Leaving Aguilla

 

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The pace of Anguillan life, charming during our stay, proved stressful while trying to catch a plane off the island.  To begin with, our taxi driver took the “scenic route” to the airport.  When we finally arrived, we were the only passengers in sight.  Furthermore, although a significant number of people seemed to be busily employed in aviation-related activities, none of them appeared to have any association with our particular airlines.  This being Anguilla, however, everyone was concerned about us.

A man in an official looking uniform approached us cautiously.  “No one there?  Did you knock on da door?”  He pointed to a small blue door behind our airline’s ticketing counter.  Looking like a very large Alice in Wonderland, Mark climbed behind the counter, crouched down, and knocked.  Nothing happened.  On the bright side, it did give him something to do every once in a while while we continued to wait.  Finally, fifteen minutes before our scheduled flight time, I called the number on our itinerary (intriguingly listed as some unidentified person’s “cell” number).

“Hello?”

“Yes, hello?  We are booked on a flight to St Barts that is supposed to leave in fifteen minutes, but there is no one at the counter in the airport. Are we in the right place?  At the right time?”

“Oh. Yes. We are running late. So sorry!  I will be there in a few minutes.”  Ten minutes later, a man, presumably the owner of the aforementioned cell phone, appeared, not through the blue door but crawling on hands and knees through a chute clearly designed to shuttle luggage in and out of the airport.  This agile individual seemed to be operator, gate agent, and porter for Anguilla Air Services.  He checked us in, took our luggage, and occasionally appeared running around the airport with half of our luggage while we used the bathroom and cleared security. I started to develop a significant amount of concern for the other half.

Nevertheless, we headed to the departures lounge, an air-conditioned cube surrounded by windows and furnished with a flat screen television (off) and a clock (stopped).  Not a single other item hung on the walls.  I sat down, arrested by the blatant symbolism of the broken clock.  Perhaps Anguillans care about the time but also appreciate its ultimate insignificance:  The flight will take off when it takes off.  I thought back to our extended taxi ride that morning.  The driver, unconcerned about the plane we were trying to catch, commented on the beauty of the morning and veered onto a cliff-top road from which we could see the sunrise over the harbor in Sandy Ground far below.  The sun reflected up from the shimmering Caribbean Sea, the useless clock; this was island time, the eternity of now.  Could I bring it home with me?  At that moment, it almost seemed possible.

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Forty-three minutes after our scheduled flight time, a uniformed Anguilla Air Services employee with a huge smile appeared out of nowhere (employees seem to move around that airport using magic). “So sorry!  We had a little mix-up!”  She led us to our plane, chatting with the kids as we walked along the runway, and I stepped back into a tiny little plane, grateful.

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