19th June 2010, Saturday. Our return flight to Detroit MI from Denver CO was in the evening at 6.30. We planned to spend a morning leisurely and leave for Denver airport in the afternoon by 3.30 PM. We had had a very pleasant stay. After wishing Datta and Rama on the day of their wedding, We had not seen Rama again. Madhur,we had met once when Datta had brought him along to Goa more than ten years back. He was a young boy then. We were almost strangers to both of them and we were not sure if they would be comfortable with us staying with them. My apprehension evaporated the moment I met them. If Datta’s company was cake, the presence of his wife and son was the icing. They saw to it that we felt welcome and comfortable.
On the morning of 19th we just went around Colorado Springs and visited a few parks in the city. One of the parks (I do not remember the name) was a sort of forest within the city and had warnings and instructions displayed at the entrance regarding dealing with ‘urban wild life’.
But the only wild things that were there were the pet dogs, the owners of which, ignored the instructions completely and set them free to run around and jump on strangers much to Datta’s annoyance. They were keen to be our friends but we could not read their mind and were busy attempting to protect ourselves.
Datta’s patience was evaporating fast and we decided to leave before he started jumping on the owners of the dogs that jumped on us. We spent some peaceful time in a much better and pleasant place called the Fox Run Park and returned home for lunch.
Datta dropped us at the airport exactly at five in the evening, accompanied by Rama and Madhur who had come to see us off. After the check in and security clearance we still had about half an hour for boarding and decided to relax in the comfortable lounge in front of the gate 42, our departure gate, with a cup of coffee. After experiencing the Cappuccino, Café latte, Expresso, Caffé mocha, Caffe Americano etc etc, we had found that only Caffe latte came close to the coffee that we were used to but we had not been able to get it hot. They poured cold cream into the cup of hot coffee and it made the coffee just warm when served.
For the first time in the US, I managed to get the right combination of coffee, cream and sugar and got it heated again in the microwave at the ‘Caribou Coffee’ outlet in Denver Airport and we sat in front of gate 42, which was almost empty, awaiting the boarding call, chatting and enjoying our coffee. It was nearing six and our flight was at half past six. I was surprised at the absence of activity near the gate and casually looked at the display board in front of the gate. It read ‘Cinicinnati 20.00’ !
I was confused. Gate 42 should have displayed ‘Detroit 18.30’. The Frontier airline counter in front of the gate was empty. I knew something was amiss, handed my cup to my wife and ran to Gate 44 where there was an airline staffer. I told the lady that my ticket to Detroit showed gate 42 but the gate indicates Cincinnati. She saw the ticket, took out a pen, put a big circle around ‘Gate D 32’ which was prominently mentioned on the ticket and told me that I better hurry. 32 was nearly half a mile away. We dumped the coffee cups containing the right type of coffee into the trash bins and ran to 32. It read, ‘Boston 18.30’!
Luckily the counter was functioning but the lady was busy with another passenger. The two minutes wait felt like an hour. “Detroit?” she checked on her computer. “It is changed to 36”. Fortunately 36 was just about a hundred meters away. After reaching 36 and reading “Detroit 18.30, Boarding,” I relaxed and took a deep breath. I confirmed again that that was the gate and it was the flight we were booked for and we joined the queue. As I looked out of the window next to the gate, I could see one of the pilots wiping the windscreen before taking off.
As the plane began moving I wondered how I got Gate 42 fixed in my mind and what would have been our plight had we missed the flight? I was so sure that I had not felt it necessary to check the departure time and gate on the ticket.
It was sad that we had to discard our coffee but it would have been sadder if he had missed the flight.