My Last Hundred And Fifty Bucks: And Then Summer Was Over

Where’d your last 150 bucks go, Shannon Palus?

$60, two bags

“Delta, you’re getting on the Delta flight?,” asks the man next to the Delta counter.

I’m at the Idaho Falls airport. It’s tiny. There are maybe 10 people total in the Departures area.

“Yes?” I say.

“It is too late to check bags for the Delta flight.”

“But my itinerary says 1:30.” I start pawing for my phone, so I can show him the email from the travel office at my just-completed summer internship, which booked and paid for the flight.

“The only Delta flight is at 1 PM.”

It is 12:30.

“I can check your bags but they might not reach your destination tonight.”

It’s $25 for the first bag, and $35 for the second. These are the normal prices, even though the luggage tags say “LATE CHECK” on them. The woman behind the counter takes my credit card, then hands it back to me with a receipt.


$90, a fine for 9 pounds

“Wait, this one is heavy,” says the man, hoisting it onto the scale.

“Um, um, um –” I say. The woman behind the counter mirrors my panicked face, but perhaps with a little more exasperation thrown in.

“Pay or get on the flight tomorrow.”

I hand the woman my credit card again. She hands me another receipt, for $90.

World’s shortest security process later—no line, one security guy, a tiny bag scanner, a quick trip to a trashcan to dump the water out of my water bottle—I am sitting on the plane, just 20 minutes after I was outside departures hugging my summer co-intern Ali goodbye.

I should have insisted on opening up the bag and taking things out. I should have checked my flight online. I should be a grown up. I should act like a grown up.

These are some of the mistakes that can be made in an instant: a jump off a trampoline that ends with a broken neck, a fatal bite of something you’re allergic to.

There are other mistakes that move like glaciers: Cigarette addictions, ill-fated crushes on co-workers; years of worrying about every little thing; fixations on alternate endings.

Add to the list: Trying to curb the momentousness of leaving somewhere and of going somewhere new with a preoccupation with the minutia and stupid costliness of air travel.


Shannon Palus is a science writer in Philadelphia.



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