I would say that the second most filmic moment of my life in the last few months took place in George Bush Intercontinental Airport, Houston last month. It was on Sunday 25 October, to be precise, at about 3pm and is worth recording here.
I was on my way back from Eleanor and Gabe’s wedding (and the Smith’s family holiday) in North Carolina, and had just made it to the departure lounge of Terminal B, a good two hours before my final flight of the day (to Querétaro) was due to depart.
I hear the following announcement:
“This is a message for JAMES SMITH. Please call extension 3000. This is a message for passenger Mr JAMES SMITH. Please call extension 3000. JAMES SMITH please call extension 3000.”
Here I am faithfully repeating the announcement as best I can recall it. At the time I was far too bewildered to actually catch what extension number I had to dial.
The announcement lasted about 8 seconds, and in those eight seconds I went through roughly the following range of emotions:
Amusement: “Ha! Someone has the same name as me.”
Surprise: “Wait, it must be me they’re making the announcement for.”
Embarrassment: “Have I lost my passport or wallet or something.Shit.”
Calm: “No, hang on, I’ve got both.”
Anxiety: “They probably want to search me or something. I thought that guy had put some mark on my boarding pass, but then they didn’t stop me at security.”
Outright fear: “What’s happened to my family?! Shit, shit shit. They were flying today as well.”
Calm again: “Wait, no. They would never inform people of plane crashes like this. How would they even know where the hell I was?”
Curiosity: “What the fuck can it be?”
It was one of the more emotional eight-second periods of my life.
(You may notice as well that my internal monologue probably curses a bit more than I do out loud.)
Bemused and baffled I wandered over to the US Airways desk where a typically friendly assistant (love the South) told me that I should probably call the paging service on one of the airport information phones.
After finally locating a phone that worked, and figuring out what number I had to dial, the following exchange (transcribed here in full) took place:
-Hi, my name’s James Smith. I think there’s a message for me.
-Do you know Rachael?
-Give her a call.
Earlier in the day (and the previous night) I had been trying, unsuccessfully, to contact my dear friend Rachael in Michigan. After my last voicemail she had surmised roughly what time I would reach Houston and – after a call to a friend of hers in California, I think it was, to get the number for George Bush Intercontinental – had called the airport and given the impression that it was essential that JAMES SMITH contact her. An announcement had then been made right across the three or four terminals of George Bush, to the best of my understanding.
We did eventually have a conversation some minutes later.
In the movies, she would have told me she was outside the departure lounge, or was boarding the same flight as me but had got stuck in traffic. She wasn’t. But still, a beautiful, heart-warming, filmic moment.