Good morning, friends. It’s almost 8:30am here in New York as I begin this post, and I’m currently sitting on the floor of JFK airport, waiting in line for the Sun Country airlines kiosk desk to open. I am completely overwhelmed with exhaustion… my nervous system is still coming down from what may have been the most intense hour of my LIFE.
See, friends, I just missed my 7:00am flight home from New York.
It was past 1:00am by the time I got home last night, after running a series of errands around the city. I’ll get into the details of that later. I took a shower, packed my things, said goodbye to my cousin and planned on leaving the house at 4:30am, to give myself enough time to comfortably make my early flight.
By the time I was ready and dressed, it was 4:00am, and I had 30 minutes to kill. I was absolutely exhausted from the previous day’s events– I had not slept for nearly 24 hours. I decided that it’d be completely safe to take a 30 minute power nap. I distinctly remember telling myself, before falling asleep on the oversized couch, to NOT oversleep, under any circumstances.
Well, obviously things did not go as planned. Silly me forgot to turn my phone off of “silent” mode, so I totally didn’t hear my alarm go off! I woke up at 6:20am to bright sunlight seeping through the window. My first thought was, “What the f*** did I just do?!” My eyes shifted to the time on the TV digital clock, and my heart dropped. I was not going to make my flight.
Yet, being the stubbornly resolute person I am, I decided to make a mad dash for the airport, just in case the flight happened to be delayed. Also, I didn’t have much experience to draw from in terms of missing flights, and a part of me really believed that I could make it to JFK, pass security and securely arrive at the gate in a half-hour’s time. Who knows? Maybe the airline would be nice enough to wait for me! Had I known what I know now– namely, that it’s impossible to make a flight within a thirty minute time frame– I would have just stayed at the apartment, called the airline to book me for the next available flight, and saved myself a lot of stress.
So for the next hour, my mind was racing on turbo-speed, adrenaline was pumping fast and the fight was ON.
For the first time in my relatively smooth-sail New York trip, Murphy’s Law reared its ugly head, for everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong. I hailed an Uber from the apartment to JFK, but could not find the car for the life of me! I was probably too nervous to be aware of my surroundings. I worried that the Uber guy would cancel on me, but he kindly found out where I was and rushed me to the airport. On the car ride there, I called the airline, informing them of my situation, and asking if they could possibly transfer me to another flight later that day. The lady told me that the next available flight was not until the following day, at 11:35am. Disheartened, I told her to book that flight for me, as I was nearly certain that I’d miss my 7:00am flight.
I arrived at the airport at 6:48am. By then, it was already flooded with people. Suitcase and duffel bag in hand and backpack on back, I pushed and shoved and maneuvered my way through the crowd like I had never before. I was a girl possessed. Politeness and pleasantries went out the window. I focused on nothing but the goal– get to the gate as quickly as possible. Nothing else existed but the impending doom of missing my flight.
I looked on the big screen and couldn’t find my flight number there, so I asked an airport employee where I should go for security, and she directed me to the “All Gates” line, which was growing longer by the second. I ran to the line, but when it came time to present my boarding pass to the man guarding the entrance of the line, I was not ready. He told me to stand on the side, and I fumbled and cursed at my phone to hurry and load my darn boarding pass, which was on my email. By then, it was 7am. I asked him if he thought I could make the flight, and he said he did. My panic was temporarily ameliorated. I asked two other airport employees the same question while waiting in the torturous line. The first one told me I could make it; the second one replied with, “It’s 7:00am right now.” Nuff’ said. Either way, when I reached the security checkpoint, I peeled off my backpack and hurriedly placed my laptop and phone in a big gray bin. There was a stupid rule requiring all bags to be placed in a bin, so I had to wait for two more bins to place my luggage and duffel bag in. Like, why waste bins on a freaking carry-on luggage? No one was removing their shoes, so I followed in suit. When I crossed the detector, I was beeped. Security told me to take off my shoes. I threw my black boots in a bin. Scurried back to the metal detector thing. I was told to remove my black circle scarf. Ugh. Ran back to the conveyer belt and threw my scarf in with the shoes. At that point, I was in full-on panic mode. Every. Second. Counted. I consolidated my things as fast as lightening and ran to the big screen to find out which gate I was at. Still, I couldn’t find my flight! It was 7:28am by then. I asked a lady where to go, and she told me, either gate A2, A3, A4 or A5. I headed in that general direction. Still couldn’t find any gate; asked another person at a random front desk. He told me that Sun Country was at A3. Ran to A3. Was greeted with an empty gate and no airplane. My heart fell. I was ready to cry, at that point.
I collapsed on a seat, feeling utterly miserable and defeated. My first call went to my mom. She picked up the phone, and I greeted her with a very teary, “Hi Mom.” In between sobs, I told her I had missed my flight. I was terrified that she and my father would be furious at me. I guess she figured I was upset enough for the two of them, and she gently told me to calm down. I couldn’t calm down. I was hysterical. This was the first time in my life that I had missed a flight! I was kicking myself inside– why the heck did I oversleep? I shouldn’t have even gone to bed! I should have gone straight to the airport and slept at the gate. Why wasn’t I thinking?
