Started the day with a nightmare of airline problems. We were told the flight was overbooked, and we were on standby. "Don't worry," they told us. "We can get you on the 5:30 flight." We would miss the gathering with my video game friends, which we'd been preparing for months. All we could do was wait in the Customer Service area. Diane the angel sought out pain au chocolat and coffee.

There was only one lady working the crowd of standby passengers, so finally I grabbed a guy who looked like a supervisor. He assigned someone else to help us, who then took us to another location, until finally another lady said "Hey good news. You're on the 8:00 flight as scheduled." She smiled and said "Congratulations", like we won a game of blackjack or something.

We got our boarding passes and tore through the airport. They waved us into the special quick-search security line and then we raced to the gate — all the while typing furious updates to my friends in WhatsApp. As we took off I decided to exercise more back home.

I kept wondering what might have led to us being put on standby. Apparently it's the cheapest seats and latest bookers (and latest arrivals to the airport) that get bumped first. Maybe our tickets coming from a package deal had something to do with it. Then I wondered how we got approved. Was it because we checked in early? Could my feeble attempt to speak French have helped our cause? Was it because I always say "please" and "thank you", unlike some grouchy customers?

No one knows, of course; it's probably some big jumble of factors that go into an opaque algorithm, like in high-frequency trading, until the almighty Air France computer gives a thumbs-up or thumbs-down like Caesar in the Colosseum. Obviously something tipped the scales, and I'm insanely curious what it was. Probably something absurdly mundane, like the number of people who didn't show up.

Then I wonder if there's anything I could have said to make sure we got on the plane. "My grandmother in Manchester is dying! And she's giving birth today. I've got to see her one last time, and witness the birth of my step-mother/sister!"

Regardless of how it happened, I've never been so relieved to get on a plane.