That Time I Nearly Missed My Flight, and Other (Ironically Outrageous) Stories

5th June – last day of BTN. It was a day for celebration, because I was finally getting out of hell. No more terrifying flying insects, no more prison food trays, no more less than five hours of sleep every night and then waking up at 6 the next morning to do push-ups or run for 2km. I woke up that morning with a rare zest, knowing that I’d be leaving in about 5 hours. We had exams in the morning (unexpectedly harder than I thought but the thought of leaving overwhelmed any doubts I had over the test), the closing ceremony, lunch, packed everything up, took photos and then left the way we came in buses.

According to the itinerary given to us, it was stated that the camp would officially end at 12pm, and that was the time guideline of which I based on to book my flight ticket. I booked a 6pm flight and, taking into account the 3-hour journey from Kuala Lipis to Subang, I would supposedly reach at around 3pm, meet up with Taliza, Karu and Harris for lunch, and then head to the airport at 5pm. Those were the plans I made, and even then, it felt pretty rushed if I were to reach the airport by 5 (meaning I’d have to leave at 4 something – plus minus 30 minutes of arrival time).

So naturally I started to freak out a bit when the head facilitator told us we had lunch at 12, and then everything else after that (packing, photo taking) dragged on till 1pm and I had to cancel my plans with Taliza, Karu and Harris. Then, as we were leaving, we found out we’d left two people behind at the campsite while the bus was already halfway out onto the highway. That took about another 15 minutes of idle waiting. It was already 1.30pm when we started moving again.

Throughout the whole journey I kept on looking at the time, constantly making mental calculations of the time we’d arrive, how long a taxi ride to the airport would be, and then factoring in the post-5pm jam. Honestly? All I could think of at that time was my bleak chance of making it to the airport in time.

And then in between of drifting in and out of sleep on the bus, I suddenly received a text from Firefly saying my flight. Had been. Delayed. To 6.25pm. Delayed!!!!!! I could almost cry tears of joy, my prayers to all the obscure gods in the world (can you tell I’ve been reading Noragami manga lately) had literally been answered. It was probably the only time I’d ever been so happy about a flight delay. I thought might just make it, so I relaxed a little bit.

Until we got to KL.

The 5pm jam was already building up as we approached the roads leading from KL to PJ. I’d initially estimated reaching Subang at ~4.30pm but we were still stuck in a bumper-to-bumper crawl at 5pm. When we finally reached the Sunway area, it was about 5.20pm and then the driver got lost and we made a huge round from Mentari to Sunway Pyramid so when we truly reached college it was already 5.35pm and I was close to tears. Rumin (who was also flying from Subang airport, albeit back to Alor Setar at 7pm) and I were starting to panic. We’d booked a taxi beforehand on the bus, so as soon as we got our luggage out, we immediately got into the taxi.

Thank gods of all heavens, our taxi driver was really friendly and nice, but when we told him I had a 6.30pm plane to catch, his face fell and he told us I wouldn’t be able to make it, traffic jam and all, but he said he’d do his best to get us there as soon as possible. Bless nice taxi drivers, bless their good souls. He even suggested alternatives if I were to actually miss my flight (such as taking a bus from Pudu and I shuddered at the thought of a 6-hour bus journey alone). Hi, Encik Zaid, I’m the Chinese girl in the purple baju kurung who was travelling with her Chinese friend in a baju kebaya, if by some miraculous chance you might even be reading this, thank you for being really nice and helpful, I [spoiler] managed to get on my flight on time.

In the taxi, I’d sort of already given up because there was a 10-minute jam so I started looking at 8pm flight tickets and I had been screaming and crying internally since the bus ride but when I saw Firefly tickets were RM400 and Malindo tickets were RM200, I truly actually wanted to shed real tears. I called my dad and told him if I couldn’t make it, I’d have to take the RM200 8pm flight. That in itself already sounded terribly unappealing, but my anxiety didn’t fail to conjure worse alternatives like having to sleep at the airport, or calling up a relative to let me crash at their place for a night with no fresh clothes and then have them send me back to the airport again the next day. Or the worst of all, taking the night bus. 

