You thought you had plenty of time, but something went wrong.
Having spent too much time thinking about what to pack, you spent even more time reevaluating at the last minute. You overslept, or you forgot about the time zone change. The bus came late, or the traffic jammed up.
Whatever it was, as you head out the door, you run up against an uncomfortable fact—you’re late. Not fashionably late, not pressed for time, just … LATE. Thus begins the sense of apprehension. “Will I make it? What will happen if I don’t?”
You know if you miss the flight, it will trigger a whole series of undesirable consequences. This flight is connected to another, and to another. Hotel reservations and commitments will fall into disarray. As you think through backup plans and alternative scenarios, you realize the obvious: I really need to make this flight.
As you approach the terminal, you have a series of goals in mind: first, get the boarding pass. Second, find the best way through security. Third, haul your ass to the gate. But you know that the first goal, “get the boarding pass,” is the most important. If you can successfully check in and get the magic paper from the agent or the machine, you’ve won half the battle.
But as you succeed in the first goal and review the magic paper, you encounter a universal law of traveling: whenever you’re late to the airport, the gate for your flight will be the furthest away from your starting point. In fact, the gate will most likely be in a different direction and departing from another concourse. If gates are numbered 1-79, you know you’ll be hoofing it down to the late seventies.
The race continues! No time for rest, traveler. You take the airport train, tapping your feet and biting your fingernails, checking the time every 20 seconds.
By now you may have realized that some race-to-the-airport activities, like getting to the terminal, often take longer than you think—which is why you’re late and stressed. But other activities, like check-in and security, usually take less time than you think. You head through security, keeping your head low (“nothing to see here”) and your arsenal of electronic gear in hand, hoping to avoid random checks and extended interrogations about whether your iPad is a computer or not.
As you clear security and speed through the airport itself, remember: WALK, don’t run. Running through the airport is unsexy and should be reserved for extreme situations, since most of the time it won’t make or break the odds of reaching the gate in time. In fact, you can also take comfort in another universal rule of travel: most of the time, everything will be alright.
On this trip there is no time for the lounge visit or the Starbucks run. It’s been a stressful morning, and you resolve to do it differently next time. But guess what! Travel karma is on your side yet again. You arrive at the gate breathless, the last passenger to board, with the gate agent tapping her feet and checking the time every 20 seconds.
No matter; here you are. You board the plane with a fist-pump and find your seat, ignoring the look from the passenger who was expecting to fly next to an empty seat.
The purser closes the door behind you and the captain makes an announcement. “Well, folks, we’re now ready to get on our way.” Relax, rockstar traveler—you made it.