Maybe I couldn’t have foreseen I’d be trapped for seventeen hours of airport purgatory, but in hindsight the first step toward me trembling pitifully at the United flight desk was when I first Googled what to do in Northampton during my trip and then Google, confused, suggested I use a different search term.
Thursday, I’d come to Northampton, MA for the Draper Smith College pitch competition. I hadn’t heard of the small town prior to my visit, but I still wanted to hit some highlights before my flight back Saturday afternoon. My opportunity came after I’d checked out of my room and remained in the hotel lobby struggling to pack all the merch I’d accumulated into one small bag.
A fellow competitor was about to walk to Dobra Tea, a well-known tea shop nearby, to study, and I decided to head out with her. It was noon and my flight was 2:55, so I budgeted for a 40-minute Uber around 12:50 to get to the airport an hour and a half beforehand.
Around 12:45, I opened Uber in case ride time lengthened. To my horror, the app now said there were no cars available. I hadn’t even known that was possible. (Truly, I am spoiled by living in a big city.) I refreshed to no avail and called a Lyft. The nearest one was 10 minutes away. I was just thankful.
Until, watching the map, I noticed the car was still driving further and further away from me. I called the driver in a panic, and he assured me he was taking the next exit and would be there in 15 minutes. He was not.
10 minutes later, he still hadn’t turned around, and I called an Uber. When my driver finally arrived, I flew into his car and spluttered that I needed to catch a 2:55 flight. He assured me that I’d be fine. We’d get there 2:05.
We did arrive at 2:05. I checked in and, printing my boarding passes, felt overcome with relief. Mom always used to say planes would wait a bit if you’d already checked in. The kiosk displayed a message asking if I’d consider taking a different flight since this one was “fully booked.” I thought of the man who got dragged off the plane last year and wondered if they’d learned a thing or two about overbooking. I clicked “No, Thanks” like I had the last night when I’d tried (and failed) to check in online.
Around 2:30, I’d finally made it through the long TSA line only for a TSA agent to search my bag.
Agent: Do you have anything in here that’ll hurt me?
Me: *watching her pull out every meticulously packed item from my bag* It’s the stack of flyers. I always get stopped for those.
Agent: Well if you’ve been stopped before, why do you keep bringing them?
I gaped at her. She continued dissecting my bag.
Me: I… had to transport them.
She began individually rifling through the flyers, searching for an exploding bookmark or something. I’d never gone through such a thorough examination before. I suspected she was doing this on purpose but watched helplessly as she dug through the rest of my belongings. By the time she finished, the giant overflow pile was now twice the size of my bag. I dragged everything to the bathroom to repack before finally getting to my gate.
United lady: Is this for the 2:55 flight?
United lady: Yeah, that’s gone.
My jaw actually dropped. I looked at my watch just as it turned 2:55.
Me: It’s 2:55.
United lady: That’s when the flight leaves. Boarding closed.
Oh, no. With others, I’d often gone in later than the boarding time, but I now remembered that in those situations I’d at least been in the area. And in those situations, the flight probably hadn’t been overbooked.
Man nearby: Happened to me, too. I was on that flight.
Me: I was… in the bathroom… I…
In seconds, the temperature had warmed several degrees. I began to tremble. The employees looked on, uncomfortable, as I continued to stand there, shaking and not going away. It’s never happened to me before—the trembling. Kind of like the onset of a small, pathetic Hulk mode.
The employees wrote down “1-800-UNITED” on a sheet of paper so I would leave, probably. I collapsed into some seats on the side. While I was on hold, I looked up what to do after missing your flight. The first article: “Step 1: Don’t miss your flight.”
The customer service lady gave me two options, one being paying $400+ for a flight three hours later to Houston, or the last remaining ticket for 6AM the next morning. I took the latter.
Settling in, I unpacked my bag again and camped out at the charging station to study for my makeup exam 8AM Monday morning. Hour nine found me slowly relinquishing sanity amid luggage wheels spinning on linoleum, relentless pop music, and the looping TSA protocol over the intercom.
Hour ten, as I arranged myself over three seats to sleep, the janitor informed me that the police would kick me out in a few hours. Apparently Bradley International Airport makes you check in through the TSA again. So I packed my things, exited the gate areas, and tried in vain to rest by the ticketing areas.
In my delirium, I added yet another item to my list of reasons why it sucks to be an adult. You’re still just as stupid as you were but now sleepovers are so much less fun.
Hi everyone! I’ve been somewhat MIA lately—I was just telling a friend that this DELUGE of content is probably what I get for skipping weekly posts. I suffer for the people.
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