I glanced up at the clock as I shoved the last of my clothing into my suitcase – 8:20pm. The anxiety began to set in.
I still had three-and-a-half hours until my flight to New York, but as a self-professed airport nerd, I liked to stand diligently at the check-in counter with my bags until it opens.
I quickly zipped my luggage, hoisted my carry-on over my shoulder, and took the elevator downstairs to the taxi. It was late in Barcelona and the roads were pretty deserted, so we effortlessly glided along the highway, past the city I had come to know and love. Things were going to plan.
We pulled up to the airport, and I felt a sudden wave of relief – yet again, I was early for my flight. I got out of the cab and wheeled my luggage through the revolving doors of the airport. The place was a complete ghost town, and I liked it that way. There was something soothing about the quiet of the airport after spending a week amidst the hustle and bustle of Barcelona. I breathed a sigh of relief, and headed towards the ticket desk.
After breezing through check-in and security, I found myself standing in the terminal with plenty of time to spare, wondering what to do next. I usually love waiting in airports because it gives me time to shop, and stuff my face with all the decadent cakes on display. But because it was late, nothing was open – there were no cakes to stuff my face with. There wasn’t even a Starbucks with a smooth and creamy unicorn Frappuccino to help pass the time – all I could see was a 24-hour McDonald’s that reeked of stale fries.
Instead of stuffing my face with fries in the absence of cake, I got a soda, read my book, and strolled through the terminal, peering at all the planes outside, and dreaming about all the exotic places they might be flying to.
I checked my phone – 10:45pm. Forty-minutes to go.
Even though I was in the terminal, I was still anxious about somehow missing my flight, so I descended the escalator and wandered towards the boarding gates. I reached the bottom and immediately felt confused. The bright yellow signs overhead seemed to point in ten different directions – where was I mean to go?
I considered tracking down an airport employee, but that just seemed like a lot of work. Besides, I had been all over the world and figured I could surely get myself from the airport hallways to my boarding gate.
Or so I thought.
I walked through a long, sterile corridor, and eventually came to a set of austere steel doors. Pushing through, I expected to see all my fellow passengers on the other side, but all I found was a cold and unforgiving baggage claim sign.
I felt a sudden sense of dread. I had left the airport.
I checked my phone – 30-minutes until my flight. Panic tore through me, Godzilla-style. My pulse raced. I couldn’t afford to miss my flight – I had to get back to New York and go to work.
I took a deep breath to calm my nerves and clear my mind – I needed to get on that flight. Fast. Like, speed-of-light fast. Maybe an airport employee could help me get back inside the airport? I scanned the desolate lobby for a help counter of some sort, until I caught site of a woman in an airport uniform.
I almost tackled her.
She looked alarmed.
I hurriedly (and almost unintelligibly) explained my predicament. The words caught in my throat as I filled with fear. My eyes began to well up with tears of terror, as I begged her to let me back into the airport.
She shook her head, and my heart sank. She calmly informed me that it was against security protocol to let me back into the airport. I would have to re-enter the airport and go back through security.
I was devastated. There was no way I could afford another flight, let alone lose my job. So I ran.
Up the stairs, through the vacant halls, and skidded to a halt as I reached the security check point where I almost had my second tackle of the evening, but this time with a rather formidable-looking security guard.
He seemed alarmed.
I ripped off my carry-on, passed it through the scanner, and walked through the metal detector. I tried to catch my breath but waves of dread just kept crashing over me.
I grabbed my bag and sprinted down the corridor as fast as my stumpy legs could carry me, highly doubtful I would make my flight, but trying nonetheless.
I used all my pent-up fear and frustration, and propelled myself down the hall and towards the boarding gate, stopping briefly to make sure I was headed in the right direction.
I ran like Justin Timberlake was waiting at the boarding gate, holding a giant hunk of my favourite red velvet cake.
There was a line of people at the very end of the hallway, and I prayed it was real and not some exhaustion-induced hallucination. Or worse, a line for a completely different flight.
I reached the line and came to a stop, fighting off a wave of nausea – I needed to see if this was my flight. Nothing else mattered.
I scanned the boarding gate for any flight information, and saw the words: New York City.
Those three words have never made me happier in my entire life.
As I joined the line, I realized everyone was tapping their feet, checking their phones, and sighing loudly. They were clearly bored and annoyed.
I checked the time – 11:30pm.
The plane was delayed.
Kelly Duhigg lives in New York where she works as a nanny by day, and travels whenever she gets the chance. She shares her love of the world through her blog, Girl With The Passport, and hopes to inspire others to follow their dream and travel as often as possible.