For those of you who have followed this blog over the years, it will be no surprise that I have another travel story. This one is actually about my trip home from a very eventful trip up north. I was in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York. One of the most surprising things I learned when I got dropped off at the train station in Newark is that their train station is called Penn Station. Seriously, who knew? And I was taking a train from Penn Station to Penn Station. Just sharing a nugget of possibly confusing information to be tucked away if ever needed again.
Anyway, at the end of my visit to New York, I was catching a plane from La Guardia back to South Carolina that was scheduled to leave around 10:30 AM, so I was getting picked up at 8:00 AM to head for the airport. It was raining, but not pouring. But I knew in my bones that this was not going to be an easy morning. I received several texts that morning from the airline to let me know my plane was leaving on time. Until we were halfway to the airport and I got a new text telling me my flight was now leaving at 11:30 AM. Normally, that would stress me out, but traffic had gotten so bad, we were barely moving anyway, so I no longer had to panic we wouldn’t get to the airport on time to catch my plane.
It usually takes about a half hour to get to the airport. This time, it took well over an hour, so I finally got dropped off at around 9:15. My ticket did not indicate that I had TSA precheck, so I waited on the very long, snaky line to get through the regular security screening. A quick question – how is it that I often have the TSA precheck notification on my ticket coming to wherever I’m going, but not on the return? Has something changed about me while on the trip? Just wondering.
So immediately after I gave the agent my ticket and ID and got waved through, there were several screeners literally shouting at us. “Take off your shoes!” “Take any electronics larger than a cell phone out of your bag!” “Put all bags, jackets, and shoes in a bin!” “Put any tablets in a separate bin!” “Do the Hokey Pokey and turn yourself around!” Well, I can’t vouch for the last one, but the rest happened. So as I was taking my shoes off, the TSA lady grabbed my bag that had my tablet in it and I was hopping around while pulling my other shoe off, trying to tell her that I hadn’t had a chance to get my tablet out yet. She was not happy with me which was apparent by her glare, but she shoved my bag back at me so I could get my tablet out before it disappeared into the dark abyss of the X-ray machine.
I was exhausted by the time I emerged from the full-body scan at the other end of the conveyor belt, and was reunited with my belongings. I dragged everything down to my assigned gate, and suddenly heard multiple people shouting my name. I was overtired, stressed, and hungry, and in a very large airport, so the odds were pretty good they weren’t actually calling me. I kept walking, but the voices kept calling. So I looked around, and there was one of my South Carolina friends, her husband, and another couple who I knew all shouting at me, trying to get my attention. So we chatted for a bit, but all too soon their plane was about to start boarding, so they had to leave and I was once again on my own. Sometimes you actually have to pay attention to the voices that you think might be only in your head, because they might end up being friends who very coincidentally are at the same humongous airport at the same time, who really are shouting your name.
Eventually, I got to my gate, only to find that my plane was delayed again. And then a few minutes later, the gate was changed. And, I discovered, there was nowhere to actually sit near the new gate. I realized I either had to sit in one of the eating areas and order some very expensive food, or find a table where a bunch of other people were sitting, and grab the empty seat. Which I did. Then I got another text. The time for my flight was changed again, this time back to 11:30. A few minutes later, I got another text that the gate had changed. Again. This happened two more times with both the time and the gate changing. In the end, we ended up boarding for the 11:30 takeoff time. And the new gate wasn’t that far from any of the old gates, but still, an exercise in being alert and paying attention.
So I finally made it home and wondered about the way we travel these days. I remember when getting to fly from one place to another was kind of magical. And special. And people didn’t yell at you while you were hopping around with one shoe on, trying to comply with all the things that needed to be done to get through security. But that’s the world we live in today, so I’ll just be grateful for making my flight, seeing my friends, and getting to have all of the experiences I had in the first place. And relieved that nobody made me do the Hokey Pokey.
Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved