If you lose your wallet the week before a flight, it’s a good idea to give yourself plenty of time. Not because of airport security—you’ll breeze through that with relative speed. Not because of the sheriff who pulls you over for tailgating, searches your vehicle, and lets you go with a warning ticket. Not even because of the convenience store that was out of coffee at 7:30 in the morning, or your subsequent decision that waiting for a fresh brew was probably more time efficient than seeking a new convenience station.

It’s because losing one’s wallet is one of the clearest signs known to mankind that karma is in a bitchy mood, and whenever it happens, you can be sure it’s just the tip of your bad luck iceberg. Lost wallets are the new broken mirrors.

So you’ll get to the airport with just enough time to believe you have a chance, but the long-term parking is somewhere in the next time zone, and the shuttle bus pulls away just as you get your bag—which the sheriff didn’t even attempt to repack—in order. The next one takes approximately 12 geologic eras to arrive, and pauses to open the door at every stop, whether anyone is waiting or not. You start to wonder if the fates are just screwing with you.

At the final shuttle stop, you have eight minutes until your scheduled departure. You know it’s a long shot, but maybe, if security isn’t too crowded, if they accept your birth certificate, bank statement, and warning citation issued by the sheriff as identification without too much hassle, if the plane is just a few minutes late, you could still make it.

That’s when you hear a hydraulic hiss and notice the accessibility ramp rotating out as the front corner of the bus drops to the ground.

You look up to see a large woman struggling to pull a walker from her trunk, and the bus driver hopping out to help her. You start to convince yourself everyone conspiring to make you late. You realize you are dangerously close to resenting the woman with the walker for making you wait, which makes you feel like a horrible person, so you take a deep breath and tell yourself the plane is probably at least a half-hour late.

You settle on a half-hour as the perfect amount of lateness—just enough to ensure you are able to board, but not enough to make you wait any longer than necessary. You realize the only thing you have scheduled for that day is happy hour in Brooklyn, and you feel slightly ridiculous for getting so worked up about making the flight.

That’s when you see the terminal, and—forgetting your recent epiphany—stand near the exit with your nose nearly touching the glass, waiting like a sprinter in the blocks. When the door swings open, you twist your ankle a little bit trying to sprint across the parking lot. Adopting a crooked limping run, you make a mad dash for the checkpoint, imagining yourself getting tackled by security at any moment.

The tackle never comes, and you reach the security line, which is gloriously short. A lady in front of you even steps to the side to adjust her bags, leaving only one person who doesn’t even have a carry-on between you and the TSA agent who holds your destiny in his hands.

You walk up to the agent, who looks sort of like Shane from Couples Retreat, and present your papers, praying his mood reflects the friendly expression on his face. He takes your sorry excuse for identification and you point out—in what you hope is a completely non-annoying way—that your departure time is essentially right now. He assures you that the TSA will take care of you and you start to feel uneasy.

Thankfully, the only thing you have to endure on the way through security is the supervisor’s disapproving stare as he points out that your boarding time was some 45 minutes ago, and you don’t even lace your shoes back up as you sprint towards your gate—which is, of course, all the way at the end of the terminal.

You narrowly avoid getting on an escalator—again, unlaced shoes—but decide to risk the moving walkway, high-stepping like some Deion Sanders parody to keep your laces clear of the walkway mechanism. Panting as you reach the gate, you see the plane still sitting attached to the jet bridge and feel the briefest moment of triumph, which quickly gives way to defeat when the airline representative informs you that your seat was given away not five minutes earlier.

You spend the next several hours in standby limbo, watching flight after flight depart without you, listening to pilots furtively bitch about their jobs. You gaze longingly at the bar, wanting nothing more than a stiff rum and coke, but your lack of ID makes that particular thirst unquenchable. You make the most solemn of vows that you will leave the house at least 72 hours before takeoff next time, just in case, but deep down, you know it wouldn’t have mattered. When karma is in a bitchy mood, there’s nothing for it but to pay the piper and wait.

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