It was 4 AM on a Thursday morning at O’Hare International Airport. I had no trouble waking up at an ungodly time because in just a few hours, I would be playing with monkeys on a beach in Costa Rica.
I was the most obedient of travelers. I arrived at check-in an hour and a half before departure, I wasn’t carrying any liquids on board, and my passport was armed and ready for action. Surely, this will be an easy morning…no one else is up and going this early, I thought.
To get to O’Hare’s International terminal, you have to take this silly train shuttle from the main airport area. Construction workers thought 4 AM would be a great time to close the track. After a fifteen-minute wait for a train going the opposite direction, I rode the shuttle to the end of the line and back again.
Then came the security check-point line. For no apparent reasons whatsoever, the line refused to move even an inch. Although this wasn’t my first time rushing to catch a flight, it did remind me of a few helpful tips to get on a plane when the odds are against you.
Beg strangers to cut in line
It sounds sexist, but let the girl in the group do the talking. Hold your ticket in your hand and wave it around for dramatic effect. Practice your frantic demeanor ahead of time and start sweating, if possible. Using your sweetest voice, make your way up the line, one by one, convincing everyone to let you pass based upon your departure time.
Avoid fights with TSA agents
You’re in a hurry, but they don’t care. Explaining to a TSA agent that your flight is departing in ten minutes won’t get you anywhere. Even though you want to throw a fist through his/her face, this is generally an unwise choice. Fall in line with the herd of cattle and keep your mouth shut. There’s no way around it, and the alternative results in being hauled off by security guards AND missing your flight.
Split up to check out other security lines
If you have a travel companion, split up to see how the lines are moving at more than one security check point. Mention to your “line neighbors” that you’ll be right back so they won’t raise hell when you jump back in front of them later.
Use cell phones to decide on a line strategy
While split up, keep your cell phone handy to stay in touch with your travel companion about the status of each line you’re monitoring. If your line seems to be shorter or moving quickly, stand your ground and don’t leave it. By the time you run back to your partner to advise of your good fortune, that line will probably be worse than the other.
Wear good running shoes
Even if you’ve been perfectly prepared and arrive well ahead of your departure, unforeseen drama is lurking around every gate. Be prepared by wearing good running shoes, toting around a small carry-on backpack, and not being totally out of shape. You’ll have a much better chance of catching your flight and fleeing of the country if you’re not wobbling on stylish heels with a wheeled suitcase in each hand.