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Fight for Your Flight

January 21, 2012

I arrived at Wheaton last night, after yet another 24-hour travel adventure. I got a lot of sleep on the trip, but also my share of exercise! My uncomfortably short layover in snowy Chicago supplied  my cardio work out for the day, as well as fulfilled the stress quota for the trip. I only had one hour between the estimated time of landing and boarding. (Although we had previously been 20 minutes late, the plane had made up this time in the air! Thankfully!)We were landing at 2:35 and my next flight boarded at 3:30, leaving the ground at 4:05.  This being my first port of entry into the US, getting everything sorted out could take a lot of time. As the plane touched down, I was already praying hard for a miraculously speedy process. In order not to completely lose it, I decided against looking at a clock or finding out what time it was, I would just have to push hard all the way till I made it onto my next flight. I did not want to miss it!  I was going to have to work hard against my usual travel luck.

The flight attendant on the speaker welcomed us to Chicago and told us it was 2:30 pm. While waiting for the passengers in front of me to file out of the plane, I did some calculations. If I could get through the immigration in twenty minutes, claim baggage/get through customs/re-check baggage in another twenty; the final twenty of the minutes of the hour could be split between getting out of the plane and getting myself rechecked into the airport terminal. And if I still needed more time, I hoped the boarding time would serve as a little buffer.  I power walked with my bulky backpack and large shoulder bag from the plane to the immigration line, leaving behind many excessively calm travelers in no hurry. It was no use trying the moving walkways because they were full of slow pokes that had a lot of time on their hands. I, on the other hand, was trying to speed through. I’ve never had to trek so far to the immigration area! When I finally made it there, my throat dry from shallow breathing in the cold, I was glad I had decided not to throw out that half a bottle of water that I had in my bag, and thankful for the special section they had for visitors with connecting flights! Ordinarily, I could spend at least half an hour just waiting in line! I had a couple people pass me by in line, thanks to this new and annoying system of student having to fill in extra information onto our I-90 cards. Of course my hands were shaking as I hurriedly filled it out. I soon made it through.

At the baggage claim area, I tapped my foot impatiently, as I looked hard for my bags. Where were they?? No matter how fast you get through immigration, if your bags aren’t out yet, you’re still stuck. I tried to coax them out faster onto the conveyor belt and hoped that they would arrive soon. I’d rather they arrive late then be lost somewhere, because processing that takes even more time and after having seen a whole plane-full of luggage go by! A couple more waves of bags arrived, then I finally saw the familiar dark bags with bright pink ribbons and quickly hauled them over to customs. Once through the inspector, all my bags got put through a scanner before I exited into a large hectic room. There, I was approached by one of the airport employees with a huge barcode scanner. He was scanning luggage and letting passengers know what gate and terminal they had to proceed to. He scanned mine, then said something that I ended up having to repeat in my own head, just to sort out his accent – Your gate is C9, Terminal 1. Still distracted by my own busy head (translating the accent, estimating the time and trying to cheer myself forward), I followed the rest of the travelers handing off their bags to the muscle men putting them on more conveyer belts. I tried to stay encouraged by reasoning that if my flight had left already, he would’ve known and would’ve told me. My baggage wouldn’t have anywhere to go! But then again, you never know. For once I was hoping the flight would be delayed!

I let myself look at the blue screens full of flight information. On Time, it told me brightly, next to my flight number to Boston. At least it didn’t say, Now Boarding! So I kept moving. I found myself a little disoriented when I stepped out onto a new lobby, with people walking in all directions, but I soon found the escalators leading to the inter-terminal train stop. The train arrived a couple minutes after I walked onto the platform and two stops later, I arrived at Terminal 1. More walking, more hustling! I then had to go through, guess whaaat, more security checks! I was basically getting re-checked into the airport. I stood still with my hands above my head and elbows bent, in between those airport scanners that show the officers everything. Afterwards, I walked over to the female officer on duty, waiting to get the clear from the officer on the other side of her earpiece. As I tried to wait patiently, I thought to myself, I’msocloseI’msoclose! Aaaand of course, just to keep me on my toes, I got an extra check. The officer had to pat down my back pockets and the front of my shirt. She had me show her the old necklace I had tucked into my shirt, one I got from Kuya Law over a decade ago. Then she took one of those small pieces of paper, wiped the palm of my hand with it a couple of times and put it into a machine to get it checked. They usually do this to my bags, not me! Oh well. Something new every time. Once I was cleared, another officer asked to look into my handbag. Ah, powder! he said, looking at the bottle, then letting me go on my way.

A nearby screen told me that my plane had arrived late. I hoped I wasn’t reading wrong!

You would think that by now, I would maybe, possibly, potentially, perhaps be very close to my boarding gate. Ah, no! Such is life! There is lots of walking, lots of hustling to be done! From Concourse B, I had to make my way to Concourse C. Between these two was a nice looong walkway; long but happily and colorfully lit by neon tubes overhead and glowing walls. Maybe I was imagining them? Anyway, I was glad for the encouraging lights and the many moving walkways that this time that were not full of slow and annoying walkers. I walked up the escalators too, squeezing by some very pleasant people. Walk, walk, walk.

Found some proof online. I wasn’t hallucinating!:

C  17, C 15, C 13….Then, finally, my gate was in sight! AAAHH!!! How thankful I was to see a large crowd of people still gathered around it! Boarding hadn’t even started. I did not reward myself with a seat just yet, but proceeded to the nearby restroom in relief. I wasn’t going to miss my flight! It wasn’t until I joined the rest of the crowd that I allowed myself to ask a nice lady for the time. It was five minutes to four! Whew! That was way too close. Thank God for the delay!

We boarded shortly and I finally let myself have a seat. While we waited for everyone to get on the plane, I watched the snow gather on my window. Even after our plane had closed its cabin doors, we ended up waiting. We waited a long time. The plane had to be sprayed with some chemicals to keep the snow off, ice had to be melted as we pulled out of our gate and onto the runway, and who know what else – I was dozing off already!

The quick and rough sketch I did as I watched the window. The snow kept coming as our plane stood still. Poised on the glass, you could make out the beautiful intricate designs of a few individual snowflakes! This muddy sketch does it absolutely no justice.

 

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