Posted by: Sarah | February 18, 2010

when my travel worlds and running worlds collide…inadvertently

…so there I was, Thursday afternoon, sprinting through the halls of Houston Airport, clutching my purse in one hand, my travel pillow in the other, refusing to look at my watch which would confirm how little time there really was before I would potentially miss my flight, refusing to think about what the back-up plan would be if that happened.  I had managed to get out of NYC in spite of the blizzard that had hit the East Coast the day before, there was no way that I was going to let my luggage get stuck in Texas while I headed to Colombia.

Oh, the mishaps that are inevitable with traveling. You can’t really call yourself a world traveler until you have a few of these mishaps under your belt.  And provided that you get out of them in one piece and eventually make it to your final destination, with at least the majority of your luggage and sanity still intact, you will come away with some pretty damn good stories.

I woke up well rested before my flight Thursday morning, had breakfast with Marta, chatted about Barranquilla (her hometown), and was relieved to see that my flight was still listed as on schedule, despite weather delays.  Good to go, right? hah, I have traveled enough to know better than that.  Newark is a pain in the ass to get to.  I can navigate public transportation to JFK or LAG practically in my sleep, but I rarely fly in and out of Newark because of the inconvenience.  The first little slip-up of the trip was mostly my own fault, as I transferred from the PATH to NJ Transit and didn’t realize just how quickly the airport came up.  I was messing around mindlessly with my iPhone and suddenly realized that we had come to a stop.  I raced for the train door, but not before we were already pulling away for our next stop: North Elizabeth.  Fail. Turn around. Wait in the cold half hour for the next train heading in reverse direction.

Arrived to Newark and Continental was incredibly less than helpful.  I told the agent that I was not checking any luggage and was pointed in the direction of the self check-in.  Good, thank you, that’s why I don’t check luggage, let’s speed the process up a bit…until the self check-in stations all direct you to go to the regular line and check in with an agent.  I am then somehow pointed to the line for passengers going to China (BOGOTA, hello?!) and another agent asks me why I got in that line.  It’s all good, still plenty of time.  Security was relatively painless, got a Juan Valdez coffee, called my mom to wish her a happy birthday, and headed to board my flight.  Shoulda been smooth sailing from here on out…

The flight from NYC-Houston was on a relatively small aircraft so the overhead bins filled up pretty quickly.  The flight attendant took my carry on, told me I could pick it up once in Houston, that she would put my seat number on it.  Sure, no problem.  I’ve done that before, they are usually waiting for you to grab as soon as you depart.  No big deal, easier for everyone.

Fast forward a few hours as we start to descend and the pilot announces that we are significantly behind schedule.  Alex had been tracking my flight and as soon as we were able to turn cell phones back on, I caught her email telling me that I should still make my connecting flight if I run to the next gate.  My momentary sigh of relief is aborted when I get off the plane, ask where the carry-ons are, and am told by an agent that they were sent to baggage claim (Houston – NOT my final destination! Didn’t I tell the attendant that when she took my bag?!).

After a half-panicked, half-stressed, half-I’m not going to take no for an answer and really do not want to deal with filing a lost baggage claims form in Bogota because I know that I will never see my suitcase again-argument with the agent at the gate who claimed that I wouldn’t make it to baggage claim and back through security before my flight took off (I think I had about 20 min at this point?), I was suddenly running, full speed, through the airport, in the direction that he had pointed me.  Sorry, buddy, where there’s a will, there’s a way.  I did not want to look at my watch, did not want to think about the alternative.

I weaved around people, down hallways, down escalators, through doorways.  I exited toward baggage claim, scooped my suitcase up off the carrousel and was off running again, now with my reclaimed luggage back upstairs.  Security was amazed as they rushed me through and I bolted back through the terminal to the gate.  Passengers had just started to board the flight and the desk agent looked at me incredulously – did you actually find it?!  You’re back so quickly, you must have run?! Damn right, I did.  I am a runner. Guess that paid off for once.


  1. That has def happened to me before! They reeeeally need to be more clear when they ask what your destination is!! Good for you, though; I ended up missing my flight after my unexpected trip to baggage claim & had to take the next one. At least they gave me a free meal voucher haha

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