Thursday, January 2, 2014

TJ7: There's No Place Like the Airport

Today will be spent in airports and airplanes. In the morning I fly from Orlando (A) to Newark (B). That’s going to bring back a lot of memories for me, since Newark is my “home” airport and I love to look at the towns as we approach and see how many familiar landmarks I can spot. Since it’s been over twenty years since I last flew into Newark, however, this isn’t going to be as easy as it used to be, especially when you consider the fact that I have an aisle seat. Shortly after landing in Newark, I’ll be going through customs for my first-ever international flight. Frankfurt, Germany (C), is the destination but I won’t arrive until tomorrow morning, thanks to crossing seven time zones!

The fun began last night, as I struggled to get a full nine hours of sleep. I did have to unplug my phone, but with the exception of one wake-up at 4:32 a.m. I managed to hibernate long enough to recharge my batteries. My friend Theresa arrived right on time, and at 6:35 we were on the road. 
Me at airport (NASA badge censored out)
Side Note: Theresa had flat-out asked me a few weeks earlier, "Knowing me, how early do you really want me to pick you up?" My flight is scheduled for 10:35 a.m. and the airport recommends arriving two hours early for check in and security screenings (8:35), so considering the 45-minute drive to the airport, I could have told her to pick me up at 7:30. But that would have left no room for surprises: flat tires, bad weather, traffic, alligators crossing the road... So I told her 6:30.
It only took me about five minutes to check my bag (destination Cairo, visually and verbally confirmed with the young woman who tagged it) and get my boarding passes. The TSA line was HUGE. I waited about five minutes before I got to the first check point, where I showed the agent my boarding pass and NASA badge.
Side Note: Two coworkers had advised me to flash my NASA badge when going through TSA. Thank you, Dawn and Kerri!
The TSA agent scanned my badge and said, "Wow! That must be a fun job to have."
"Yes, it is," I said.
"Are you traveling alone?"
"Yes, I am."
Gate 48 ... Two and a half hours before scheduled departure.

"Let's see if we can get you in the employee line," she said. Less than a minute later, I was at the front of the line (in fact, I was the line.) I did have to take off my shoes and laptop, but nothing else. So that "arrive two hours early for check in and security screening" took a grand total of ten minutes. Here I am sitting at United Gate 48, listening to a recording of Elvis singing "Blue Christmas" and "Silent Night," and taking advantage of airport Wifi to update my blog.

It's 7:45 a.m.

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