We reached Subang airport at 6pm, and I ran to the counter just as the person behind it was making a final call announcement. He was reading the names of passengers who haven’t checked in and when I reached the counter, he stared at me for five seconds. And then called out my name. In response, I threw my IC onto the counter, my luggage still left at the scanning area before I sprinted to the Firefly counter in a baju kurung and slippers. I was honestly so relieved that I’d made it, and the guy wasn’t turning me away and he even asked if it was okay that I was placed next to the emergency exit because it was the only remaining seat and I wanted to shout -non-maliciously- that anything’s fine as long as I could get on the goddamn plane. He was also really friendly and nice and I don’t know, at that moment I just wanted to hug him and everyone else at the airport out of relief and gratitude. I went to the Malindo check-in line to meet Rumin and started laughing, really, stomach-aching, bending over laughing with minimal tear accumulation in eye sockets because god, I’d made it.

It was 15 minutes to taking off so I told Rumin I’d go to the departure hall first, just in case (I honestly wasn’t going to take anymore chances – I don’t know if I had really rotten luck or really good luck that day, it seemed to be a combination of both extremities [bad luck: late departing time, waiting for people left behind at camp, KL jam, getting lost in Sunway, Subang airport jam; good luck: flight delayed by half an hour, nice and friendly taxi driver who was completely on time, getting to the check-in counter right on time, nice and friendly person behind the counter not kicking me off the plane]) and as my luck would have it, there was an unusually long queue at the hand luggage scanning area. Never mind, I still had 10 more minutes.

I arrived at the departure hall – to find that the departure time of my flight at the gate showed 18:50. Perplexed, I asked the officer at the gate and he said my flight was delayed. Yet again. My internal laughter at that point was starting to turn hysterical. The day’s events leading up to this moment made the situation extremely ironic and outrageous, I kept on telling myself I was going to pass out if life gave me any more surprises that day. But it was the same flight time as Rumin’s so that wasn’t exactly a bad thing. I told Rumin about my flight delay and even had 15 minutes to spare to relieve my nervous stomachache I’d had since the bus ride.

The flight was alright (watching two episodes of Haikyuu!! made time fly by) (pun unbelievably unintended) and I managed to fly alone yet again, which boosted confidence points by a whole lot. BTN and everything prior to that already felt like a dimension away, and I was just so tired and sleepy and hungry and dehydrated and nauseous and antsy and moody and just really done with the day I wanted it to be over already. Reaching Penang in one piece would be a miracle and honestly I’m so surprised I managed it. I made it. I did everything I was supposed to do, despite freaking out. I managed to keep my cool and I was and am still so surprised, but I’m also really proud of myself. Well done, Michelle. Bask in the glory of your own competence while you still can.

So that was some day. A day of contradicting lucks: what would’ve happened if we’d left Pahang earlier? If those two people didn’t get left behind? If my flight wasn’t delayed? If we didn’t get lost at Sunway? If the taxi driver had driven slightly slower? If the Firefly person had to pee urgently and closed the counter a minute earlier? Or if it was another person working that day and they refused to let me onboard? It’s just so baffling to think about things like this in relation to time continuum because what if no one got left behind at camp, but the flight got delayed, we didn’t get lost at Sunway, but the taxi arrived late? It’s like once things started to go wrong, other things happened subtly to compensate for and remedy the shortcomings and in the end, I only just made it. Passed the test with the bare minimum mark. Just chun chun. It’s so incredibly baffling.

Things like this don’t usually happen to me (mostly because I make sure they don’t because surprising bumps in the road like these are my #1 freak out source) so I just find this series of events ironically amusing in an ideally narrative way, and also inspiringly confidence-boosting in a realistic way that challenges my anxiety, serving as an eventful reminder (this entire week is, to be honest) that I can cope with my fears and anxieties, and I am more than just the both of them.

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Michelle Teoh

26-year-old cynical Asian, book enthusiast and purveyor of fine sarcasm.

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