September 1, 2015

You’re Only As Lucky As You Are Cautious

Why being cocky and careless and is dangerous combination

By Scott In Airports, Personal, Sweden, Travel

I recently learned a very important lesson in hubris. People often note how lucky I am when it comes to timing: I somehow manage to squeeze in an insane amount of activities in a very short amount of time, and my internal clock seems to be spot on. The week preceding my departure was a testament to this uncanny skill. But you’ll all be happy to know that my cockiness has finally come to bite me in the ass.

As some of you have maybe seen, I recently got a tattoo while staying in Stockholm. On the day of my flight. I figured, hell, I had done the exact same thing on the day I departed Montreal, and luck would obviously strike twice. The only thing is I gave myself 7 hours before my flight when I was in Montreal, which is a reasonable amount of time. But I decided to throw caution to the wind and went to my 2pm appointment at Zoi Studio in Gamla stan (highly recommended), a mere 3 1/2 hours before my flight was scheduled to depart Arlanda Airport at 5:30pm. Because I’m a badass like that, etc, etc. They had estimated the tattoo I wanted should take about 30 minutes, which should give me ample time to rush back to my friends’ flat, get my bags, and catch the 3:45pm shuttle bus, supposedly taking 45 minutes. My plan was fool proof.


First setback

My tattoo actually ends up taking an hour. “No problem!” I think, “I’ll just be extra quick on my way to the flat, and still catch the shuttle.” As I pass by the the bus stop near the flat—a big ball of sweat obviously—the display announces the next buses to Liljeholmen, where the shuttle departs, arrive in 9 and 19 minutes. If I manage to catch either, I should still make it to the shuttle on time. I finish packing my bags in a hurry, and manage the catch the bus that passes at 3:35pm. I’ll be cutting it close, but should still make it, seeing as I’d already purchased my ticket. Problem is, the moment I get to Liljeholmen, I can’t for the life of me find the shuttle bus stop.


Second setback

I finally manage to find the stop, only to have narrowly missed my shuttle. Fine, there’s also a 4:05pm shuttle. This will be cutting it extra close, but I should have just enough time to check my bag and make it through security. As I’m sitting there in the shuttle, I observe the screen at the front of the bus that displays your current progress and estimated arrival time. This screen would become my mortal enemy. As we depart, everything seems to be in order. But once we start making all the scheduled stops, it becomes increasingly clear I will not be making the airport for 4:50pm. But I’m not panicking just yet (foolish, I know). However by the time we make it onto the highway and I see the massive traffic, I’m severely doubting my good luck will save me this time. Yet I still somehow don’t lose hope.


The final straw

The driver—in his infinite knowledge due to what I assume are his 16 years on this earth—thinks he can outrun the traffic through a detour that obviously he only knows. Spoiler alert: he does not. Not only do we not outrun the traffic, we’ve somehow managed to lose even more time. Meanwhile, I’m staring at the evil screen—I know it’s not the screen’s fault, but I needed to project my anger onto something—watching the minutes inexplicably tick faster. And yet—being the presumptuous asshole that I am—I’m still convinced I can catch my flight. I figure: as long as we can get to airport by 5:10pm, I’ll rush straight to security (it was obviously way too late to check my bag, but it’s carry-on size, so I think I’m saved) and run to my gate, like they seem to do in every Home Alone movie—which is obviously like real life right? RIGHT?!

We finally make it to Terminal 5 of Arlanda Airport, it’s exactly 5:30pm, and I’m forced to admit defeat. I am not Superman nor am I some sort of time defying wizard. I am simply Scott who has made a series of bad decisions, and who is now paying the steep price of throwing caution to the wind.

But wait, it get’s better! (meaning a lot worst…)

I go the SAS Airlines ticket desk to see if there are any other flights to Berlin flying out that same day, and success! There is! By Air Berlin, all the way over at Terminal 2 (Arlanda is so massive, there’s a shuttle train to and from terminals). I start rushing over by foot, because the non-informative information desk clerk told me it was a better option, hauling my two heavy bags. Halfway there, I decide it might be a good idea to check the price of the flight online before going all the way there. First good decision of the day. Even though I’m standing right beside an Air Berlin ticketing counter in another terminal, I think “I’m a modern man with internet access, I don’t need to talk to actual people, I’ll check myself!”

Obviously my good decision making was short-lived.

I sit down, take out my laptop, and head straight to Skyscanner. “I’m going to find myself the deal of the century and be in Berlin in no time!” I think to myself as I’m going through the various options. But Air Berlin was in fact my only option, and it was going to cost me 480€. Bitch please, I may be obviously daft (I’ve already been in the UK too long, I’m stealing their expressions left and right) but I’m not a crazy person. So looks like I’ll be flying out the next day, fair enough. Another quick search on Skyscanner and bingo! A 90-minute flight for $112CAD. Score! Thank you Tripsta!

I book immediately, text my friend Jake and ask him to crash at his place one more night, and I’ll soon be on my merry way. I get the confirmation e-mail, and something seems off. Why does it say my flight is on a Saturday, when today’s a Tuesday? And then my heart sinks. I had just impulsively booked a flight for September 26th. Of course I did. Remember the old adage “if it seems too good to be true, it usually is”? Well this is a prime example.

Tripsta, even more evil than the dreaded shuttle screen

I immediately e-mail Tripsta to inform them of my mistake and figure I’ll double-down and call them as well. I head over to the information desk to ask the very helpful—and very cute, but that’s neither here nor there—attendant if there’s a phone I can use nearby. He graciously offers to let me use his phone, I show him the number, and he dials for me. But go figure, it’s a Canadian 1-900 number, because why wouldn’t it be. So calling seems to be out of the question. When I do finally get an answer, turns out that Tripsta has their own cancellation fee of $50 + whatever fees the airline may charge, which in the case of Air Berlin, is 180€. So the total to cancel my flight would be three times the cost of my actual ticket. Needless to say I did not cancel and instead found myself with a pointless ticket and $112 wasted. Not the mention the cost of the ticket for my missed flight. And the shuttle. Somebody needs to give me the award for most amount of money thrown out the window in less than an hour.


Happy endings and lessons learned

But as with all good stories, this one also has a happy ending. I found another flight departing the next afternoon (no it wasn’t the deal of the century, but it wasn’t 480€ either). Jake And Sarah welcomed me with open arms—and more importantly—champagne and pizza, because we’re fancy like that. And I get to regale you with yet a another tale of my infinite stupidity, you’re welcome. The next day Jake brings me for a lovely lunch at Bakfickan for the most amazing Swedish meatballs. I say “screw you!” to the shuttle bus and instead take the Arlanda Express—which is not only infinitely more comfortable, but also only takes 20 minutes—and was able to casually stroll through the airport instead of running like the idiot McCallister family in Home Alone.

Not only is caution sometimes a good thing, it is severely underrated—by me obviously. So next time you book the deal of the century, maybe read through the terms and conditions, and you know, maybe double check the date of your flight. And giving yourself only 40 minutes before your flight is never never a good idea. Ever. Also: avoid Tripsta like the plague.

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