“It’ll be fun!” they said. Here’s the thing. Up until now, I’ve considered myself a whole-hearted lover of flying. Part of the joy of going someplace was the getting there; flying was its own separate thing to be excited about in every adventure that called for it. Sure, sometimes you got a little airsick and sometimes your ears hurt and we all know airport food is overpriced, but it was still worth it for the joy of that moment when the engines roar to full speed and you’re pushed back into your chair with the power of the takeoff.
Or so I thought.
Last weekend I made a flying trip to North Carolina for my cousin’s wedding. In order to not take off work so soon after starting, I found a ticket that left LaGuardia early Saturday morning and got me back in there late Sunday evening. So I had exactly one night in North Carolina, but almost two full days. The trip started out normally enough, with my alarm ringing at 3:30 AM. One can handle a miserably early morning for the joy of seeing family soon, right? I gathered my limbs and my wits and my luggage and made my way the few blocks to the train station. See, one of the nice things about where I live is that I just have to take my train two stops down the line, then there’s a direct bus running straight to LGA from there, day and night. But as I went into the ominously quiet train station, I saw that all the stiles said “No Entry”. The trains were closed entirely?! What even, they’re supposed to run 24/7 in this station. Fortunately there was a bus stop up on the street though that could take me the same way. So I popped up (dragged up, more like) only to see that the next bus wouldn’t arrive for 30 minutes. There was nothing for it but hail an expensive after-hours Uber, or walk the mile to the connecting station.
So I girded my loins and my mind and set off, my feet growing more and more uncomfortable in my sandals. This is entirely useless information for you, but I have this pair that puts my left pinkie toe to sleep. Just that toe. And they also tend to make the backs of my heels a little blistery when I hike in them, as I found the following hours. Ah well. Miles and hours and days later, my backpack-that-was-steadily-growing-heavier and I found the station we wanted, and as we approached, I spied the bus I wanted pulling out and away. Nooooooo. Again, there was no other good option but to settle down for the wait, and so I did.
At last my bus came and with uncharacteristic ease it deposited me at my terminal. I sent my helpful navigator morning-person roommate back home to get some sleep and tacked myself onto the longest security line I have ever waited in. When I was fiiiiiinally nearing the front, they started taking people from the back of the line and zipping them through the kiosk next to the beleaguered looking line-standers. Again, what even?! At last I made my way through security and checked my boarding pass again, only to see that my flight had been changed to another gate, and I had to take a bus to get there. I didn’t want to risk the time to get coffee at the Starbucks I passed, even though I had been saving a gift card specifically for this occasion, but figured I would caffeinate once my gate was safely in sight. A helpful airport lady shuttled me in the right direction and I found my departure gate, only to see that whole wing of the airport was thoroughly Starbucks-less. Well okay then.
The rest of my trip passed relatively drama-free, although I went to bed far too late and got up way too early, until it was time for me to hie myself back home. Remembering the loooong security line and also how bad Charlotte traffic can be, I had my friend take me to the airport with plenty of time, since there are few fears more real to me than missing a flight. I made it through security okay and cast a wistful glance at the Chick-Fil-A on my way by, but decided to find my gate and find food closer by since I’m paranoid like that. I settled into my seat for the wait, and decided not to risk losing my seat to find food, because the gate was pretty packed with people. I’d be home well before midnight anyhow, and I could wait.
When time came to board, an announcement was made. It turned out our airplane had brake issues that needed to be fixed, and we would be boarding thirty minutes late. “Ah well,” thought I naively, “Thirty minutes more without food is fine.” The thirty minutes came and went, and was extended another thirty. Then another fifteen. Then fifteen more. We waited and waited and waited as fifteen minute increments came and went, never long enough to find food without rushing, and at last, long after we were supposed to be in the air, we were allowed to board. As we settled into our seats and got comfortable, the pilot had yet another announcement for us. “There’s bad weather in New York,” said he, “And we aren’t allowed to leave yet. They said it’ll be fifty minutes, then we’ll ask again.” I bet you can guess what happened… Fifty minutes turned into another fifty, and a few more, and finally finally the flight left, four hours late.
We arrived at our gate with a rumbly stop, only to have the kindly pilot tell us once again. “I’m sorry folks, but someone is at our gate. We’ll have to wait till it’s clear before we can disembark.” A lifetime after I arrived at the airport in Charlotte, I finally tumbled through the LaGuardia doors at 2 something-ish, juuuust missing the bus I wanted to take me back home. I could have wept.
But instead I waited with the best New-Yorker-Don’t-Talk-To-Me face and twenty minutes later the next bus came and took me without further ado to my train station. I swiped my card, found my platform, and looked up how long the next train would be. TWENTY OR THIRTY MORE MINUTES. All my deeply ingrained money-saving schemes flew out the window and I hailed a Lyft, toppling my weary self into bed shortly before four AM.
Three and a half hours later or so, my cheerful alarm went off and I scraped myself out of bed and off to work, where God spent the day holding open my eyelids because I have no idea how they stayed open otherwise. And now here I am, writing to you for the last half hour instead of sleeping as I should have been. On that cheerful note, let me bid you adieu.
North Carolina was lovely and it was the best thing in the world to see my family and babies and people again and sometime I’d like to tell you all about it. But hopefully I don’t have to see the inside of an airport in the middle of the night again for a long, long time.