The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or deceased is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.
Copyright © 2016 by Benjamin Mainville
All rights reserved.
This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
First eBook Edition: January 2016
Distributed by Shakespir
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Also by Benjamin Mainville:
The Blue Hole
a short story
After removing his grey suit coat and hanging it on the wall Brian stepped up to one of the urinals, unzipped his pants, and allowed relief to flow out him. It still surprised him that he was yet to acclimate to the constant traveling through airports and over land and sea all in the name of business.
“Nice coat,” the occupant next to him chimed in after taking his place alongside Brian.
“Thanks,” replied Brian, staring straight ahead, rather displeased at having to make conversation with personal business at hand. Being a short visit he shook himself, instead of his new acquaintance’s hand, and stepped away allowing the sensor to perform its task and prepare the urinal for its next occupant.
“Because, ya know, same one…” trailed off the occupant as Brian turned to retrieve his coat with a realization that they had the same one, complete with leather patched elbows.
He quietly grabbed the coat feeling slightly guilty, though uncertain why. “Wow, I did not even notice. You know what they say,” Brian quipped as he walked past the man and stopped at the line of faucets to quickly wash of his hands, coat draped over shoulder.
“Great minds think alike!”
The toilet flushed as the man stepped away and the hand dryer blew before Brian stepped away. “Have a good flight,” Brian stated, trying to not sound annoyed at the initial encounter. He stepped out of the bathroom, into the terminal, and slipped into the coat. As warm as it was with the constant bodies moving around, and the sun glaring through the windows, he always preferred to wear it instead of holding it. He felt almost naked without it by this point. He turned left and began walking toward the gates, leaving the lucky travelers who had yet to experience the security checkpoint toward his right; their clearance was certain to be one of the highlights of their day.
When he first took on the consultant position for the brand auditing team at SleepEZ, the mobile app allowing travelers to feel confident in their lodging choices due to the stringent secret shopping provided by the company, Brian was determined to not allow his fear of flying to get in the way of financial success. He knew the traveling would take some getting used to but he never considered the social seclusion that would develop from constantly being around people in transit with not enough time, or more likely a lack of comfort, to chat with a stranger- let alone a man traveling on his own with no luggage of any sort. As an avid people watcher, however, he did find the time spent moving about the country entertaining and, at times, enlightening.
Brian strolled toward the end of the terminal where his flight was expected to board within the next ten minutes, as confirmed by a quick glance at his wrist. He took in the travelers that he passed. Of course you had the business group briskly walking toward baggage claim as they discussed their notes for the meeting, the teenager sitting with eyes glued to her phone as she tried to distance herself as far as the charging cord would allow her escape from her parents, and the wide-eyed dog sitting beneath the bench where its owner awaited pre-boarding- uncertain whether to cry with excitement from being in such a busy place or from the terror of being in such an overwhelming location for the first time. A pair of flight attendants walked casually from their recently arrived flight and further down the pilot made her appearance with a wide, bright smile and cap held beneath her arm.
While not considering himself to be big on stereotyping, Brian did consider whether there was time for a quick drink to calm his nerves, a consideration that he felt coincidental to his notice of the pilot walking past him. He looked ahead at the gate numbers and saw his gate, 19, two gates ahead on the left. With no passengers yet standing he took another look at his wrist and confirmed that he would have time to find a seat with his name on it while not feeling the need to be rush.
Recalling passing a bar, Brian turned around and retraced his steps, stopping at the first barstool he saw but not before watching a child, screaming in delight, rush past only to leave him wondering just who’s child it was. No sooner had he positioned himself on the cushioned red stool had the bartender arrived with the standard small napkin.
“Made it through security I see,” commented the bar tender in a poor attempt at an overused joke. His name tag, Matt, revealed that his name (unfortunate soul) was overused in the originality department as well. Matt’s black shirt matched the amusement Brian was feeling at the comment.
“That I did, now I could use a pick me up to help me make it through this flight. I’ll keep it simple though,” he reached into his pocket, opened his wallet, and pulled out a $10 bill. “Keep $3 for yourself and I will take however many shots I can get for the remaining $8.”
“Can’t say I’ve heard that before,” the bar tender stated, accepting the bill and holding it against the counter with his finger as he pondered what combination to get his customer. “Let me think.”
