Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) doesn’t run in my family; it sprints. I once lived in an apartment with a back door leading out of the kitchen. There was a light switch both at the back door and at the doorway that lead into the living room. If I was at the door to the living room and I needed to turn out the lights, I would use the switch that would ensure that the lights were off and both toggles were down, because that was the appropriate position for off … even if it meant crossing to the back door to do it. That, my friends, is OCD at its best.
You would have thought that retirement would have relaxed me a bit. Oh, so not true. Ever since the moment two years ago when a United ticket agent at the Buenos Aires Airport regretfully informed me that my reservations were for the following evening’s flight, I’ve tried to be very careful. I appreciate airlines and hotels pinging me 24 hours before my travels, notifying me that it’s time to check-in, but it doesn’t help. Even knowing that my boarding pass is on my phone doesn’t calm me down.
I don’t know why travel puts in me in such a tizzy. It may date back to the time I landed in the Cayman Islands as a wholly dysfunctional travel editor, only to find that the tourist office had forgotten I was coming. No one was there to pick me up, and I had no idea where I was supposed to be staying. If not for the Cayman Airways employee who was far calmer than I was, I’m not sure what I would have done. Several years ago, preparing to fly to Vancouver for an Alaska cruise, I dutifully put our chosen flight into my calendar but neglected to call the airline to make reservations. That was fun when I realized my mistake (but we did get to fly to Vancouver first class, since those were the only seats available).
So until I have my butt in the seat of the aircraft, I worry. I worry about having an accident on the way to the airport. I worry about other people having an accident on the way to the airport, and creating a traffic tie-up. I worry about security lines, even though, as a TSA Pre member, I rarely see one. I worry about my seat being double-booked.
As we began on our recent jaunt to England, the car service was taking us to San Francisco International Airport, with plenty of time to catch our flight, even though we were leaving on the front edge of rush hour. First I dug my phone out of my carry-on to make sure that the flight was really departing at the time when I thought it was. It was, and I put the phone back.
Then I checked to see if the passports and our Global Entry cards were still in my carry-on, even though I’d shown them to my wife before we left the house. This is a condition of actually leaving the house, the confirmation by two parties that we have our documentation. (In database technology and distributed systems, this is known as a two-phase commit; I don’t know what it’s called in the real world, but it’s really, really important.)
Then I dug my phone out of my carry-on again to make sure the flight was really departing that day, and not the following day (or worse, the previous day). It was, and I put the phone back.
Each time I chastised myself for being such a worry-wart … right up until the moment we got to the check-in counter in the international terminal at the airport, where I was vindicated. In front of us was a couple frantically arguing in a foreign language. As near as I could tell, based on what the husband said to the ticket agent, his wife had left her passport at home. Given the rush hour traffic, there was no way she could get home and back without missing their flight to Taipei. Who the hell leaves home for a flight to China without making sure they have their passport? Clearly, these two had never heard of a two-phase commit.
Call it karma, call it kismet, call it whatever you want … I felt better about my OCD right then and there.