My sister Bobby doesn’t wear a watch, but not because she doesn’t care if she’s late. When Bobby’s late, she freaks out, just like me, particularly if being late means missing a flight. Now if she doesn’t know she’s late, well, that’s a different story.
Bobby and I were taking a 6:50am flight to Siem Reap, Cambodia from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The airport is 45-60 minutes from her home, so I thought we’d scheduled the taxi for 4:30am to leave a comfortable cushion before flight time.
At 4:35am, Bobby knocks on my door. I stumble into the bathroom, see the time and, since I think we’re late, throw on my clothes, wash my face, brush my teeth and rush downstairs. I wait, and I wait. Bobby waltzes down the stairs just shy of 5am. She smiles and says something along the lines of, “Well look at you all ready to go!”
We load our bags, buckle up, and now it’s 5:10am. I would be worried except that Bobby is chatting away, looking notably relaxed, so I figure maybe I’ve got the flight time wrong because one thing I know: if we had anything to worry about, Bobby’s face would give it away. Under stress, her brows tighten subtly but unmistakably.
It’s 6:00am when we reach the airport, but it’s crowded and the international terminal is at the far end, so by the time we pull our bags and pay the fare, it’s 6:15am. As Bobby rummages around her purse for cash to pay the driver, he asks me our flight time. “I think it’s 6:50am,” I say. He raises a brow and gives me a good-luck-with-that look, and I think, “I know, right?!” Still, Bobby looks calm, cool. Sighing and smiling, she grabs her carry on, and off we go.
At the self-serve kiosk, we print our boarding passes, after which Bobby says, “Let’s get coffee!” It’s 6:25am. I say, “I’d rather go through security first.” She says, “The security here is no big deal!” I say, a little testily, “I’d feel a lot better if we went through security first.” She rolls her eyes and says with a tisk, “Well, okay then!”
After we’ve passed security, Bobby finally asks the question that held the power to change our entire morning but instead changes only the last two minutes of it: “What time is it?” I tell her that it’s nearly 6:35am. She freezes. “What?!” She’s recognizably panicked now, barks at me to follow her and shoves aside small children and their shrouded Muslim mothers who are blocking our way. At 6:36am, we rush through the gate and it closes on our heels.
We look at each other then, pause, and laugh our way to the plane.
Bobby remained calm only because she didn’t know the time, and her calm was contagious. As a result, rather than pointlessly swearing and sweating our morning away, we enjoyed it, which makes me wonder: why do I ever stress?