Brian had gotten used to this reaction for while it was new to this guy, it was a tactic that he used during most of his travels. It provided him variety as he never quite knew how much, or what kind of, alcohol he would receive. He felt usually this set up also retrieved him the best value for his money. Occasionally he found himself getting a discount on certain shots as the bar tender attempted to keep it within the allotted $7 allowance while not making their customer feel as though they were cheating them with less alcohol than anticipated.
Matt returned with two shots, a typical number when compared to Brian’s previous experiences. Brian had to admit that he was impressed by Matt’s ability to single handedly present the glasses in front of him without a drop of spillover. In an effort to keep conversation minimal, and to get to a happier place faster, he downed them. “Bottoms up and bottoms off,” he said as he scooted off the stool before his head could not quite comprehend how to get his legs to move properly.
Brian strode purposefully toward his gate, one foot in front of the other retracing his initial path that he had taken after clearing the security checkpoint. He never quite noticed how the zig zag pattern on the blue carpeting made it appear as though he were walking on water. It was an illusion he would try to remember during his future travels. The aesthetic design of an airport was important consideration when determining the best layover experience possible.
Looking up he saw passengers standing in line at his gate. He moved his shuffle a bit faster to find his place in line. During the process he found himself darting around the incoming cheerleader receiving a ride in a wheel chair by a gate attendant and he made sure to steer clear of the cleaning cart as the custodian was emptying garbage bins. Where seats are scarce before boarding the rows of chairs now sat empty, having been evacuated by the passengers currently turning in their tickets and beginning their descent toward their plane.
He reached into his suit pocket and retrieved his ticket, allowing himself a moment to close his eyes and take a deep breath. In a few short hours he would be in Orlando where a list of hotels were awaiting his visit, certain to be unenthused by the secret shopping that had taken place the week prior. He opened his eyes and moved forward with the rest of the line. He was pleased. It seemed like it would be a flight with few children, something unique for a trip to the vacation capital of the world.
After the passenger before him entered the ramp, Brian walked up to the gate attendant and handed over his ticket. As she scanned the ticket he awaited the beep from the scanner to confirm his seating assignment- but it never came. She pulled the ticket away from the scanner and looked over it.
“I’m sorry sir, but I do believe you are in the wrong place,” Amy, as revealed by her name tag, explained.
Brian looked around the gate to confirm his surroundings were indeed those of Gate 19 departing to Orlando, as revealed by the signage. “I’m sorry, am I just not seeing correct? This flight is going to Orlando is it not?”
“You are correct sir, however it does appear that your ticket is not for this flight,” Amy handed the ticket to Brian, pointing out the “Gate 27” printed on it. The black font on the white paper made it appear bolder than it already did, but perhaps that was the embarrassment he felt creeping over him that was highlighting such a basic error. “Looks like you still have time though, you’ll just be heading further down the terminal and you will see Gate 27.”
“I can’t say this has ever happened before,” Brian took the ticket and stepped out of the way to allow the anxious travelers behind him to continue their boarding. Several were looking in disgust and frustration at him as if having found their seat a few moments earlier would make all the difference in an on time departure. “Gawkers…” he muttered as he stepped away.
He began to briskly return to the main walkway of the terminal and joined the crowd, crossing the stream of passing travelers excited to have escaped their plane with only baggage claim between them and their final destination. Brian did not understand how such a mistake could have occurred and the more he thought of it the more he confused he found himself. He looked once more at the ticket to confirm the time then stopped in his tracks.
A child ran into him, breaking his focus.
“Watch where you’re going, buddy!” A parent rushed forward to claim their runaway child. “Sorry about that, it’s his first trip and he’s very excited,” the father explained to Brian. “Now say sorry to the man and let’s walk this time alright?”
The boy rushed a “sorry” as best he could and eagerly continued his race to the gate, father in tow.
Detroit. There was no way that he would have missed such an important detail on his itinerary and he was certain that a layover was not in the plan.
“May we have your attention please, will Brian Ackers please report to Gate 19. Your flight has boarded and will be leaving shortly,” a voice, sounding very much like Amy, declared over the intercom.
Brian quickly turned around, almost bumping into a woman who was speedy enough to avoid a collision. “Watch it!” she angrily voiced.
“Sorry,” he briskly apologized as he joined the stream travelers headed to baggage claim to prevent further accidents. With Gate 19 in sight he left the main walkway and booked it straight to the counter.
“Are you having trouble locating your gate sir?” questioned Amy, definitely the voice on the intercom.
“No, however this is not my ticket. I am Brian Ackers and this is my flight,” he explained, putting the ticket in front of her. She picked up the ticket, uncertain what he expected.
