Being a marathon runner, I know the importance of training and preparation. Being a mathematician, I analyse everything.
So how come on the most recent excursion, we managed to leave behind one of our party in Amsterdam? I had booked the tickets months in advance, coordinated all timings and arrangements to everyone involved, and even factored in room for manoeuvre. Yet as we travelled home, things took a turn for the worse.
Holland had certainly been an eye opener. Everyone had spoken of the Red Light District in Amsterdam, the marijuana, the stag dos. But it was the other things that caught our attention: police on Segways; mobility vehicles weaving through the traffic on just two wheels; smokers smoking while boarding the plane; cars taking off over speed bumps on cobbled streets; thousands of bicycles; and questionable logic at pedestrian crossings. But none of this could have helped us realise what fate was about to befall us.
We arrived at the airport in plenty of time (more than 4 hours before take off), had a bite to eat and decided that, as we had already checked in online, we did not need to go to the desk and proceeded to go through passport control. After a strange look and some strong words from the man behind the counter, we showed that we had boarding cards and passed without issue. We waited for about 2 hours before finally going through to the departure gate and once we had squeezed everything into one bag and separated out the liquids, our luggage was scanned and we joined the queue to board the plane.
The plane was in sight. 50 yards stood between it and us. There was one more door to pass and one final check. I went through without indication of a problem. The next went through without concern. And then the last. The boarding pass was scanned. Nothing. Scanned again. Nothing. Why was the machine rejecting the boarding pass? It wasn’t until many read throughs that it finally dawned on us and the air stewardess that the boarding pass was for a flight on a different date.
We couldn’t believe it. How had it gone wrong? How had we not picked up on it before now? How could we have stopped it going wrong? These questions were pointless. They didn’t matter. We had 5 minutes to react before boarding the plane. The ticket desks were closed so the ticket couldn’t be changed and, despite there being seats on the plane, it was not possible for all of us to board the plane.
I suspect if the plane didn’t have orange lettering, the story may have differed, but we had to suffer the consequences of our previous decisions and sacrifices.
There was no choice. One of us would have to stay another night. The others would then drive home that evening only to return back to the airport eight hours later. I also had to make the phonecall. Yes, that phonecall. “Hi, everything’s ok, but…” and “the reason we had to leave your son behind is…” and “he’ll be fine in Amsterdam on his own”.
If only we had checked the boarding card. If only this, if only that. It was no use.
A plan is only as strong as its weakest link.