On a recent trip to sunny CA for an equestrian event, I had my bags packed, ate dinner early enough to get to bed at 9:30PM so that I could rise at 3:30AM leaving myself enough time to arrive at Laguradia Airport by 5:00AM for my flight.  Sound a little crazy?  Well, like you, I travel on a budget and the best (translation cheapest) flight I could find was at 6:00AM.  As it was due to snow the night before I left, I wanted to make sure that I had plenty of time to get to the airport.

And that planning paid off splendidly as while the roads were a total mess, I arrived, safe, calm and on time.

But then things changed.

The TSA agent studied my passport at great length (as I keep all my travel documents and airline info all together in my travel portfolio; I often opt for using the passport rather than digging out my wallet with my driver’s license).  After looking at me, looking at it, looking back at me, looking back at it, looking at my boarding pass and then looking back at me, he observed – “You cut your hair.”

Now as you know, passports are issued every ten years and mine was last issued in September 2001.  And as it was early, I was too befuddled to smile and nod so instead, I replied  – “You mean I GREW my hair” for in fact, since that photo was taken, not only is my hair about 5” longer, it also much more blonde and much less brunette.  And that really seemed to confuse him.  I then asked him if he thought it looked better in the picture to which he was a sharp enough man to say “Oh no, it looks great now” (he is clearly well trained in dealing with folks, as he was quite convincing)

Nevertheless, he ascertained that it really was me and that I was safe to travel that day.

But then, my flight to LAX, which required a connection in Cincinnati had a few start up issues.  As it was one of the first flights of the morning in chilly NY, we had to wait to board so they could “heat up” the plane.  While we were waiting in the terminal, I heard the Captain over the walkie talkie to the gate agent saying that he wasn’t going to wait any longer to board as folks would miss their connections (he was speaking my language!)

Once boarded, we then had to move from our parking spot to a place to de-ice.  This is typically not a problem, except that in our case, there was equipment behind our plane that had to be moved first – and there was no on to move it.

So we waited.

Then, we were bathed in the lovely pink coating of de-icer and were finally out on the runway – just in the nick of time – to get in line behind 7 other planes.

Ugh.

Needless to say, when we got to Cincinnati, the gate agent told me to RUN to my next gate as the flight was going to leave in 10 minutes.  So, big winter coat, one computer bag, large travel purse and one small carry on dufflel all on two feet went careening down the terminal – and saw my plane still at the gate.  Phew!

One glitch – the jetway door was closed.

Rut-Row.  That’s never a good thing in the world of boarding a plane.

One smiling and only slightly sympathetic gate agent AND a new ticket later, I was reliving high school track with a second sprint of the morning!  I didn’t stick around to see my original flight leave as I needed to race off to the next terminal to catch my new flight to Atlanta – ok, no problem – it was more good exercise and would only have me arriving about two hours late – it could have been worse!

Right?

How little I knew!

As I raced through the airport, I saw one of the flight attendants from the NY flight and she too was in a hurry.  She was not continuing on with her flight schedule as her very dear grandmother was in the final throes of Alzheimer’s and she was departing to go be with her.  We talked (as we quickly walked) about what a gift it was to have had our grandparents as integral parts of our lives and how they always championed our causes and made us feel like we were simply magnificent – the best kids on the planet to be sure.  (If you have had a close relationship with a grandparent, you can understand intimately how my heart went out to her.)  And that made me reconsider my slight annoyance at a mere travel delay.

Saying goodbye to grandparents and parents is so heartbreaking and always sooner than you want it to be.

Parting company, I found myself at my gate – one of the last people to board the plane to Atlanta.  Whew!  I only took a brief moment to wonder where my checked luggage was in all of this. . . . .

Ok, things were looking up – the flight was all boarded, it was on time, we only had to de-ice again – we were home free!

Or so I thought.

Upon arrival in Atlanta, I once again grabbed all of my accoutrements and raced down the terminal to my next gate.  Breathing a sigh of relief, I saw my plane, which should be in the boarding process.

But then I saw the closed door to the jetway.

And NO gate personnel anywhere.   Not one.  It was the Sahara of airline gates in terms of personnel.

Ignoring the sign that said “Penalty for opening door.  Alarm will sound.” I tried in vain to get onto that jetway.  (it wasn’t until later that I was able to thank the airline – if only in my heart – for saving me a large monetary fine)

And so, for the second time that day, I found myself at the counter of a gate agent, who once again was trying to find a way to get me to LAX.  Fortunately, Atlanta has many options and the next best one for me was in two hours – and even though I’d be arriving in LA five hours later than planned, I was still ok!

Sitting at my new gate, I had the great fortune to meet Carol Anne.  While she is from Homestead, FL, she was traveling to LA to be a birth coach to her daughter who was in labor having not only her first child, but the first grandchild.  And Carole Anne was a bit tense as she had been trying to reach her son-in-law all morning but to no avail since his last call was the prior day to say that labor had begun – early!

And so, we chatted about all things FL and how my family lives in Coral Gables and what a cold winter it had been there and how her son owns a fishing boat business in Key West and her youngest daughter is doing a semester abroad in Israel and for crying out loud why hadn’t she heard back from her son-in-law Josh????????

And then, as if a miracle, as the plane began to board, the phone rang.  And Carole Ann was already a grandmother – to a healthy and lovely 8.12 lb baby girl.  And while she was disappointed to not be there for the birth, mother, daughter and father were all doing fine and anxiously awaiting her arrival.

And I marveled at how amazing travel can be if you open your mind to it.  In the span of a scant few hours I had been in four states, witnessed someone preparing for death and shared the joy of new life with another.

And all this before I even got anywhere near a horse – go figure.