Airport Adventures Part I
On the 16th of January, I started my year with a flight to Seattle, WA. Flying is no big deal for a lot of people, and I’m sure one day it won’t matter as much to me either. However, this time I can assure you that it was no trivial detail! For the first time in my life, I was leaving home for a longer period than ever before; I was leaving my friends, my lifestyle, and more importantly, the majority of my family for an estimated period of four months. Naturally, I am a creature of habit and, without hesitation, I can say that I’d be perfectly content living in the same place my entire life! Some people love to travel and explore, but it has never been that way with me. As you can see, moving away was going to be a big adjustment for me.
Anyway, back to my point – I was leaving my home and flying by myself! Honestly, the only thing I really knew about airports was that they had those cool automatic staircases. I have to admit, I was pretty excited about those. Besides that, I had heard horror stories about airports: how big and confusing they are, and how delayed flights can sometimes force you to run from terminal to terminal giving you no time to catch your bearings. It sounds like I know what I’m talking about, but I wasn’t even sure what a terminal was! So, having no knowledge or perspective of an airport, this became my definition of it. To top it all off, my own parents were the ones who shared most of these horror stories! I tend to be very pessimistic anyway; somehow, I always find the worst-case scenario in almost everything I do. As you can see, these airports were quickly becoming a big, scary monster in my imagination, and I doubted that I would even make it out alive! Of course, I’m being a little sarcastic. However, I really thought I’d miss a flight and have to spend the night in either Texas or New York.
We set out to the airport from the house at three thirty a.m. (EST). ‘We’ included my Dad, Mom, and me. I had a long day of travel ahead. Four o’clock p.m. (PST) was the estimated time of arrival. Keeping in mind the time difference, this meant I’d be in transit for about 15½ hours (if everything went as planned, of course)! Despite the stories I had heard about it being difficult to sleep on the plane, I was hoping to catch a little rest.
The Charleston airport was nothing too special, even for me. It was not the one I was worried about! Also, not only did I have my parents with me, but I was still in West Virginia. What could happen to me in WV? We checked-in at the front desk of American Airlines, had my tickets printed, and handed over my luggage. Actually, it’s more appropriate to say that my mother took care of everything at this point. I just watched. After all this was done, I had about thirty minutes to wait for my flight to LaGuardia, NY. My parents walked with me to the ramp that led to security. After this point, I was on my own. No, I didn’t breakdown and start crying or anything, but I did realize that I wouldn’t see my parents for about four months. I hugged them and promised to call when (or if) I landed in LaGuardia, and they watched me until I was out of sight.
Airport Adventures Part II
Now on my own, I continued walking to the end of the hall and took a right which led to security. I had no idea what to do here and almost laughed out-loud at how pathetic I felt. Thirty seconds without my parents and I was stuck! Yeah, my odds for getting to Seattle were not looking too good. I wasn’t in this state of anxiety for long, though – it only lasted a few seconds. Suddenly, I had the bright idea to watch what the guy in front of me was doing, and all my problems were solved. He put his shoes, coat, and carry-on bag in convenient little boxes that were provided at the conveyer belt, which then took them through some kind of scanning system. I figured that was simple enough, so I followed suit. My luggage was to meet me on the other side after I went through the human scanner. I made my way to the waiting room and boarded my first flight fifteen minutes later. I had heard a few stories about takeoffs: how horrible and how wonderful it is. Needless to say, I was curious whether I’d be in the group that hates takeoffs or the group that loves them. I was willing to bet that the latter would be my preference. After all, I’m fond of the feeling of losing my stomach. However, I still had a moment of uncertainty because I’m not at all partial to the sensation of my ears popping!
The plane came to the end of the takeoff path, wheeled around, and paused. A few seconds later, I began to feel the engine picking up in RPMs, and at the same time, I heard the whining pitch of the amazing jet engine slowly increase. We started moving slowly at first but quickly picked up pace. At this moment, I knew that takeoff was only a few seconds away – we were moving so fast now! Then, I felt the front of the plane lift off the ground; very soon after that, the tail became airborne. Yes, I think my stomach was left on the ground! It was awesome. I immediately knew my opinion about takeoffs: I love them!
After getting over the feeling of being airborne, I whipped out my flight-sequence paper to see how long this flight was. I also looked at my next stop because I always forgot that weird name: ‘LaGuardia.’ This flight was about an hour, and I had an hour layover. I felt confident that I could make it to my next plane. After feeling this sense of confidence, I actually fell asleep and didn’t wake up until the pilot announced that we were about 20 minutes away from LGA! Just to be safe, I glanced at my paper again. Gate A11 was where I had to be for my next flight. However, I remembered my Mom telling me that gates change a lot. So, the first thing I decided I’d do was ask an American Airlines’ representative for help.
