| I woke up in a traveler’s nightmare. The blue numbers on my bedside clock blinked five-thirty. The letters OMG flashed in my head. I was screwed.
I had to catch a five-forty airporter shuttle to make a seven o’clock flight. I had ten minutes. For a moment, time stood still.
BAM, ZAP, ZOWIE. A thousand thoughts exploded in my sleepy brain. I could call in sick for Disney’s press briefing in Burbank. Um. Not good. I could drive to the airport. Won’t work. I need gas. Takes too long to park.
My mind went blank. I took a breath. I had no choice. I threw on my clothes, grabbed a briefcase I’d packed the night before, jumped in the car, and drove as fast as I dared through the dark neighborhood to the airport shuttle bus parking lot. Go Speed Racer! Go!
As I rounded the corner, I could see the bus driver loading suitcases. I locked my car and ran.
“Twenty dollars,” said the driver as I panted into line.
“B-b-but, I don’t have twenty dollars,” I sputtered like Porky Pig. “Two days ago it was eighteen.”
“The fare changed yesterday.”
Wile E. Coyote wobbled on the edge of a cliff. It cracked under his weight.
I dug through my purse, unearthed two dollars in change, and shambled onto the bus. People stared. I remembered that I hadn’t combed my hair or washed my face. Miss Piggy takes a plane ride.
I leaned against a window and slept. When I woke, I took stock. Notebook. Check. Tape recorder. Check. Pen. Check. Credit cards. Check. Makeup. Check. Cell phone. Check. Face cream. Oops. Brush and comb. Oh, no. Directions.
I emptied my briefcase. I emptied my purse. Clouds of paper filled the seat next to me. I knew I was flying to Burbank, but I didn’t know which studio to go to when I got there. I stared out the window and muttered, “I am totally Butt-Head.”
I called Buzz Lightyear, my universe protection unit, hoping he hadn’t left for work. He didn’t answer. I left voice mail: “Uh, I’m on the bus to the airport and I don’t know where to go when I land, so could you look in my email for anything from Disney and call back?”
I had bed hair and no comb. I didn’t know where I was going.
I decided to check in anyway.
At the airport, the easy-check screen asked if I was the Barbara Robertson going to Burbank or the Barbara Robertson going to Paris. I hesitated. It occurred to me that if I didn’t know where I was going when I landed, I’d rather not know in Paris than in Burbank, but Bambi chose Burbank.
Once I cleared security, I ran through the airport looking for a store that sold combs and face cream. Nothing was open yet, so I stepped warily into the bathroom and squinted at the mirror. It was a frightful sight. Two eggbeaters had danced a tango on my pillow during the night and whipped my hair into a frenzy. I washed my face, splashed my head with water, and combed my tango-d hair with my fingers.
It was five minutes before boarding. I raced to the nearest ATM machine. I must have looked daffy, with my partly wet and tangled hair, because the men standing in line asked if I wanted to go first. I noted this as a future travel tactic.
I could use a few good tactics. Not long ago, I had shown up at an airline counter bubbling with pre-trip energy and handed the agent a ticket for a flight the day before. In Germany, Goofy here lost the flimsy receipt thingy tucked into the back of a boarding pass, and couldn’t board a connecting flight. That resulted in a lovely day yabba dabbing to customer service agents in the Frankfurt airport. In Denver, I once grabbed the wrong suitcase on the tarmac when I got off a little commuter plane and had to walk fourteen miles back and missed my flight to San Francisco. Mr. Stitch, the owner of the other suitcase, wasn’t thrilled either.
Just when I was remembering all this and thinking I really should have taken that flight to Paris, Buzz Lightyear called with directions. To Burbank . . . and beyond!
On the plane, I drank my first coffee of the day and felt much better. And when I landed, Boris, an Iranian from Romania, drove me to Disney’s animation studio in a yellow cab. There, the other reporters and I followed tour guide Barbie through the studio. We learned how to make an animated film, peeked inside a room built like Mickey Mouse’s wizard hat in Fantasia, and admired Roy Disney’s secret chimney. I spilled coffee on my notes. I dropped my cell phone and stepped on it. I left my tape recorder on a table and one of the Bolt directors had to chase after me to return it.
But, all my equipment survived and, remarkably, the day ended at four-thirty, earlier than I had expected, so I changed my return flight from an eight o’clock to a five-forty-five. Aladdin flew me to the airport in a purple cab and I arrived with five minutes to spare. I boarded the plane exactly twelve hours and 10 minutes from when I had leapt out of bed.
Given my crazy day, I wasn’t surprised that it started raining when the shuttle bus neared the parking lot. I sighed and gathered my stuff – my purse, my briefcase, and the gift bag from Disney. Oh! Gift bag. I looked inside. A cookie, a T-shirt, and, OMG, Mickey Mouse on a baseball cap. I slapped Mickey on my head to keep my hair dry, thinking it was amazing how things work out sometimes, and scurried to my car.
My cell phone rang as I pulled into my driveway. It was United Airlines.
“This is an update,” the recorded voice said. “Your eight o’clock flight from Los Angeles International Airport has been delayed. Your new departure time is ten thirty.”
“In your dreams,” I snorted. “Speed Racer is home.”