I haven’t flown since 9/11 and the advent of TSA. I haven’t flown ALONE since I was a teenager flying nonstop to Mexico City.
This past week I flew from Fort Smith, Arkansas to Dallas and then to New Orleans before we rented a car to drive the rest of the way to Thibodaux, Louisiana, and then returned.
I’m such a wuss. It’s pathetic really, but I must own it. I didn’t sleep the night before and was a bundle of nerves at the airport in Fort Smith. It’s a cute, ‘baby airport’ with only 3 gates. I was there early enough that I had to wait to check in. I had already printed my boarding passes. I then went through the TSA checkpoint for the first time ever. I put my hoodie and purse in one bin with my cell phone on top. I didn’t have to remove my shoes. I just walked through a metal detector and that was that.
I waited at the gate, and then they announced a delay of 25 minutes. I checked to make sure that wouldn’t mess me up for my connection to the DFW to New Orleans (pronounced ‘Naw-lens’) and then texted my sister-in-law, Mary Lou, that I might be late.) She knew I was a wuss and would be nervous, so she arranged to fly to Dallas to meet me, rather than taking a much nicer non-stop flight from Charlotte to New Orleans, so that we could fly together from DFW to NO and then rent the car for the rest of the trip. I knew that once we met at DFW, I would quit worrying so much. If we were lost, we were lost together and would figure something out.
She was waiting at the gate when I got off the plane in Dallas. I had built up so much adrenaline by that point, it took me a minute to recognize her! We took the SkyLink (first time for that, too. It wasn’t there the last time I was at DFW.) We figured out what gate we needed for the flight to NO, rode the SkyLink to that region, found the gate, confirmed that we had the right place, and then went to eat a very nice lunch of soup and salad. All the places are set up to serve you quickly, thank goodness, so another of my worries was unfounded.
Mary Lou had been through the New Orleans airport before, so we got our bags without incident and proceeded across the airport to the car rental area. Happily, since it was a LONG way to the car rental place, we were able to snag a shuttle with a wonderfully friendly guy who helped us with our bags and dropped us off. We rented the car, and drove out of the airport into an on and off driving rain. Since Mary Lou was able to plug her phone into the car, we had a talking GPS lady helping us, so the big thing was to try to SEE THE ROAD for the hour and a half drive to Thibodaux.
On the way back, our plane left a little after 9 in the morning. We got up and left the house by a little after 5am. Of COURSE, the sky opened up again, making it REALLY hard to see the road – a very tense time for sure. We lucked out toward the end of the driving, following a big truck the rest of the way. We thanked him – though he never knew it – when we got to the airport.
We had to check our own bags there, but a nice lady helped with attaching the long sticky strips to our bags, and then showing us where to take them to another lady who put them on the conveyor belt. TSA screening was more serious this time. Mary Lou, who flies a lot, had done pre-screening stuff, including providing fingerprints and information, paying for not having to go through this, but was rejected! We found out from a man behind us that TSA randomly picks people who have been pre-screened to have to go through it again. “I” was TSA precheck approved! Go figure. Anyway, I put my purse and hoodie in one bin and my shoes and cell phone in another. I went through the x-ray machine, and they wanted to check my right shoulder, which had lit up the screen. They checked me, found nothing, and so I was through.
While we were waiting for the flight to DFW, they came and asked for anyone with our flight number. For some unknown reason, they led us all to another gate with a flight leaving earlier than the one scheduled for us. We got new boarding passes, and the nice lady was able to find two seats together! for us. My flight from DFW to FS was delayed (imagine that!) but got back 25 minutes late.
My husband was waiting for me, showered, shaved (around his beard) with a dress shirt, clean jeans and suspenders, as if we were going on a date night. Was THAT a sight for sore eyes! I fell for him all over again. We picked up my very wet suitcase and he took me to Denny’s for a nice meal before we went home.
I was greeted profusely at the door by both doggies, and both cats. The doggies both came to make sure I was still home several times that evening. The fish didn’t seem to care one way or the other. My husband fed them while I was gone, so they were happy. I felt welcomed home in grand fashion.
So – even though it was really nerve-wracking, with the help of my kind SIL making the arrangements so we met in Dallas and flew together to New Orleans together, guiding me through airports, bag claims, car rentals and returns, including helping me find my gate from DFW to FS and then going back on the SkyLink to go back to HER gate to Charlotte for the way home, I made it through my first flight since TSA.
I’m not sure I’ll become a frequent flyer now, since my husband refuses to fly now, but I’ll have a much better idea of what to expect, what to look out for, and more the NEXT time I fly.