“Alright, well I can’t say I have heard of this before sir. Do you have your identification on you?” Brian pulled out his wallet and handed her his license.
Amy stared at the card as added confusion appeared on her face. “I’m sorry sir but are you alright?”
“I will be as soon as I’m landed in Orlando, flying already has me flustered and this is kind of freaking me out and not to mention a bit embarrassing but if it’s alright with you and we can overlook this ticket thing I will be much better,” he rambled, looking over his shoulder to see if any gawkers were about.
“Let me make a quick phone call, if you could please have a seat I will be right with you and we will get this all fixed for you,” explained Amy with a smile that seemed somewhat genuine but at the same time seemed a bit off.
“It’s quite alright, I don’t mind standing.”
“Sir, can you please take a seat?” The smile was definitely off.
Brian backed away, putting his hands up to show compliance. He stood by the boarding section as she picked up the phone, staring at him. She pointed at an open seat behind him as she waited for whomever she was contacting to answer her call. Not wanting to cause further alarm, Brian complied. Holding on to the arm and felt as though he were falling into a pit with no means of stopping himself.
He stared at her as she conversed over the phone. How could this have happened? He ran through his trip thus far in his head beginning at the ticketing counter where he had bought his ticket to Orlando, requesting a non-stop flight. Perhaps the request was never fulfilled and he had in fact been given a layover? But then why would I have only been given one ticket and not a second…
Amy hung up the phone and then began a second phone call, which Brian felt unusual. Though perhaps she was told to contact a different department, looks like even workers get the run around. He chuckled.
“Will Gary Phelps please report to Gate 27?” At least I’m not the only one being called out.
Amy hung up the phone a second time and quietly walked over to him, waving and providing a winning smile as she passed a family whose child was enthralled by her appearance. She sat next to Brian.
“Thank you for your patience, sir, I have made a few phone calls and someone will be coming by to assist shortly. If you could please remain seated until they arrive it would be greatly appreciated.”
“I don’t understand, what need is there to wait?” He glanced at his watch. “I cannot miss this flight and I do not want to be the guy to make everyone else late because of a silly mistake.”
“Unfortunately the plane will be leaving soon, we cannot have you board.”
Brian evaluated what was just stated.
“I’m sorry? You cannot have me board?”
“Sir, please calm down. Assistance will arrive shortly but until then I need you to stay seated. Now, if you will excuse me I need to begin procedures to close the gate on time,” Amy began to stand.
“Woah, what exactly is wrong that I cannot board? Look, just scan my boarding pass on my phone if it is such a problem, here you go!” He fumbled pulling out his phone and turned on the screen to find that his background had been changed. In addition to the unrecognized background he then realized he did not recognize the phone itself. “This isn’t mine…” Brian began to fumble through his jacket.
She turned to him. “I will not tell you this again, but I need you to stay seated and I am sure we will be able to work this out.” She walked back to her pedestal, leaving Brian to the contents of his jacket.
How did I not notice this before?
Brian pulled out the black leather wallet, which while similar to his own had differences that could have been caught earlier like the metal grommets in the corners instead of the stitched corners his own had possessed. Opening the wallet, searching for an identification card, he paused as the name seemed oddly familiar. Surely the only explanation at this point was that he had grabbed the wrong jackets which meant that this Gary Phelps would be running into a similar issue elsewhere. Gary Phelps…
Brian looked toward the pedestal and saw Amy busy with her terminal as she began her final tasks before closing the gate. It was either a brilliant idea or one that would quite possibly land him on the “No Fly List” but he did not fancy meeting whomever Amy had called to sort things out. He briskly hopped out of his seat and began his rush down the terminal.
“Excuse me, sir? I need you to stay in your seat!” The commotion was about to begin and he wanted to clear his name before it reached him.
As he briskly joined the crowd, Brian tried to recall what the ticket had said. He remembered Detroit and that the gate was in the 20s so he maintained his pace while looking at the departing flights on the gates. As he reached Gate 25 regret began to rush over him. Just as he was about to reach panic mode he saw a familiar jacket ahead, standing at the counter of Gate 27.
“Hey!” Brian called out, causing heads to turn as he turned his brisk walk into a run, rushing to the man holding out a grey coat to the worker behind the counter, a coat complete with leather patched elbows. Both the man and the worker turned toward him in surprise.
“I’m sorry sir but you will have to wait your turn,” the worker stated, turning back toward the man.
