I'm usually a well-prepared, punctual traveler. Remember that Portuguese national pool player that called me MacGuyver on the plane to Vegas? I bring my own blanket and a sweater in case the plane is cold, I've got an eye mask, earplug & travel pillow set, I always have emergency snacks and there's no shortage of books/magazines to entertain me and new podcasts to enrich my mind en route. I have pre-printed checklists of packing necessities for various trips… Caribbean, home, Hawaii, scuba, etc. and I always carry a folder of pertinent information, including flight and destination itineraries, confirmation numbers and emergency contact information. I even have different headphone adapters for different airlines! In all my travels, I've never missed a flight.
That's why it's odd, dear readers, that Rae and I almost didn't make it to St. Thomas.
We woke up at 5 a.m. to hop on the E train to JFK. After lugging our one suitcase (packed with sundresses we could both wear, to save space!) two avenues to the train, we waited on the platform for a little longer than I would have liked. Then the train crawled at a snail's pace past some construction spots. Then it changed to only local stops in Queens. I nervously checked the time on my phone as it ticked closer to the 45-minute-prior-to-departure check-in rule. Once the E train arrived, we had to buy $5 metro cards to ride the AirTrain over to the airport. Then the AirTrain was slow as molasses. When we arrived at Terminal 6, we hurried through the boarding area, ran down the people-mover, waited impatiently for the elevator, ran across the street, around the corner and up a steep hill - all the while lugging the big suitcase and two carry-ons.
When I saw the utter confusion and Disney World-sized lines inside the check-in area, I said to Rae, "There's no way we're making this flight."
But optimism prevailed and we ran to the nearest Delta agent to breathlessly ask where we could go to check-in quickly. We had just five minutes to go before we were denied boarding.
"Hi, is this the line to check-in?" I said.
"Ma'am, what is it you want to do?" said Ticket Agent.
"I would like to check in for my flight, it's departing very soon and we must check in right now," I said patiently, but out of breath from our sprint up the hill.
"Ma'am, if you would just calm down, I might be able to help you. What is it you want to do?" Four minutes to go.
"I want to check in for my flight that is leaving soon. Is this the line to do that?" I asked, bewildered at the "calm down" comment.
"Ma'am, if you don't calm down, I can't help you. What is it you want to do?" Is that condescension I detect?
"I want to fly on a plane. I also want my bag and my sister to fly on that plane. Is this where I check in?"
"Ma'am, I'm going to have to ask you to calm down or I really can't help you." Three minutes to go.
If I'd had time to show her what "calm down" was all about, I might have considered it, but we were down to less than three minutes, so with the most forceful eye-roll I could muster, I turned and ran over to a kiosk and started pushing buttons on the screen. Naturally, it was broken. I recruited another ticket agent to help, though I was wary of my last experience…
"What time is your flight, ma'am?" She said.
"Well you need to check in right now or you're not going to make it." So smug.
"You think so? Good thing I'm here at this check-in kiosk, checking in!" Two minutes.
She grabbed our suitcase as soon as the boarding passes printed out and ran us to the front of the ridiculously long and chaotic line. With one minute to go, the baggage guy behind the counter observed, "Wow, you almost missed the cutoff." No kidding!