I know right? And the stupid thing is, if I’d stopped to consider all my options, I’d have found a much cheaper solution. But when you’re in panic-mode because the car has a flat battery and you need to be on your way to Basel airport which is an hour+ drive away from Strasbourg…
I honestly didn’t think the cab would need to be called. When we went to take me to the airport for my week-long work trip to Barcelona and found the battery was dead, I thanked my habit of leaving ample time for airport runs. We had a spare 20 minutes for my boyfriend to find a neighbour, get a jump start and then we’d be on our way.
Except, there was only one neighbour at home – he was kinda busy – but he took his car out for us. There was a stupid plastic case covering the battery because, new cars that need less fiddling by amateur mechanics I guess. Thank god for second neighbour who showed up and knew where the jumper leads went. Cars not close enough. Get them closer. Please please just get those leads on the batteries already.
Not working. Unclip and re-clip the leads. A few sputters but no engine roaring to life. Is it a battery voltage difference? Either way, our car isn’t going anywhere. Panic. Time to call a cab? Am I already late?
“Find the local cab number and call them just in case we need to book” the boyfriend had said earlier.
“Umm I can’t do that.”
Time for him to call the cab for me. I wait on the street, they keep trying with the car. I check my wallet – no credit card – fuck, it’s still in my other jacket upstairs. Run and get it. Cab isn’t here yet. Is it all too late now anyway? I’m so upset, I just want to cry. Cab shows up. Driver, already harried, asks my boyfriend when I need to be at the airport by. One hour from now. Panic rises on his face, we jump in the car and are away.
“Trois cents euros” he warns me, “d’accord?” “D’accord” i say. What else can I say?
What am I even doing?? We have one hour to get to an airport more than an hour away, I’m going to miss my plane, be €300 down AND stranded in Basel. Boyfriend calls his mum who lives nearby, if I don’t make the plane, she’ll come and get me.
Meantime we’re hurtling along the highway in the cab. The driver is stressed, doesn’t speak English but tells me to relax. “ça va?” Its going to be fine. He tells me he’s going to speed, and he does speed. It’s fucking terrifying and I don’t know if I’m more mortified or grateful. The taxi meter is ticking over furiously, 10 cents per second, keeping pace with the beat of a song on the radio. It’s already at over €50. We haven’t been in the car very long.
The boyfriend is on Skype messenger telling me to breathe. I’m wondering how the fuck this can even be happening.
If we get to the airport when the driver is assuring me that we will, I’ll be at the security line at gate closing time. Now, two years of flying every month for a long distance relationship has taught me that for some airlines “gate closing” isn’t a real thing; they don’t even start boarding until their stated take off time. Other airlines enforce this pretty strictly however, and this being an airline I had flown with only once before, I had no idea what to expect.
15, 20 minutes from the airport. We still have 45 minutes until my plane takes off. I let myself have some hope. The driver is feeling good about the time too, but he’s still stressed. Asks me in french if I smoke, no, can he?? Sorry dude, I’m on the verge of having an asthma attack already!
We settle the bill early so that I can just bolt when we arrive. The meter says €275, I pay €300. I think of the La Femme en Noir dress I’ve been coveting, and how I could have bought the damn thing and a second stunning Micheline Pitt design for this much.
The driver tries to explain to me that he’ll give me a proper receipt when he stops the meter. It takes him five tries before I understand. He wants to run in with me and carry my bag to the gate. Again, has to explain it five times before I understand and tell him that no it’s fine, he doesn’t need to do that.
Fuck I need to work harder on my French. This not understanding thing sucks.
We’re at the airport! I have 30 minutes until take off! Holy shit I think I’m ok. I hug the driver as he takes my bag out of the back “merci beaucoup!” Hopefully I said “thank you very much” and not “thank you nice ass.”
I sprint (as well as I can in boots) to the entrance. The boyfriend said to go through security on the French side (the airport straddles France and Switzerland), it’s usually a shorter line. It is! Only one guy in front of me!
Boots off, jacket off, belt off, laptop out, fuck why did I bring an iPad too? Shit, almost forgot my liquids bag. No time for being pulled up for a silly mistake.
Which one is my gate?? 47, ok, this way. Run. Shit! What did I do? Gates 60-90?! No. Back into duty free. THAT exit. Fuck these dizzying shiny floors and perfume stand obstacles.
The gate! They’re boarding! Skid up behind the last people in the short line. I’ve made it!!
I’m a sweaty, puffy mess. I’m clumsily trying to dig out my passport and ticket while at the same time checking that I remembered to grab my laptop and iPad off the security conveyor belt.
On the plane, the overhead lockers are too full to store my suitcase near me and I get a broken seat that won’t stay upright, poor dude behind me. But whatever. I made the plane! I order a gin and tonic. What’s another €10 when I’ve just laid out €300?
Was it worth it though? Calling a cab was a hasty move, the kind I’d make in London if I was running late. I might be out of pocket £60-100 for a similar, last minute panic trip to Stansted or Heathrow.
Strasbourg isn’t London. Strasbourg-to-Basel isn’t London-to-Stansted or Heathrow.
Later, after I had landed in Barcelona and taken a (much cheaper) cab to my hotel, I looked online. If I hadn’t been so panicked, I’d have done that earlier.
I could have booked a new flight to Barcelona for midday the next day, for €45. I could have booked a €20 train from Strasbourg and then boarded a €2-4 shuttle bus to get to Basel airport.
Sure, I would have lost a night’s accommodation and missed some of the first work meetings of the week but, it still would have been much cheaper. Work’s not going to reimburse me for this, obviously.
An expensive lesson learned. I’m happy to be in Barcelona right now – and on time! But, I’m not happy about that credit card bill, or the stress I put myself, my boyfriend and the poor cab driver under to make it.
A girlfriend tried to console me over text: “Everyone’s been in those situations.” I guess ‘everyone’ now includes me.