It was a Wednesday. Mario was supposed to arrive at Dulles Airport a little after 8pm. Which was perfect. I would stay busy by putting in a full day’s work, have just enough time to get home, eat, make myself presentable and make the 30 minute trip out to the airport.
But, of course, things never go as planned.
I was just about to head into a morning meeting when my cell phone rang. Mario. He was calling me from London to let me know that his connecting flight was delayed. He didn’t think it would be too long, but he wanted to make sure I knew. I was grateful for the information and told him that I would check the flight status online so that I wasn’t hanging out at the airport for an absurd amount of time.
By the time I left work, the delay had grown to an hour and a half. An hour and half that seemed longer than the previous 40 days put together. Too much time to kill. Too much time to think. Too much time to wonder if I was completely crazy.
Finally, it was time to go. Even though I knew that he would need to go through customs, I had decided to show up right at 9:30, figuring it was better for me to wait for him at the gate than for me to guess wrong how much time he would need and have him wandering around the airport. I arrived at the airport (my first time parking at Dulles) and made my way over to the international arrivals gate, only to find the arrival board saying that his flight had arrived “on time.”
This could be bad.
By this time of night all the offices with potentially helpful people were closed. I didn’t want to stray too far from the gate, but I had visions of him wandering around Dulles Airport trying to find me. I frantically scanned the gate, hoping that I would spot him.
Now I could feel the first whisperings of panic. Mario had called me himself to let me know that there was a delay. I had checked the flight status before I left home and it had stayed constant with its 9:30 arrival time. It was barely 9:30 now. How could I have missed him?
I started to call my friends, hoping that one would be near a computer. Finally, Ruby answered. She graciously checked the flight status for me.
“It says it hasn’t landed yet.”
So which was right? The arrival board? Or the website? Was Mario still in the air? Or was he lost in the airport?
About 10 minutes pass. Suddenly, my phone chimes. A text message. From Mario.
The plane was here.
I relaxed for about 5 seconds. Then the anticipation began to build. In just a few short minutes, he would finally walk through the gate.
The minutes pass. Then, once again, my phone chimes. A phone call. From Mario.
Now I was confused. Having done a lot of international travel I knew that you weren’t supposed to use your phone while inside customs. How was he calling me? And why?
Mario was obviously a bit frustrated. The custom officials were trying to get some information from him and, with his elementary English, he couldn’t understand their questions. Could I talk to them?
Suddenly, an official sounding voice got on the phone. The question? “Where are you staying while in the United States?” I quickly vouched for him, saying that he was my guest and provided my address. The officer thanked me and said that Mario would be right out.
So I waited.
One flight came through. Then another. Still no Mario. By now I was starting to get really worried, but all I could do was wait.
A full hour passed. And I was in full-blown panic mode. What could possibly have happened between the officials and the door? By now it was almost 11pm and the airport was starting to feel deserted. Only a few people were still waiting at the gate. And even fewer people were coming through. I had no idea what I should do.
Then, suddenly, the doors opened.
Mario was finally here.