A few days ago, Gabi from The Nomadic Family wrote a message in one of the Facebook groups I follow. She mentioned that she was writing about her worst airport experience, and asked if we had anything we could contribute.
While I have had many shitty airport experiences (who hasn’t?), like most people, I have one that stands out from the rest. And it was this that I immediately remembered when I read Gabi’s post. My worst airport experience came to me complete with flashbacks, and that feeling of helplessness you get when you know you have no power in a situation, and you’re going head to head with an unsmiling TSA officer.
When I was 22 I was working as an Au Pair in San Diego. My home town had been experiencing earthquakes for the last year, and I really wanted to see my family, so we decided I would go home that Christmas.
Finally it was time to leave. I had been feeling “off” all day, and was tired and achy, but figured it was stress since (as usual) I had left my packing to the last minute. As my host dad drove me to the airpot I began shivering, and realised that I was coming down with a pretty awful fever.
Once I got to the airport, I was told my flight from San Diego to Los Angeles was cancelled, and they would be putting us on a shuttle to LA. I got in the van, and crossed my fingers that I would make it in time, since the flight is obviously a lot quicker than the drive. Two hours later I arrived at LA airport, and was sweating, and shivering, and dealing with a miserable headache, and a swollen throat.
I made my way to my check-in desk, and it was chaos. My flight to New Zealand was due to leave in an hour, and the line was moving at a snails pace.
I’m not particularly religious, but I was so sick and stressed that I sat on my bag in line and began bargaining with the big guy upstairs, promising all sorts of things, as long as I made my flight. No, I probably shouldn’t have been flying, but it came on so quickly I assumed it was the flu, and I didn’t have travel insurance (just health), so if I missed my flight I was screwed.
Finally I arrived at the desk. By this stage I could see black dots in front of my eyes, and it’s the closest I’ve ever come to hitting the deck. At the same time, I was trying to act like I was fine so they would let me fly. I replied to the woman’s questions with one word answers, handed my passport over, and sat with my head between my legs.
She let me go through, and then (of course) as I was going through security I was chosen for a random search. By this stage my flight was boarding, and the TSA guy who had pulled me aside (probably because I was pale and sweaty and looked dodgy), told me that I would have to wait for a female to search me.
So I’m standing in this clear plastic box, with a line of people waiting to go through security. The female agent has a bunch of women to search before me, and I’m begging this guy to just search me because I’m going to miss my flight.
Of course he refuses, since I’m sure there are rules which meant he couldn’t search me himself (I probably would have been fine with a strip search at this point), and I proceed to burst into tears of frustration, making myself look guilty as hell, and drawing even more stares from the people in line.
The female TSA agent finally gave me a quick search before sending me on my way, and I proceeded to run/stumble my way to the gate.
I don’t know how I made it, but the gates were closing as I arrived. Luckily they waited for me, so I slept the whole flight and went to the doctor as soon as I got home. I had severe tonsillitis.
While I’ve dealt with bitchy ground staff, rude flight attendants (no lost baggage yet, touch wood!), and I’ve run through airports more times than I can count, this goes down as my worst airport experience. And I must say, I feel a lot better now that I’ve got that off my chest.
What’s your worst travel experience? If it beats mine, I’ll give you a cookie.