Just a few blocks from our apartment in Buenos Aires, I found a shop with the best chocolate truffles I’ve ever eaten. The texture, the chocolate, the flavors – it was all perfection.
The day of our flight to New Zealand, Brian bought a box for a coworker in Auckland. “Wait, you didn’t get any for us,” I joked. Well, not really joked. That afternoon, I bought a second box to eat during difficult travel moments when we need serotonin. Chocolate while traveling is a ritual for us at this point. (For fans of Harry Potter, just imagine that we’re trying to keep the dementors away.)
The airport in Buenos Aires is 45 minutes outside of the city, without traffic. To be safe, I arranged for a cab to pick us up almost 4.5 hours before our flight’s scheduled departure. As the cab crawled to stop a because of an accident, I was glad of the buffer. Still, we arrived at the airport with 3 hours remaining. Plenty of time.
At the airport, the automated machine refused to check us in. The entry to the line to check in with a person was blocked. And we realized that our bag with the two boxes of chocolate truffles was missing. Yikes.
Brian ran to the curb and asked the porters, but had no luck locating the bag of chocolate. We assumed that we’d probably left it in the cab. We were disheartened and would have liked to consume chocolate. Alas.
After finally locating the correct line for check in, we waited. With still over 2.5 hours to departure, we weren’t worried. Then we reached the front of the line. The man glanced at our passports, looked up our reservations, and said that he was sorry, but our flight was departing from the other airport.
It was time to worry.
There are two airports in Buenos Aires. So, to clarify my earlier statement, ONE airport is about 45 minutes outside the city. The other, much smaller airport is inside the city, very convenient to where we’d been staying, actually. But not at all convenient to where we were now.
Considering that it had taken us 1.5 hours to get TO the airport, 2.5 hours left didn’t seem like so much. We decided to see if we could rebook on a flight that would take us to Santiago, Chile (our point of connection) from THIS airport.
We ran to the ticketing counter. They had a flight with seats available, but they told us we’d need to contact our travel agent or the connecting airline to make any changes to our existing reservation.
We weren’t able to reach either of them.
Then, we thought to ask about the price of the flight we were trying to switch onto. It was a large number. In light of this information, we decided to see if we could make it to the other airport in time to catch our original flight. We raced over to the taxi stand.
We knew from our arrival that the taxi stand at the airport only takes cash, and we’d spent all of our Argentine pesos in anticipation of leaving. I was a little ill and moving slowly, so Brian ran ahead with Theo – I thought to get cash. Unfortunately, he thought I was the one getting cash. I arrived at the taxi stand, and Brian was asking about the bag of chocolate we’d likely left in one of this company’s cabs.
After quickly regrouping, Brian ran off to the ATM. It refused his card. (This was a pretty common experience for us in Buenos Aires.)
The man at the taxi stand directed him to another ATM. It sat rebooting, the screen counting the minutes and seconds to our flight. No cash for us.
The man at the taxi stand directed me to the last ATM in the airport. Success, finally.
After we handed over our pesos, we were ushered to a taxi. We had two hours and ten minutes before our flight departed.
(During our ATM hijinks, one of us would stay with Theo and the bags while the other sprinted off to the ATMs. The waiting adult continued our enquiries about the bag of chocolate – because, why not? The man at the taxi stand radioed the main office to ask if the bag had been found. Two taxi drivers standing nearby overheard and laughed, shook their heads, and rubbed their bellies, pantomiming that they’d eaten the chocolates. When we left, the man at the taxi stand asked what he should do if they found the chocolates. We smiled and said to make sure the drivers shared with him.)
Traffic was not amazing, but it also wasn’t as bad as on the way in. We sat tensely, Brian watching traffic on his phone and Theo asking repeatedly about the chocolates. Our plan was that when we arrived, Brian would sprint to the check-in counter while I unloaded Theo and our luggage.
When I caught up with Brian, he was checking us in. The woman had told him that check in would have closed just two minutes after he arrived.
Of course, this was good luck – that traffic hadn’t been even a smidgen worse, that the last cash machine hadn’t rejected my card, that we’d thought to have Brian run ahead. It would have been so easy for us to have arrived just two minutes later, and we would have missed our flight and had to pay for entirely new tickets to New Zealand. (Which would have made the earlier, large number quoted to switch our flight to Santiago a very good investment.) However, we also could have made many other good choices – foremost, going to the correct airport – that would have given us a much wider gap.
We proceeded through security and customs, still feeling a little jittery about our close miss, but relieved. We boarded our flight. We boarded our next flight. It was rough in the way that long journeys with a three-year-old tend to be, but nothing extraordinary. We arrived in Auckland in time to see the sun rise.
And, originally, this was meant to be just a humorous post about a close miss.
Then sometimes the lens that I’m using to view my own life cracks. The recent photos and stories of displaced families from Syria are such potent reminders of what small problems, and how much luck, my family has on a daily basis as we conduct our entirely voluntary migration around the world.
By US-standards, we aren’t rich. We work remotely to fund our trip and day-to-day expenses. However, we are lucky enough to have good, safe options, even in difficult moments. Other than our lodging reservations in New Zealand, there was no pressing reason for us to leave Argentina. We could have bought replacement plane tickets for the next day, or week. It would have financially stung, but not in any immediately life-altering way. Even with my hardest choices, the consequences I’m weighing don’t include the likelihood of watching my family starve against the likelihood of watching my family drown.
In the present crisis of those displaced from Syria, it’s only luck that keeps us on the viewing side of those photos.
It’s heartening to see some of the responses in Europe, from Germany designating their tax surplus to offer shelter to 800,000 refugees to Austrian citizens risking arrest by driving refugees across the Hungarian border. There are still plenty tensions and challenges, and not a clear path to long-term solutions. Still, in the meantime many people are finding ways to welcome and share.
On a smaller level, to redistribute our own recent moment of good luck, we gave the money that we would have spent buying three replacement plane tickets from Argentina to New Zealand to the UNHCR’s fund to support refugees. The UNHCR is massively underfunded and is anticipating needing to further cut aid – including basics such as food and shelter – by the end of September. Please consider whether you might have some good luck you could pass along as well.