The employee, overwhelmed by my caustic wit, will spend the better part of a minute doubled over in raucous laughter, pounding the counter with a fist and gasping for breath. Then - wiping tears of mirth from his flushed cheeks - he'll say, "You bet, Mr. L!"
I'll give him a high five and board the plane, and my fellow passengers - who have spent the past half hour awaiting my arrival in a state of breathless anticipation, as if I were Axel Rose - will hoot and whistle, overjoyed to see me.
I return to reality and deplane. When I check the departures screen in the terminal, I don't see my flight listed. I scan the screen fifteen or twenty times, but my flight fails to materialize. The only explanation, I realize, is that my flight never existed in the first place.
"This can't be," I say, glancing at the other dazed late-night travelers lurching around the waiting area like sedated zombies. My mouth has gone dry and sour, and my knees feel weak. "This simply can't be." I lick my lips and realize that I must be in the Twilight Zone.
At the customer-service counter, I ask the airline woman if I'm off my rocker. "This can't be happening to me," I say, running my fingers through my hair.
She examines my boarding pass, frowns, and taps at her keyboard. "Your flight left without you," she says. She looks up at me and chuckles. "What, did you think they'd stick around for one person?"
I back away from the counter, shaking my head, and I realize that she's right - the heartless ne'er-do-wells have left without me, and I was a fool to ever think they wouldn't.
Anyway, long story short, I spend an uncomfortable night in the terminal and catch a flight out the next morning. The important thing is that, as result of my brief break with reality and subsequent emotional anguish, I learn one of life's indisputable truths.
And while such truths might not be comfortable, living with them certainly beats dying with them. Living with them also beats dying without them. It doesn't, however, beat living without them. So I guess the moral here is to close your eyes to unpleasant truths, because life is much more relaxing when you're an ignoramus.
Dan Leonidas makes shallow observations. He can be reached at email@example.com or myspace.com/lastminuteconcerns.