Let's start at the end. The end of my fabulous NY trip that despite how short it was (and seriously, NY cannot be done "short") - I ate great food and visited great friends. Clearly I need a round two.
But today is about the end of that trip. About my worst airport experience, ever.
I was prepared for it. My friend had just warned me that because of the federal cuts = less air traffic controllers = big time delays in NY. I took a not-so-cheap cab to the airport just to make sure I arrived on time. This is the part I tell you that one of my bags is carrying my clothes and the other is my carry-on bag (that I am glued to) carrying my camera equipment (subway is not an option). Anyway, I get there on time. And not just on time, but security was not a hassle, and I even had 20 minutes so spare before boarding. I was feeling good! No delays here!
Five minutes before we are set to board the intercom comes on to announce what I was hoping would not be announced: delays. But I have a 2 hour layover in Charlotte. Maybe I'm ok? Still, those traveling to Phoenix and San Francisco are asked to head to the customer relations counter. The customer service rep then proceeds to tell me that if I want to leave TONIGHT this is my only option:
-Take a cab to another airport 30 minutes away (in rush hour - hope you catch that next flight!)
-Catch direct flight from different airline that they'll set up for me
-Oh, and no we are not responsible for HOW you get to the other airport (i.e. cab fare out of my pocket)
I tried arguing my way into a voucher but had no such luck. FYI, if it's weather or air traffic control related, no one owes you anything. The girl beside me, fortunately, was in the same situation, overheard my interaction and asked if I wanted to split a cab. YES. But first we have to go back and pick up our checked-in bag from the carousel and wait 15 minutes! Awesome.
Our checked-in bag finally gets pulled out and into our hands. We hurry off into a cab, split the fare, rush out of it, into the airport, and to our new counter. I have to pay for ANOTHER checked-in bag but am comforted that the previous airline will be reimbursing me (headache). The security guy helps me with my heavy blue carry-on, I put my laptop bag in, and get through security. I grab my laptop bag and shoes and start booking it to the "shuttle" I have to take across the airport. Ten minutes later I am booking it across the airport when all of a sudden....
I realize I am not rolling my heavy, blue carry-on bag with me. My camera bag.
My heart is about to leap out of my throat and I have the horrible realization that I left my carry-on bag SOMEWHERE in this airport. I know for sure it had to have happened either at security or the shuttle I had to take to my gate.
No, no, no. God please no. This is all I can think after this horrible flight delay. Not my gear. I rush to the first airport worker I see, fighting back tears, I tell him my situation. There is not doubt that there is desperation in my voice and he speaks very comforting to me that I should first tell my gate I am here before I pursue looking for my bag. I run to my gate (oh, I can't even tell you how FAR this gate was on top of having to take a shuttle here) and tell the people at the desk in a very panicked voice. They try calling the people at the shuttle to find out if I left it there and tell me to wait. I try waiting for a few minutes but I just can't. It might be in security and if I keep waiting, I'll probably ALSO miss my flight. I start running back to the shuttle area. When I get there the woman tells me "do NOT take the shuttle. You WILL miss your flight." I say that I won't get on that flight ANYWAY without my carry-on! At this point, I don't care if I miss it ... I just need my bag. The shuttle finally arrives and when I run in, a worker sitting by the driver asks me if I'm the girl looking for her blue bag. "Yes, I am." And halfway into the trip back to security check-in she yells to the back "Hey! They didn't find your bag!"
Oh, thank you for yelling that across the shuttle to me. Thank you. Ale, don't cry. It has to be in security.
I run off the shuttle when we finally get to our stop. I run up to the TSA person and he announces that they have MY BAG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! All the pressure, the exhaustion, the stress - it is all filling up behind my eyes as I've been trying to push it back. Fighting it's way to become tears, I hold them back, grab my bag, thank him profusely and book it back to the shuttle area. I just want to go home now. I run to the counter and ask if there's any way to get a cart to take me back to my gate instead of waiting for the shuttle so I can make my flight. The women at the counter (one of them being the one from the shuttle) just look at me and one says "all you can do is wait. You probably missed your flight." And it's pretty obvious from my face that I'm devastated and as I turn around the other woman mutters: "All for that little blue bag."
[[ Dramatic Pause ]] Excuse me? I don't have words. In fact, I think I see red but really I only see blur because my tears can't hold back anymore. All I do is turn around to look her in the eye and express so much distaste for her lack of class. Tears start to shove their way past my eyes. I turn back around to walk to the corner and at least give myself a moment to cry. As I do this the woman yells "M'am, just sit down! You can't do anything else!" And I turn back, also yelling throwing my hands up, "I'm not going ANYWHERE!" UGH. I mean, I freaking need a minute to CRY over my "little blue bag" that carried ALL of my equipment worth THOUSANDS that I thought I lost after having to switch AIRPORTS. And YOU have the nerve to say "JUST" for this bag?! If she only knew. Boy, did I cry. Pretty much hyperventilated because every bit of stress and anxiety I was holding back just crumbled down at that moment.
Phew. Those tears clearly needed their debut. So, the shuttle comes, my puffy eyes and carry-on bag get on in silence, willing that plane to still be there. I text Jose that I have my bag but I might not be home. He has been so good to me throughout this ordeal texting me words of comfort and reassurance. As soon as the shuttle stops, I start running - so uncomfortably with not-made-for-running shoes and heavy bags. I see a man waiting at the edge of my gate and when I see him wave me down, I burst into a faster run of happiness. I'm going home! I'm the last passenger, only making it because of a slight maintenance delay. I get on the plane and sink heavily into my seat, sweating and catching my breath. Let's go home plane.
Jose met me at my gate with flowers. I met him with tired eyes, heavy bags, and 4 cookies from NY. He wrapped me tight, I closed my eyes.. and I smelled home.