Sometimes things don’t go as planned – and those moments often make for the best stories. Tripping columns offer readers a chance to share their wild adventures from the road.
“Please don’t mention the final destination. This is a surprise anniversary trip.”
“Oh, I see you are off to Alaska,” the ticket agent says, playing along.
My wife loves surprises, and for her birthday and our anniversary, I like to take her somewhere that stays a secret for as long as possible. The only permitted questions are temperature and dress code.
My wife keeps the surprise going as long as she can without arousing suspicion in anyone official.
We move on to the presecurity document checker, who says: “Final destination is where?”
I close in, and whisper near his ear.
“You can’t just say ‘in transit,’ he says, loud enough so the entire line can hear.
I deliver the “secret surprise” line for the second time, and he says, “Well write it down then.”
“Ah, Alaska,” he winks as all three of us smile.
The toughest hurdle is next: U.S. Immigration.
“Where to today?” The officer asks.
Before he has finished, I interrupt him with my standard surprise line. He stops cold.
I can see him mentally reaching back into his procedures manual, before reviewing our passports. He hands us back our documents, and with a wink, wishes us a safe journey.
Our first destination is Detroit, which is so obviously a connection – in past years we’ve been to Damascus, Tehran, Istanbul, Jordan – surely she can’t think we’d stop here? But she still asks, “Why Detroit?”
We land and head for Delta’s lounge, where the departure screens show some magical destinations: Tokyo, Seoul, Shanghai, etc.
As part of these Magical Mystery Tours, Laura is allowed 10 guesses to figure out the final destination. Her first three are way off the mark.
Two hours later, we board a flight to Atlanta. At the gate she notices our flight is a Delta code-share with KLM, and assumes we are off to Europe. Four more guesses gone.
In Atlanta, the screens shows 10 flights to Central and South America within the next three hours. She is happy, since her first language is Spanish and most of these countries are Spanish-speaking.
After wandering around the airport, we head for the gate area.
The first one we enter says “Quito.”
“That’s it!” she says. “Wonderful. I have always wanted to go to the Galapagos.”
“Is that guess No. 8?”
She thought about it and decided I wasn’t a Galapagos guy after all, so she was still left with three.
Lima was next, but as I entered the gate area, she pulled at my shoulder saying, “Come on, you’ve never wanted to visit Peru.”
After walking past the gates for what seemed like ages, she saw me slow down for Sao Paulo.
She has always had a hankering for Brazil.
We listened to the preboarding call. Excitement set in, but 20 minutes later, we were still seated. Now it was the final boarding call.
As Sao Paulo looked a certainty, she used her eighth guess.
With a smirk, I rose and led us two gates down to the Rio flight.
It was late in the boarding procedure, but I waited until there were no more than a dozen passengers left to board.
As we joined the boarding line, she let out a squeal of excitement.
We were now just two away from the gate attendant.
“No. 9?” I said.
“Yes! Wow, Rio, I am so happy.”
“I’m sorry, sir, this is not your flight. You are the next gate over.”
The gate agent handed our tickets back and pointed as the loudspeaker announced: “Delta flight DL110 leaving for Buenos Aires from Gate E4”
All my subterfuge paid off: “Que buena sorpresa!” Laura cried, and gave me a giant hug.
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