By Emma Gauthier
Long lines, beeping machines, people rushing and yelling around you. Airports have always caused me to feel slightly uneasy and overwhelmed. I am unsure as to what it is specifically, but I’ve never felt fully comfortable with them. I am also not a big fan of being alone in unfamiliar situations, and would much rather have someone with me.
Now I’m not someone who has flown very many times in their life. However the few times I have, I was always accompanied by adults who knew what they were doing.
Second grade, a trip which I barely remember, was my first time flying. Being young and having never flown before, I was nervous. Scared I would get lost from my parents and sister and be stranded alone in the airport. Luckily, this trip went smoothly and I made it safely to and from California.
Seventh grade rolled around and my mom decided we were going to California again. Having aged 5 years since the last time I flew I thought I had gotten over my fear of airports…I was wrong. I still felt anxious as we entered the airport and got corralled through security to our gate.
Eleventh grade, I was going on the school trip to Ecuador. This trip would include more flying than my last two trips combined, and although I didn’t show it, I was nervous. We were flying out of JFK, a much larger airport than I had ever flown out of before. Although we went through as a group of over thirty people, and we were not allowed to go anywhere in a group of less than three, the thought of being left alone and missing the flight still lingered in the back of my mind.
Nothing bad happened to me on these trips. I never got separated from the people I was with, I never missed a flight and everything went smoothly. However, as I previously mentioned, I was always in the company of other people.
That is, until last July. My older sister was out in California staying with my aunt and working. I had barely seen my sister all summer and convinced my parents to let me go out to California to visit her and “look at colleges”. I was, however, flying all by myself. I was seventeen at this point, going into my senior year. It was time to move on from my silly fear of airports, especially if I was considering going to college out there.
July 25th arrived I was all set to fly out to California. I pushed the negative, worrying thoughts out of my mind and focused on being confident that I could handle this and the fact that in about 7 hours I would be on the beach. My first flight ended up being delayed and I started to get nervous about making my connection. After this first flight, I only had a 30-minute layover and had to navigate my way through the Atlanta airport. We finally boarded, and a couple of hours later touched down in Georgia. I got off the plane as soon as possible just in time to hear over the speakers in the airport, “Last call for flight number 3817 to San Diego!” I dashed through the airport frantically looking for my gate and made it in the nick of time. Five hours later I stepped off the plane on the west coast.
The trip flew by and pretty soon it was time to head back to the airport and back home. This time was different though. I felt less worried and more confident in myself than ever before. Besides, after flying out alone I was basically a veteran at this point.
My uncle walked me to security in the San Diego airport, gave me a hug, and we went our separate ways. I was exhausted from the trip and the time difference and was counting the minutes until 12:00 am when I was going to be landing in Albany, or rather when I thought I would be landing.
I get some snacks. find my gate, and settle in to wait for boarding. My phone buzzes and I find a text message from my mom. A picture of my dog on my bed and a message that says, “Tommy can’t wait for you to be home to sleep with you.” I can’t help it but smile. California was great but all I wanted was to be home in my own bed with my dog. “See you soon!” I reply.
My first flight ends and I am back in Atlanta. As soon as the plane touches the ground I pull out my phone to check on my next flight. What was supposed to be about an hour layover was now two.
“What? Delayed an hour? Ugh, I just want to be home,” I think to myself. “Well, I guess I’ll get some dinner and wait it out.”
I get some pasta, text my parents, and set up camp in the area I’d be in for the next two hours.
Time passes and I see my flight has been delayed even more. But not just my flight, just about every flight leaving that night has been delayed due to stormy weather. My flight was now not scheduled to leave until 1:30 am so I wouldn’t land until 3:30 am.
Now, this was a big airport, but there’s only so much you can do, especially that late at night and when you are alone. Pretty much everything closed and there was nothing to do but sit and wait.
I call my mom to tell her my flight has been delayed even more and choke on the words as my eyes well with tears. All my worries and bad feelings about airports were starting to come back, and I wanted nothing more than to be home.
Just about anything would have been better than this.
After I hang up an older couple sitting across from me started talking to me, asking me about my situation and making small talk. As much as it sucked, I wasn’t the only one being affected by this. The women across from me can tell my pain and pull something out of her purse.
“Which one do you want?” she asks.
I glance down to see her offering me candy and it brings a smile to my face.
“I’m okay, thank you though,” I reply quietly.
“It’s my maternal instincts kicking in,” she responds back.
I check my phone again only to find out my flight has been delayed even more than before. I’m not even surprised by it at this point. The airline brings some water and snacks and makes an announcement.
“Sorry for the inconvenience and delays. If you wish to reschedule your flight please go to the front desk.”
As much as I wish I could, that that’s an option for me. Being only 17 I can’t get a hotel room and stay by myself overnight. I have no choice but to sit here and wait.
Shortly after, the friendly couple gets to board their flight. I feel a pang of jealousy as they leave, wishing it was me getting on the plane to reach my destination, not them.
After many hours of waiting, the plane that is supposed to fly me from Atlanta to Albany arrives. I get my hopes up just to be crushed again when I find out we can’t leave because the pilot is at his maximum number of hours and now we have to wait for a new one. Great.
While sitting in the waiting area I overhear a man sit down and start talking to his wife.
“There’s a puppy over there. You have to go see it,”
“A PUPPY!?” I think to myself. “Oh my god, I need to go see it.”
I walk over to where the man came from and there it was, a nine-week-old french bulldog puppy named Rocky. I play with the puppy for about ten minutes, and in this time, everything bad happening seems to fade away. Yes, I’m stuck in the airport, yes I’m tired, but so is everyone else. Plus, now there was a dog I get to play with. The dog makes me instantly feel better and more relaxed about the situation.
A little while later my time finally came. It was time to board the plane. I gather my belongings and get in line. I find my seat, sit down, put my head against the window, and try to get some sleep but am quickly disturbed by a screaming child.
It is now 3:00 am, three hours after I was supposed to be home. I had already been sitting on the plane for 25 minutes without moving, and now I can’t sleep either. Just my luck.
I doze on and off and eventually feel the plane touchdown. Home sweet home. A meer five and a half hours after I was supposed to be home. As we stand to line up to make our way off the plane people start chatting about the unfortunate events.
“Yeah, I have to be at work in an hour and a half. I’m not even going to bother sleeping. I just have to start chugging coffee,” I overhear a man say.
“Wow,” I think to myself, “He has it way worse than me, at least I get to go home and sleep for as long as I want.”
Everyone finally makes their way off the plane and I walk through the airport drained from my long day of travels to my mom waiting for me in the lobby with a smile on her face and her arms open for a hug.
When I was stuck in the airport everything seemed terrible and I was only focused on myself and wanting to be home, however, when put into perspective it really wasn’t the end of the world and many other people in the same situation had it worse than me.
Like my mom for example. To this day, she still claims that after everything that happened that night, she’s the unlucky one and I should feel bad for her because she had to pick me up from the airport at 5:30 am.