I drove up to Portland International Airport pushing the threshold for the one hour recommended pre-flight check in. Nola, my car, was parked way out in the Red Economy Lot and I was fidgeting in my shuttle seat, hoping the backed-up passenger pick-up traffic wasn’t going to delay our eight minute arrival window. I still had to get inside, stand in what was sure to be an extra long line at the United check-in counter, relinquish my checked-bag and the $25 that secured it’s spot on the flight, make it through security and to my gate in time for a 3:15 flight. I needed a smooth next 35 minutes to make it all happen.
My shuttle driver safely delivered us to ticketing and I hopped right up to a self-check computer terminal, phone logged on to the confirmation email already and the six digit code entered speedily. No, I don’t want an upgrade; No, I don’t need extra miles for this flight for $29.95; Yes, I do need to check a bag. Like butter, or a natural born traveler, I clicked through the screens and soon had a boarding pass in hand and had delivered my poorly packed red roller bag to the proper United Airlines employees.
I dashed to the Terminal D security line and was shocked to find it short and moving along at record pace. TSA was so impressed with themselves they were even using this opportunity to report and improve their average processing time. The first security guard gave me a little yellow piece of paper that said 2:30. I was instructed to hand this little paper to the last TSA official I came in contact with at the end of my screening. Funny how I wasn’t asked to do this last time I waited 45 minutes to get through security.
Shoes off, bag on conveyor belt, hands up in the controversial x-ray machine, and I was out, recollecting all my items on the other side in under ten minutes.
A short walk put me right in front of my gate and before I knew it I was actually ahead of schedule.
An advertisement placed just inside the walkway to the rest of the gates in the terminal caught my eye. “‘Tis the Season for a Pumpkin Pie Latte.” The frothy cup on the photo, the dash of nutmeg, the sudden cool breeze that was probably part of an ingenious marketing ploy played on my emotions.
A few years ago I was banned from ordering Pumpkin Spice Lattes by the publishing company I worked for. By some strange fold in the universe, each and every time I got a Pumpkin Spice Latte, I would spill it. No exaggeration. It became such a problem at work as I spilled them all over the front entryway, on my desk, across my computer keys, on my lap, on other people’s laps, that I started packing extra clothes in the car, and the “Coffee Addendum of 2005” was added to the policy manual. It was obvious the lusciously satisfying autumn beverage didn’t want a long-term relationship with me and we had to call off our short affair.
But that was a Pumpkin Spice Latte, from Starbucks. This airport offering was a Pumpkin Pie Latte, from a small Portland roaster. Completely different.
I ordered my small cup, no whip, chatted with the barista and finally headed to the gate where my plane was now boarding Zone 4.
Snuggled into my window seat, I grabbed my trusty notebook and favorite pen, shoved my over-sized purse/carry-on under the seat in front of me and fastened my seat belt low and tight across my lap. I love the feeling of two and half hours where no cell phone, no email, no notifications can interrupt. I opened my notebook to a blank page and began jotting notes and writing stories in a frenzy.
Partially because stories had been festering and partially because of the extra shot of espresso, my hand shook and my writing was scattered and nearly illegible. I dropped my favorite pen and it rolled between the seat and fuselage wall.
I grasped for it, wiggling my short fingers into the tiny space, but succeeded only in knocking the pen down further and eventually pushing it nearly into the bag stowed under my seat.
I loosened my seat-belt and sat up to look at the man behind me. He was wearing the cheap headphones that are free in the seat-pocket, watching the old Big Bang Theory they were playing on the small TV over the aisle that was somehow supposed to entertain ten rows of people.
“Sir, I dropped my pen under the seat. I just wanted to tell you so you didn’t think I was getting into your bag.”
“[Loud laughter caused by the high volume on the headphones]” and a nod of understanding.
I scooted down between my seat and the seat back to the row in front of me and reached for the runaway pen. I fumbled around, once barely grazing it until it disappeared in a blindspot and I was sure I couldn’t retrieve it without searching the bag of the nice man innocently seated behind me. I sat up and informed him that he now had a new pen. He laughed again.
As I swirled back around to sit I realized that my precious Pumpkin Pie Latte was crushed into the seat pocket. In my maneuvering to find my favorite writing instrument, I had pinched the paper cup so the top was nearly popping off. Luckily, I had drunk enough to not have spilled it all over my back with this loss of volume, but it was sitting precariously.
I reached out with both hands to grab it and cautiously de-pinch the flimsy cardboard. Just as I did the top popped up and a large portion of the remaining liquid landed all over my knees.
I took two breaths and stared at the orange-brown mark. Such an unruly beverage.
I reluctantly chugged the rest of the coffee, down to the potent dregs at the bottom of the cup and pulled two hand-wipes out of my purse to try and clean up my coffee-stained skinny jeans.
By the time I got off the plane all of row 23 smelled like they worked at Starbucks and had been doing a latte demonstration on the flight.
The Coffee Addendum of 2005 remains for yet another season.