“Well look who it is,” the man said. “I believe there has been a little mix up?” He held out the coat.
Brian felt relief begin to push out the regret that was filling him. He pulled off the jacket and gave it to the man, who in turn gave his to Brian.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Phelps, but is this related to the mix up?” The worker asked, confused.
Brian quickly checked the contents of the pockets to ensure that it was indeed his coat as Gary confirmed what the worker was suspecting. He pulled out his ticket, as well as his wallet, and verified that they were indeed his, compete with stitched edging. He also pulled out $10, and handed it to Gary. “I owe you this for drinks.”
“Drinking this early in the day?” Gary laughed, putting the money in the wallet.
“This is a last call for Brian Ackers, Brian Ackers please report to Gate 19 as your flight is departing momentarily,” Amy announced over the intercom.
“It calms the nerves, though this certainly was not a help. I need to get back to my gate, but I am glad I caught you before you left and we were able to get this sorted out,” Brian began to back away.
“Quite the circumstance we have encountered. Fly safe, Brian,” Gary held his hand out, which Brian returned to shake before turning around and racing back to Gate 19. The heads he had turned earlier had returned to other sights as passengers awaited their flights. Some returned to boredom while others found entertainment people watching or socializing and still others made their own entertainment with crossword puzzles and portable entertainment systems.
With Gate 19 in view, Brian took a breath as he walked up to Amy, who was pointing him out to the security team that she was debriefing the situation to. Brian held out the ticket as well as his wallet, in officer fashion, flaunting his license.
“Sir, we are going to need you to come with us,” a lanky man, younger than he, strode up to him and demanded.
“Look, there has been a mix up and it has been sorted out. Here is my license and my ticket, I am Brian Ackers and this is my flight,” he stated as calmly as he could. The guard took his arm and began to pull him toward himself to escort him. “You can ask the attendant at the Detroit desk!”
“Wait,” Amy said. She walked up to Brian and took the ticket, matched it with the license, then walked to her pedestal and scanned it. The familiar beep resounded, music to Brian’s ears. Amy looked up at him. “Welcome aboard, Mr. Ackers.”
The guard released him.
“Are things under control here, Amy?” the other security officer asked, also younger than Brian, making him feel old.
“We will be fine, thanks guys,” Amy stated. She turned to Brian. “I had received a call from the other gate attendant who explained that things were corrected, so you are good to go and I hope you understand the concern when a passenger has no identification of their own but rather the identification of another.”
Brian nodded in agreement, “I understand, and I hope you understand the concern a passenger has when they find themselves in such a situation.”
“Let’s not do this again, shall we?” Amy smiled her winning smile and held her arm out, welcoming him to board. “Oh, and I recommend taking it easier on the alcohol, the smell makes people wonder.” Redness began to flush on Brian’s face as he hastened his walk in an effort to not only find his seat but to also escape the final comment Amy had made.
The stewardess greeted him as he boarded and directed him down the aisle where he quickly found his seat. Another benefit to traveling light was not having the need to find space in the overhead compartment, especially handy when not one of the first to board. The steward began the safety spiel as the stewardess began final prep for departure.
Brian found his seat, sat down, buckled himself in, and placed his head against the headrest. He took a deep breath and tilted his head up, allowing the stale air to blow through the vent onto him. It would become more tolerable once the plane began its ascent and then he would be able to allow himself to drift into slumber. He could bypass the flying experience and awake, refreshed, on the ground.
A Note to the Reader:
“Gate Change” was conceived while seated on a bench awaiting my flight to board at T. F. Green Airport (despite being labeled as Providence, and what your pilot may have told you, the airport is actually located in a place called Warwick, six miles south from the city). I had initially intended “Gate Change” to be my first self-published short story however, while I had the main concept, the ending would go through several changes. After a few revisions, in the end I decided to stick with my initial conclusion of a simple mistake leading way to confusion.
While I hope you enjoyed this piece, I encourage you to share your thoughts by providing your rating and comment for “Gate Change.” With your feedback I hope to grow as a writer and to create stories that have you looking forward to more. As cliché as it may be, I also encourage you to follow me on social media where I look forward to providing insights and details on my projects- past, present, and future. My goal is to share a solid collection of short stories in the hopes that I will be able to share larger projects with you in the future. I intend to release at least one short story each quarter of 2016 and hope you will continue to join me on this literary adventure.
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While traveling for his company, Brian goes through his typical airport routine while awaiting his flight. He has cleared the security checkpoint and the bars are open. What could go wrong?