After landing and coming to a stop, we were permitted to grab our things and offload. The airport was sizable, and I had no idea where I was, but I consoled myself by realizing this was a normal feeling. I stepped out of the lobby area and found myself in the middle of a gigantic hallway. Then, I looked up and read a sign that said, “B2.” I concluded that I was in the B terminal and felt a little less lost. At the American Airlines’ station, the representative confirmed my next gate. Looking back, I’m sure it would have been hard to refuse me because I imagine I was a helpless sight with all my papers laid on the desk and my inexperience with the terminology. The man, however, was very helpful and he immediately started assessing my tickets and confirmed that my next flight to Dallas, Texas was located in Terminal E. He helped me organize all my tickets, wished me luck, and I thanked him. I started down the hall and found myself in terminal E several minutes later. I passed through another security check and sat, awaiting my flight. I had a sense of accomplishment at this point, and I was finally in a good place to call my parents. So, that’s what I did.
Thirty minutes passed fairly quickly, but we still hadn’t boarded the plane. Eventually, there was an announcement that the plane was running late. At this point, I was a little concerned. Every minute that passed meant less time to find my way around in Dallas. The plane was about forty-five minutes late, which meant that my hour layover in Dallas had turned into fifteen minutes. As I thought over this, I realized I had a legitimate concern. Everything after this point seemed to be in slow-motion because I wanted it to be faster – even the plane, which was already moving at about five-hundred MPH. Maybe I was being a little impatient! I was constantly looking at the clock and the time of my next flight, trying to determine whether I could make it or not. Then, I was thinking about what I’d do if I didn’t make it to this flight.
The pilot announced that we were approximately an hour away from Dallas, TX. My next plane was scheduled to leave at twelve-thirty, and it was twelve-fifteen. I couldn’t understand why I was going to be so late! How did forty-five minutes turn into an hour and forty-five minutes? Well, while I was trying to figure that one out, the time changed, giving me another hour. I had forgotten about Texas being a Central Time zone! As much of a relief that was, I was still in the same predicament just slightly less extreme.
After we landed and the pilot announced that we could turn our cellphones back on, I sent my sister-in-law, Sonja, a text telling her that we had just landed and that I was going to miss my next flight. I wasn’t really sure how she’d be able to help me, but I didn’t know what else to do. Well, contrary to my assumption, Sonja had been tracking all of my flights and had a solution to my problem! She texted back and told me that there was an Alaska Airlines’ flight leaving in forty-five minutes, and if I couldn’t make that one, I could just schedule the next American Airlines’ flight to Seattle. I wanted to try for the Alaska Airlines’ flight, however, because if I missed this one, I’d have to wait three hours for the alternative.
I got off the flight and was immediately overwhelmed by the size of the airport. It was massive. Of course, I had that feeling of not knowing where the heck I was, too. I stepped out of the lobby into the hallway – kind of like how LGA was, only about three times the size, I noted. I chose left as my direction to walk in my quest to find an Alaska Airlines’ desk. After finding one, I explained to the woman behind the desk that I had missed a flight due to a delay and that I was hoping to take the next flight from Alaska Airlines to Seattle. The woman nodded and began searching for the flight. Looking up with wide-eyes, she said, “This flight is in terminal E gate #11 and you are in A. Are you sure you can make it?” My countenance dropped considerably at this comment – I had no idea if I could make it! “Uhh, yeah, I want to try,” I told her. Her only response was “okay” in a very incredulous tone of voice, which took yet another toll on my quickly-diminishing hope. She handed me the ticket and added, “If you want to make this flight, take a left to the Sky Link which will bring you over to terminal E.” I thought, ‘What the heck is the Sky Link?’ I tried to act like I knew what she was talking about and thanked her. I turned, and she called after me to say that if I didn’t make it then I could always get another flight from American Airlines. I thanked her again and took off, hoping to find this thing that I knew nothing about: the Sky Link or whatever. Then I saw the Sky Link sign and an escalator that led to it. Although I was disappointed that my first time on an escalator was going to be when I was in a hurry, I was still excited to try this out. I stepped onto the moving staircase and began riding to the top. I imagined that if I wasn’t so short on time, I’d enjoy this ride repeatedly. Unfortunately, I had other priorities. I made it to the top and boarded the Sky Link without having a chance to see what exactly I was getting into. However, I was able to observe things for a few minutes after we started moving. It kind of reminded me of train or bus. It ran on tracks that were elevated some good amount off the ground and shuttled from terminal to terminal. Pretty fast and awesome. The former of which was most encouraging in my predicament. After each terminal was reached, there was a computerized voice that sounded over the speakers within the shuttle, stating the terminal name. Within five minutes, I was in terminal E. Things were looking good at this point, I just needed to find gate eleven. I got off the Sky Link and saw that I was to ride another escalator down in order to arrive at my gate, which I happily did. When I reached the bottom, I noticed that I was at E1. I began fast-walking in the direction of ascending numbers and found myself at E11 in about eight minutes. I was relieved to see that the plane had only boarded about half of its travelers. I guessed it was half, at least.
It felt so good to be on my last plane. I texted Sonja and let her know that I made it to the Alaska flight, and that I’d see her in about four hours.
End of Airport Adventures