will begin with the same line, which we’ve borrowed from Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five.
All this happened, more or less:
At the airline check-in desk, my cousin and travel partner realized he’d brought his mother’s passport by accident. I boarded a plane to Zurich by myself. The mishap threw off my cousin’s whole itinerary, so on the way home from Europe, I stayed overnight in Brussels alone. I was eighteen. On the flight there, a Belgian man named Pieter and his father asked me if it was true that American Christians save sex for marriage.
I misunderstood the ticketing system in the Paris metro, so after putting two successive tickets through and receiving red lights, the group yelled at me to jump the turnstile. I awkwardly swung one leg, then the other over the thigh-high bar, only to see several beefy French policemen walking toward me. I forget every French word I knew and shrieked my very American apologies. They let me go.
On my second visit to San Francisco, I went with friends to a bar in the Mission. I was twenty. The bouncer looked at my ID, shrugged, and let me in, but I was too terrified to drink anything but a sip of Abigail’s hard cider. What we were told would be a film release turned out to be twenty-five minutes of skateboarding videos, shot on the participants’ iPhones.
After breakfast in a hotel in Sohag, Egypt, we discovered that the municipal police had gathered outside the building. They planned to escort us wherever we went until we left town. Our departing train was four hours late, so two of them sat with us in the train station all afternoon. Omar showed us pictures of his daughter, and taught us how to spell his name in Arabic.
We woke up at five to meet our Croatian Airbnb host, who had graciously agreed to drive us to the Dubrovnik airport. She dropped us off, and we walked in, to see departure gate listings for flight 611 and 613. Ours was 612. Confused, we asked the airline desk where to go, and she informed us that flight 612 was leaving in forty minutes from Split, the town we’d stayed in five days before. I booked our tickets from the wrong city. We paid a fifty-dollar fee to change it. When we went through security, the agent confiscated Brenna’s mustard.
On our way back from Seattle last Christmas, our United Airlines flight was delayed from 12:30 to 2:30, then 4:30, then 2:30, then 6:00, then 7:00, then 7:30, then 8:00, then 8:30. We left at 9:45. When we landed in Chicago, the customer service staff sent us from desk to desk until we elbowed our way onto a flight to Muskegon, calling my brother from the jetway to pick us up at a different airport than expected.
Last fall, my much-delayed Megabus dropped me off in Chinatown at 2:30 a.m. I had seven percent battery life, four dollars in cash, and no idea how to get to Brooklyn. I took two trains the wrong direction before emerging next to a 24-hour pizza place in BedStuy, desperately calling the only person I knew in New York. I was, fortunately, on the right street. She opened her door as my phone shut off and said, “I thought you were dead.” I told my mother this story much later. She said something similar.
Katie is a doctoral student in English and education at the University of Michigan. She loves the New York Times crossword puzzle, advice columns, oceans, and dogs of all kinds.