In general I have had pretty decent airport/travel experiences, which, considering the amount I travel (a bit) is quite remarkable. Sure there have been delayed flights and delayed bags, but overall, I don’t mind the airport or flying, and all the security and hubbub that surrounds those places/activities. In fact, in some ways I love it. I love getting to the airport early, sipping my favorite soda, curled up in a quiet-ish chair reading a book until it’s time to board (and then, to be honest, continue to read my book until it’s time to get off the plane again). Last week’s trip was, well, considerably less delightful
This was a week+ business trip and I didn’t want to leave my car at the airport that long. So, Uber to the rescue, right? Um, no. I apparently live in the type of suburban location where mid-day Uber drivers are nonexistent. This was the first of my problems, which can truly only be recounted rapid-fire fashion, with noted anxieties.
There were zero Uber drivers within 30 minutes of my house, I waited a little while longer, submitted another request. That drive was 25 minutes away and I needed to be on the way to the airport before that. But, I figured it’d probably be okay though, right? Wrong. So very, very wrong.
When my driver was about 15 minutes away I checked the type of vehicle he had and it was…well, it sounded pretty small. I texted the driver to double-check that my big checked suitcase, plus my carry on, plus a laptop bag, plus me would all fit in his car. The next few minutes were completely convoluted talk-to-text Autocucumber-bumbled responses of him saying “no, they won’t fit” and “are you seriously going to the airport?” and “no, I can’t take you to the airport, Uber rules…and your bags won’t fit anyway.” Uber cancelled.
Cue: FREAKOUT #1
At this point my flight left in 75 minutes and I still had to drive to the airport (25 mins), find parking, take the train thing to the terminal, check my large bag (10 days, hiking plans, plus two laptops = no, I cannot survive on just a carry on), get through security, and make my way to the gate.
Whelp, I’m screwed.
I threw my bags in my car and sped off, thankful it was the middle of a weekday and not rush hour traffic. I figured Blue Eyes could sort out a way to rescue my car from $18/day parking prison.
I knew I was cutting it close, but as I got off the freeway the cars slowed way down and then stopped.
What!? NO!!! And WHY!?
Oh. There is a TOW TRUCK! ON FIRE. And the car on top of the tow truck was ALSO ON FIRE! WHY IS THE TOW TRUCK ON FIRE?!?!
I managed to crawl past the rubbernecking cars-on-fire situation and zipped over to the only parking lot I am familiar with at Sky Harbor International.
Only to find that giant parking lot was full. FULL!?! Yes, full. I drove around for a few minutes, praying for an empty spot, nothing.
At the far end of this enormously long parking lot is a structure for more expensive covered parking. I turned up the ramp desperately hoping for an empty space.
The first five levels were full. My heartrate was climbing, rapidly, but I finally found a spot near the top, dashed to the elevator dragging my heavy bags, knowing I’d be lucky to make my flight.
I saw an “early bird bag check” spot and decided to try it, missing the next train but knowing it would save me time in the long run.
Oh, except they don’t check Southwest bags at that location.
I ran back to the train, got off at the terminal and hoped for a short line to check my bags. And then I was met with absolute chaos.
APPARENTLY the TSA system that the airport uses to screen bags that are being checked was down completely. So, no bags were being loaded onto the conveyor belt to take them to airplanes, no bags were being checked, they were being left in holding areas and trucked BACK OUT TO THE PARKING LOT to wait for the TSA system to get back online.
The line to check a bag was about a mile and a half long. For every. single. airline. No flights were delayed, but no bags were getting through.
FREAKOUTS #27 & 28
Frazzled airline reps were telling us to squish everything into our carry on luggage and take larger suitcases back to the car.
Um, no. I cannot do that.
My flight leaves in 40 minutes (#32) and I CANNOT SQUISH 10 DAYS OF WORK CLOTHES + HIKING GEAR + BLACK TIE EVENT OUTFIT (#33) + MULTIPLE LAPTOPS AND NECESSARY TECHNOLOGY THINGS INTO A CARRY ON!!! (#34-38)
I FINALLY got up to the agent, decided to chance it with my checked bag knowing I had at least a change of clothes and most of my toiletries in my carry on, and then I ran like HELL to the security check.
At this point my flight was scheduled to depart in 15 minutes.
I sprinted to security, thanked ALL THE DIETIES that there were only a half-dozen people in line ahead of me (HOW? HOW IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE?!), I hopped from one foot to the other trying to calm my jitters and, somehow, magically, make the line go faster.
As soon as everything came through their scanner thing I grabbed it all and ran, barefoot (FREAKOUTS #44-49, EWW! GROSS!), to the gate, arriving as the flight attendant was all “final call for Harriet…final call, be here in 30 seconds or you’ll miss your flight” and closing the door.
Ya’ll, I was a sweaty, red-faced mess at that point, I’d lost my belt, my shoes were in my laptop bag, computers under my arm, bag of liquids in my teeth, but I was THRILLED to be on that plane. A plane that sat on the tarmac without air conditioning for another 20 minutes (#72-75) before finally taking off. I’m telling you, this was a ROUGH couple of hours.
It wasn’t until I landed (without my larger “checked” suitcase, #78) that I understood the enormity of the TSA clustercuss situation. Thousands and thousands of bags were still sitting in the parking lots of the Phoenix airport, no way for them to be scanned for explosives and firearms and questionable fashion choices and then sent along to their destination. Some were being checked by hand and inspected by bomb sniffing dogs, but most just sat there for 12 or 15 hours. Hell, if I’d known that I would have stopped at that parking lot FIRST and dropped my suitcase there before I tried to find parking! I’d have eliminated, like, 38 different freak out moments from one afternoon!
At some point in the middle of the night someone made the decision to load all those suitcases onto semi trucks and ship them to Tucson, San Diego, and Las Vegas to be scanned and then packed onto planes to their final destination.
Airport. Disaster. Uuugh.
Oh. The best part? Blue Eyes managed to take an Uber to the airport later that night to pick up my car. There is no “Arizona rule” about Uber cars/drivers and the airport.
I quit. I’m never flying again.