travel

The final haul, a travel story with plot twists

The alarm started buzzing at 2:30 a.m., just I was diving into the big sleep. The traveling home phase of vacation was about to begin. This was not the energized, adrenaline fueled leg of our trip that began in the wee morning hours of March 29th. The days of sightseeing, jungle walks, horseback riding, hiking and ziplining caught up with my body and I was achy, tired, sore. It was time to go home and the thought of my own bed at the days end was all that prompted me along.

We arrived at the airport at 3:45 a.m., collected our luggage and made our way to check-in and patiently waited for the airline to open. Thirty minutes later the line began to move as travelers were being checked in. This part was fairly painless and we were soon off to the gate to wait for boarding. Nerves were frayed. A lack of sleep was catching up. My family nearly imploded as we sat in stony silence after a meltdown that left me with tears streaming down my face. Why did I think we’d make it home without a big to do? Why did I put makeup on at 3:00 in the morning? I could feel my eyeliner and mascara pooling under my eyes.

By the time we boarded, over an hour later, we had declared a shaky truce and were looking forward to a bit of sleep while the plane made it’s way to Miami. But this is where an uneventful travel day took a turn. A turn for the worse.

As we were making our way to customs at the Miami Airport, Jim paused to wonder where the passports were. We needed them as we boarded the flight in Costa Rica, everyone holding their own, and I vaguely remembered putting them in the top part of one of the backpacks. I only came up with two, mine and Jim’s. Where was Liam’s? We tore through all our carry on’s but came up empty. No one remembered if Liam gave his to us after we boarded. Liam and I hiked back to the gate but they wouldn’t let us on the plane and an attendant called into the plane to see if anyone could locate the passport. It was just after noon and the next flight was going at 1:10 (this was the only time noted on the boarding pass).

Panic began to set in. We were about to come loose again, the clean slate declared after the early morning meltdown was in danger of busting wide open. I texted Jim they were unable to locate the passport and we’d have to formulate a plan B. A security attendant gave us instructions to go to an information desk and just as he was about to take us through, Jim received a call that the passport was located. But he had to return to the gate through many corridors to retrieve it, Liam on his heels. I waited in the customs line as I watched the minutes tick away.

With 30 minutes until the next flight, Jim and Liam finally came into view but I was nowhere near the front of the line where we had to enter our information into a bank of computers to pass through customs. I was frantically texting the friends we traveled with not to let the plane leave without us. When the three of us were together again, I asked another attendant to help us but she said she’d have to find someone in an orange vest. Several minutes passed before she pulled us from the line and sent us to a customs agent line that was five deep, all foreigners who needed fingrprints and photos. The time ticked away and the line moved s-l-o-w-l-y. It was 20 minutes until takeoff.

By the time we made it through customs, there were about 15 minutes until we were to depart. I texted our friends we were almost there, relieved we would make the connecting flight. We sprinted to baggage claim, collected our bags and dropped them in the area to be loaded onto the next flight. We rounded the corner to another long line – security again! We have TSA clearance but I couldn’t find a line that would express us through to the gates. I flagged another security attendant where I exlpained our flight was leaving in 12 minutes. She let us jump ahead to the document checker but from there we were giving no further assistance. I looked on as they brought through a group of disabled passengers to express through our line. Tears were just below the surface. I pleaed with another attendant to help us but he remained stony faced and said we’d have to wait. The tears bubbled up as a traveler ahead of us said we could go ahead.

A few minutes later, our bags were on the conveyer to be x-rayed, and we watched as they monitored the bags going through thinking we’d be making the final dash to the gate soon. They stopped at one of our bags for several seconds as they eyed a cluster of balls they found suspicious and pulled the bag aside. The magnetic balls we’d purchased for Liam at a gift shop the day before. My heart sank. We were so close but the clock had now arrived at 1:10. Not knowing what else to do, I sent Jim and Liam ahead while I remained with the bag. A fleeting thought came to just abandon the bag but I figured that would only lead to more trouble and it contained all of our souvenirs and the Costa Rican coffee we’d brought home with us. The bag was examined and I started running to the gate. Our gate was number 5 and I was at 25. The gate was a half mile away but I couldn’t keep up the pace and started walking as briskly as my tired body could go. I had already contemplated having to find a new flight home. This would be an added complication because our group of six had a car service meeting us at JFK to take us on the final 150 miles home. I passed gate after gate, looking for a security cart to whisk me to the end but the few that I saw along the cooridor were abandoned, no personnel in sight. As I closed in on gate 5, I pictured the gate area empty, doors closed, plane pushing away from the gate. I blinked to see Jim and Liam in line to board. The plane was not anywhere near it’s final boarding pass. Relief washed over me as I let my overheated body finally relax. We made it with time to spare. Our flight was at 1:40.

MC

Daily prompt: haul

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