My mom told me to check other flights headed to San Francisco that day. Didn’t have to be from Sun Country. I checked the dashboard and saw a 9:30am flight to San Francisco, via Virgin America. I headed to the A2 desk and asked the lady if I could be placed on stand-by for the 9:30am flight. The lady replied with a very sassy, “No.” I asked her, “Why not?” She told me that I had to first purchase the ticket before being able to be placed on stand-by. Duh. I responded with an equally sassy, “Yeah, that’s what I wanted to do.” She replied, “No, you wanted to go on stand-by, which is different.” Whatever. I just wanted the ticket, okay? She told me that the 9:30am flight was around $700 and had a layover to Las Vegas. There was also an 11:45am flight that went directly to San Francisco and cost around $400. I pulled out my debit card and decided to buy the latter ticket. I wasn’t even thinking about money at that point. I’d pay back whatever I spent. I just wanted to get home.
Unfortunately, my bank has this really annoying rule for debit cards where you cannot perform an online transaction of over $500 per day. It’s a pre-set limit that only the “signer” of the account– aka, my Dad– could change. I had gone through the same hassle the previous day when trying to pay for my new Latin dance dress, so I knew what trouble it would be to deal with the debit card. I called my mom again and told her that I’d just stay at my cousin’s place another night and take tomorrow’s flight home. I didn’t want to spend another $400 on a plane ticket, anyway. I began to cry again. I don’t think I’d ever been that panicked in my life as I had while rushing to catch the flight. I had to hold it together when traveling by myself, but once I talked to my parents, I felt safe to act like a child once more. Ahh, parents… You can’t live with ‘em, but you can’t live without ‘em.
My dad gave me some reassuring advice. He told me that missing a flight was not the end of the world. In the moment, though, I felt that every ounce of my well-being depended on me making the flight. My dad reasoned that the situation could have been ten times worse. I could have been like my brother Chris, whose flight got canceled on the eve of a big piano performance across the country. Or, also like Chris, who missed his flight home from music camp, the very day before our whole family would fly out to China for vacation. In all of those cases, Chris was probably anxious, but I don’t think he had a full-on mental breakdown like I did. He’s always been a calm, level-headed person, and I wish I could have more of that endearing quality. I definitely blew my crisis out of proportion… but still, it’s not a good feeling to miss your flight, by fault of no one but your own.
I am so lucky that I had my cousin’s apartment to go back to for the night. I didn’t need to be anywhere important the following day. Life was beautiful. The whole debacle was really a learning experience that held minimal consequences.
From my experience of missing a flight, I’ve learned the following lessons:
- If you do end up missing your flight, remember: It happens to the best of us, and it is not end of world. In life, shi* happens, but things have a way of working themselves out in the end. Sure, you may have to spend a ridiculous amount of money on extra airfare/hotel stays and change some plans around, but at the end of the day, life will go on. You’ll soon find yourself looking back upon the experience as just that– an experience you learn and grow from. Hopefully, once it happens, you’ll know better the next time around to exercise better planning and judgement– i.e. not booking early-bird flights if you know you aren’t a morning person, or setting several morning alarms the night before your flight and triple-checking that your alarms will indeed go off.
- If you oversleep the day of your flight, don’t try to make a mad dash for the airport, unless there’s actually a reasonable chance of you making the flight. I’d say, any timeframe less than one hour is not worth the battle. Just call the airline and have them book you for the next available flight.
- Keep checking your flight status. If there is, by good fortune, a flight delay, then it may be worth the attempt to head to the airport. In my case, I could only check the flight status online, and my phone data was being unreliable… so I had only to hope that my flight was delayed. Hopefully, you won’t find yourself in that situation.
- Don’t purchase flights from cheap, obscure airlines. If I had missed a Delta or United flight, I likely would have been placed on a same-day flight to San Francisco and arrived home by the end of today. With Sun Country, the only next available flight to San Francisco was over 24 hours later. At the end of the day, if you can afford it, it’s probably worth the extra forty or fifty bucks to fly with a reputable airline, rather than just choosing the cheapest flight possible.
So, friends, that was what happened today. The only good that came of my blunder was that I got to spend one more day in my favorite city in the world! While I spent most of my day sleeping and relaxing, I enjoyed playing with my baby niece, Isabella, and bonding with Kimmy, Isabella’s nanny. It’s 9:47pm here in New York as I finish typing this post. I’m headed to bed soon, and fear not– I’ve set five alarms for 6:00am and made sure my phone was not on silent. Here’s hoping I’ve learned my lesson, and that there will be no repeat of the harrowing tale of today.
Also, stay tuned for many posts on my New York trip! Twas’ a transformative and life-changing weeklong adventure, to say the least!