We’ve been in Manhattan for five days, and my small town self is finally adjusting to the pace. Naturally, this is the day we fly home.
Any protest to ending the trip would be pointless, as I’m one of 70 high school students on a field trip. We have zero swaying power over the itinerary.
We pack our bags.
As we stand on the street to wait for the bus to JFK, I look around. Will I ever stop being overwhelmed? The visual. The auditory. The olfactory. It’s all violently in your face.
Whoever came up with the term “concrete jungle” was brilliant, I decide.
Unsatisfied with the culinary options near our gate, we trot through the terminal until we find a Jamba Juice.
I sit at a table with two friends, recounting our time in the city. Neither of them want to live here. Too much noise. Too many people. Me … not so sure.
I check my phone. Forty-five minutes to departure. Only a fifteen minute walk to our gate, I estimate. We’ve got plenty of time.
I notice the battery is dying.
I turn off my phone. General dissatisfaction with the city continues to be our topic of choice.
Twenty minutes later, I turn on my phone. The text messages and missed call notifications start pouring in.
What in the world? The messages appear in reverse-chronological order, which makes interpretation confusing. No context. Clearly, though, someone is panicking, because there is an inordinate amount of exclamation points.
I unlock my phone to investigate.
I become aware that “Boarding Time” and “Departure Time” are non-exchangeable terms.
Everyone is on the plane, I realize, and we have five minutes to cover a distance that took us fifteen minutes to walk.
I look at my friends, who are now clearly concerned. I take a deep breath.
We must run, I tell them. We must run now.
Unashamedly leaving our half-consumed Jamba Juices on the table (ain’t nobody got time), we grab our luggage and begin to imitate Black Friday shoppers.
I become aware that this is the first time in my life I’ve experienced tunnel vision. It’s strange the things a panicking brain will focus on as distractions, I pontificate.
I snap myself back to the task at hand, seriously questioning whether we will make it. There is so much distance.
I want to look at my phone to check the time, but I know I can’t. No time.
I suddenly realize we are going the wrong way. I briefly consider mentioning this to my friends, but I decide this is a time for show-not-tell. Without explaining, I turn 180 degrees, and sprint in the other direction.
One friend follows, one does not.
Thirty seconds later, I notice there is only one pair of footsteps behind me. We’ve lost Friend Two.
No — I twist to see her a few hundred feet behind us, distantly following. She has finally accounted for the change in direction. It may be too late.
“Wait for her!” Friend One exclaims.
“No time!” I say. I continue to sprint. Hashtags were not yet a thing, but this is an opportune time to make use of #Priorities.
My focus shifts again, and I lose awareness of my friends are behind me. I’m vaguely aware of the sound of feet smacking the floor, but I can’t turn to look. Full speed ahead.
Faster! If only I could go faster.
We arrive. The gate is empty.
A very annoyed attendant informs us she has been waiting for us. She closes the door immediately behind us.
In this case, the use of the word “literally” before the phrase “just made it” is a correct usage of the word.
I can breathe. I allow myself to relax after we cross the threshold into the body of the plane. The entire plane erupts into cheers.
A few weeks later, this story makes it into the valedictorian’s graduation speech.
Image from: Pixabay.com