NYC Travel Day: "We were ready. Mother Nature said no."

Let me tell you a story about my travel to nyc. It starts with a suspicious chocolate box and ends with landing at LaGuardia! Or so I hope, since I’m writing this on the flight there.

Yes, lots has happened since I arrived at O’Hare. The pilot even said, verbatim, “Sorry for the delays. We were ready; Mother Nature said no.”

I zipped through transportation to the airport and straight to the security line as I’d pre-printed my boarding pass ahead of time and didn’t have bags to check.

Then I arrived at the security line and oh my lord I can’t remember the last time security has been this insane. It seems that there’s one line that winds around no less than 10 rows of ropes. Ten rows! I was going to compare this security line to the insanity that is going through customs lines at O’Hare, but that has been fixed recently with the addition of computer stations. Only this time, it’s much more helpful than the stations where you check in for your flight. Perhaps it’s the staff? Any excitement you may have to be traveling to some magical destination is completely drained by the blasé attitudes of the first airline staff with whom you interact upon arrival to the airport.

So there I am in this massively long line for security, and I have one hour until my flight boards. "Less time in the United club," I frustratingly admit to myself. But then, a text from our lord and savior aka United’s free text updates lets me know that BOOM my flight is delayed 30 minutes! I couldn’t be more excited for this. More catching up on TV shows on free wifi!

Let me digress for a moment to describe a traveler that I always seem to see at the airport, and whom I never ever want to be in line behind during security: It is a white girl, usually traveling with other white girls, and they are all wearing pajamas or some sort of outfit and hair styling combo that screams “hey I just woke up and I am SCRAMBLING to get to my flight on time.” Just add a pair of slippers and they could be heading to a sleepover. They carry many bags, none of which are large enough to hold the contents of each (hence, more bags). Why do girls do this? Why not just get one large piece of luggage? Are you afraid to just purchase one wheely suitcase that is the maximum allotted size for carry on? Carrying three tote bags plus a purse seems not only inconvenient but painful. Your poor shoulders! And, they always seem to be carrying a neck pillow and a blanket, both of which also don’t fit in their bags.

Luckily, two prime examples of this traveler were behind me in line, so they didn’t affect my travel time. They did use the entire time of waiting in line for security to seemingly re-arrange all the contents of their bags into less (or was it more?) tote bags, all while kicking their belongings across the tile floor as the line progressed every 45 seconds.

Surprisingly, going through security only took 30 minutes, which seems like a short period given the initially intimidating lines. Ugh, but then some frustration set in as I witnessed my bag get siphoned off into the “additional security check” conveyor belt lane after going through the x-ray.

The offending item? It ended up being a plastic-sealed box of chocolates, which I packed as a thank-you gift to Calvin for letting me crash at his place. Not sure how or why it got flagged, but the security guard, with complete disinterest in the task at hand, swiped some fancy explosive-testing paper on the box, ran it through a machine, then swiped the inside of my bag and ran it through the machine. These chocolates may destroy your thighs, but not an aircraft full of people. Everyone, including airport security, will sleep well tonight.

After spending over an hour in the United club catching up on Orphan Black while eating some free cream of chicken and corn soup, I decide that it’s time to get to my gate. The flight was delayed 45 mins and was now departing at 9pm. At this point it’s 8:30 so I rush to the gate. I could have left earlier, but then how would I know why MK was planning to kill the British guy on this week’s episode of Orphan Black? Those last few minutes are crucial.

I arrive at the gate and no one is there, as in, I am one of the last five people to board the plane. At least I wasn’t the last? I also mysteriously scored an entire row to myself on a full flight.

We start rolling away from the gate, but then some dude calls over a flight attendant, and after chatting briefly, he grabs his bag and goes to the front of the plane to chat with another flight attendant. We roll back to the gate. He was ill, and he wanted off. Last time this happened to me on an international flight, the flight attendants were required to check all the overhead compartments to be sure he didn’t leave any suspicious packages behind. In this case, meh, we were running late so I guess they didn’t care enough to check?

We start rolling away from the gate again. While on the tarmac, the pilot alerts us that there’s some issue with air traffic control and we’re going to sit on the tarmac for possibly the next 30 minutes. I’m in a completely fine mood, even laughing to myself about the whole thing, as the guy behind me complains loudly to no one in particular. “Ugh now I’m going to be late. Ugh, I can’t believe this!” The pilot informs us that in 45 minutes, he will let us know if we need to all de-plane. But then, miraculously, ten minutes later, the pilot informs us that once everyone is seated, we can depart! The coup d’etat in row 29 has been cancelled. I think they were making banners back there and everything.

The flight attendant then gets on the mic and reiterates what the pilot said, requesting that everyone be seated. Also, she says, they’re checking out the condition of that passenger who left the aircraft. I wonder to myself “ooh, something suspicious!” but no, she clarifies, in the way that he might re-board the flight if he’s feeling better. Can they do that? Also, she continues, if anyone wants off the flight, they can do so now, while we’re close to the gate. Despite her own announcement and the pilot’s, she leaves the question up to us: Will we be on the tarmac again for an indeterminable amount of time, or will we depart shortly? Our guess is as good as hers, so choose wisely! The protesters in row 29 decide among themselves whether or not to bust out the pitchforks.

No one decides to exit the plane, and the guy doesn’t return. Is this a domestic flight or an amusement park ride? I didn’t realize this was going to be so casual. Casual enough for pajamas?

Ten minutes later, as the pilot promised, we depart. The plane leaves at 9:45pm, 1.5 hours after its original departure time, but whatever, we’re on a massive metal bird 25,000 feet in the air, moving at 500mph to get to New York city, a place I’ve never been to before! All is good in the world.

And someone in 26B has been playing brassy Cuban music without headphones for the last twenty minutes! Cha cha cha.

There are some lessons to be learned by this experience. A travel tip: only worry about your timing when you are able to do something about that timing. Worry about getting on the train to the airport, because you can walk faster.
Don’t worry about that train once you’re on it, though. It won’t go any faster, no matter how much you wish it.
Don’t worry about your flight getting delayed. You don’t want to crash because the pilot decided to fly through a storm or decided filling up on fuel was less important than departing on time.
Don’t worry about getting to your destination any sooner once you’re on the aircraft and on the tarmac. Do you think these flight attendants want to stand around on a stationary aircraft? They have places to be, too. They and the pilots are trying their best.

And don’t worry about that Cuban brass music. If anything it’s making the whole experience more dance-y.