Racing to the airport wearing pajamas

The telephone jolted me awake and I knew I was in trouble.

I'd set my alarm for 5 a.m., then told myself when it rang I had a few more minutes because the cab for the airport wouldn't arrive until 6.

Now the cab company was ringing me at my friends' apartment in Vienna to ask "Where are you?" Not only was my foggy mind registering that it was 10 past 6 - the flight was at 7:20 - but I could not figure out how to take the incoming call on the multibutton phone with the blinking lights. I was pressing all the buttons, and none of them stopped the ringing.

Parallel to the voice inside me screaming "You call yourself efficient?" was another saying: "OK, OK, so throw your power suit and pumps into the suitcase, put jeans and a sweater on over your jammies, slip into a pair of flats. Be thankful you packed last night, and hit the road,"

If the taxi I'd ordered was no longer waiting, I could flag one down or head for the nearby hotel and ask the receptionist to call one. As long as I made the plane, I needn't bother about dressing properly until I got to the office in Lausanne.

The streets were deserted; the night porter at the hotel called me a cab right away. "Foof meenoot," he said in German with a heavy East European accent. The taxi would be there in five minutes.

Five minutes. Ten minutes. I told the man to call again. At 6:50, the cab arrived.

"Look," I said to the driver. "My flight is at 7:20, and it takes a good 20 minutes to get to the airport. Do the best you can." I couldn't help adding, a touch accusingly, "I was told you'd be here in five minutes."

The driver spoke with a heavy accent. I understood right away: The man at the hotel had passed business on to an East European crony rather than call one of the big companies.

"I was still asleep when I got the call," the driver said, "and my friend told me it was urgent. I didn't even get dressed, just threw a jacket on over my pajamas. But with the best will in the world, lady, it takes 15 minutes to get over here from the Eighth District!"

So he was in his jammies, too! I wondered if I should tell him that made two of us, but decided against it. "Well, step on it," I said, and he did. Driving much too fast, he turned to say: "You know, I could really get in trouble for this. I mean, hey, if the police stop us, and then on top of it, in my pajamas."

WE MADE it to the airport at 7:17. Tipping the driver handsomely, I got a clear look at his pjs: bold stripes. At check-in they told me the flight was closed, but when I insisted they said they'd hold the flight but run. I did, and the plane took off - with me aboard - into a sunny blue sky. Breakfast was delicious. I got to the office on time.

Folding my pajamas (yellow, with a flower print) into my suitcase, I gave them an affectionate pat. It wasn't every day they got worn on a high-speed drive through Vienna, a flight to Geneva, and a train ride to Lausanne, much less to the office! They were my companions in adventure.

Since that morning, whenever I realize I'm letting schedules and problems get the upper hand, I think of our adventure: how what normally would have gone by in a gray haze of routine had been vibrant, how everything seemed new and fresh. The thought rebalances me, puts things in perspective, refreshes my memory that it is sheer privilege just to be alive.

Why not - figuratively speaking, of course - wear pajamas to work every day?

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