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Couldna done it without Toya

BWI to Houston airport.

Houston to San Jose, Costa — screeech! 

Mid-air and quite near the main Costa Rican airport, they turned our flight back to Houston. Something about fog. Yeah, lots and lots of fog. I wasn’t particularly bothered. I mean, what can you do? (And, really, would I prefer they attempt an unsafe landing? No.)

So back to Houston we flew with our flight rebooked for 6:30 a.m. the next day. Oy, a super-early morning that would be.

I hoofed it to one of the nearby hotels — determined to get there as quickly as possible, check in, shower and set everything out for the next morning, so I’d need as little time as possible to get to the airport. I had spoken earlier with an airline employee who’d said one and a half hours would be more than sufficient to get in and boarded. I gave myself a bit of wiggle room, and after showering and getting everything ready for the morning, I set my alarm and went to bed.

Woke up, got all my gear in order, headed to the hotel lobby for a shuttle, sat down and that’s when I read a text which had come in the night prior, saying our flight had been rescheduled to 8:15 a.m.

Well, darn, thought I. I could’ve gotten a bit more sleep.

As the hotel lobby was relatively quiet and the lighting was gentle and more homey than I’d find in the airport, I set my alarm for when I’d need to get on the shuttle and settled in to read for a bit.

now boarding

I read leisurely for 15 minutes or so, staying tuned into the time, when all of a sudden I got a text from SWA saying, in essence, “Now boarding.”

Now boarding! I was sitting in the hotel lobby! For an international flight!

I grabbed by bags, walked 20 feet to the shuttle (thankfully it was about to leave), got on and tried to calm my heart rate. Got off the shuttle and into the SWA checkin, discovering that you can’t self-check for an international flight, and that’s when I saw the line for international flight check-in. It was long, as in a good 30 or so people were already in it. There was no way I was going to make my flight.

paging jessie newburn

That’s also right when I heard “Paging Jessie Newburn for flight blah blah blah.”

I scanned the nearby area and didn’t see any SWA staff except those behind counters, then one came into view. She was talking to another employee. I went up to her and asked for help. She turned to me, understandably annoyed, and said, “Excuse me. Can you wait a minute?”

I apologized and told her I was panicking; they’d just paged me for my flight, while stumbling and trying to explain I was on the Costa Rican flight which had been turned around the previous night and that I’d only received a text saying my flight had been pushed back to 8:15 a.m. and that when I’d gone, in app, to the flight status screen for my flight, the page had been blank. And, and, and. No text notification saying my flight had been rebooked to the original time. No in-app info.

She was on it. In an instant, she became a Miracle Worker. She opened up a check-in desk just for me, paged the right crew members, got my bags moving in the right direction, checked me in for my flight and then looked at me and said, “Your bags will make the flight. Hurry.” So I did.

I ran to the TSA check-in. I cut under stanchion lines. I ran past families with small children saying “Excuse me … so sorry … my flight is boarding.” I cut to the front of the line for the TSA / passport check, saying to the people there, “Please, if none of you are in a hurry, I just got paged” … or something along those lines. They shrugged and let me go ahead of them.

I got to the luggage-scan area and repeated the same thing. “So sorry. They changed my flight departure time. Didn’t get an updated text.” Etc. They let me cut through–some more graciously so than others.

Scanned and approved, I grabbed my bags and my shoes (no time to dally while everyone was getting their own shoes back on) and ran until I found a bench beyond the putting-shoes-back-on area. I forced my feet into my laced tennis shoes (Vivo Barefoot. Love ’em!) Then ran, and ran. And ran. (Well, it was more like a bag-ladened jog, but I was hooving it best I could.)

My gate was Gate 1 among five in Hobby International’s Central / Latin American flights section. I hoped-hoped-hoped Gate 1 was the first, not the last, gate in the terminal. It was. It was empty, save a final SWA staff member checking people in.

“I’m Jessie Newburn,” I told her. She checked me in, I walked onto the plane and they shut the door.

From arriving at the airport at 6:09 a.m., I actually made a 6:30 a.m. flight. Toya, Toya, Toya made this possible. And all the people who let me cut past them. Gracias, one and all!

heading home

Four AirBnBs and hotel stays later, I headed home. My final night was in a hotel near the airport. A small little place. Cute. Nice staff. (All of Costa Rica had really nice staff wherever we stayed and went.) Breakfast and a scheduled ride to the airport were included. Cool! One hitch, because of their breakfast time and this and that, they could only take me to the airport at 6:30 a.m. for an 8:55 a.m. flight.

No problem, they told me. It’s only a few miles to the airport.

So, again, I got everything ready for a quick morning, set my alarm for around 4:30 and went to bed. When I woke, I had this feeling I shouldn’t wait for the free shuttle (or the promise of some fresh fruit for breakfast … and they do have very fresh and very tropical fruit in Costa Rica … duh).

I asked again how long it took to get to the airport and in quick order came to understand the difference between leaving now (around 6 a.m.) and 6:30 (when they could take me) could add quite a few minutes to the trip, as rush-hour traffic thickened as the sun rose higher.

Knowing that in the DMV area there are windows of time wherein if you’re on the road by X time, you’re good, but if you’re not headed to your destination by then, your travel time can increase significantly, I called an Uber, paid 2.5 times the regular rate and got to the airport in time to wander around, have a reasonable breakfast and stroll leisurely to my gate.

While the allure of fresh fruit to start my day and a free (included) ride to the airport did have its appeal, meandering along the way to my departure gate — versus hoofing it in a panic with a racing heart as I’d done on my way to Costa Rica — was undeniably a more pleasant choice for me.


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