This is the day I leave for Peace Corps, nerves and adrenaline are doing their thing. Mom, Dad and I get up 4 hours early to pack any last minute items and I am already dreading the goodbye, the forceful growing up that entails my two years service abroad. My family and my friends are my bloodline, they are my stability, and ever since I found out I was invited to serve in the Peace Corps I made it my mission to value each and every person in my life a little extra and spend as much time with them as possible. My friends are almost like little pieces of gold that I have found walking through life and over time these special people make up an empowering gold necklace you wear proudly and it becomes your strength when they are far away. These goodbyes were very hard.
My family and I arrived at the airport with a little over two hours to get through security. This wasn’t an international flight; my group is meeting in Miami for orientation and then flying to Nicaragua in the next two days, so I figured two hours was plenty of time to get me through security. As I kissed my mama one last time and hugged her hard enough to last me 27 months, I proceeded to wait in line to go through screening. I take off my shoes, pull out my computer, do all the necessaries, besides pull out my reusable water bottle which I later realized was the reason for my 40-minute holdup. The TSA officer kinda scolded me and asked me if this was my first time flying. To which I answered shamefully, no. And she responded, ”you should know better!” Yes lady, I know I forgot to empty the water out of my bottle and I am off to the peace corps and stressed the fuck out so can you please just let me empty it so I can get to my gate? She said that I had the option to either throw out my stainless steel water bottle that I so proudly found at a thrift store for $3 when retail price is $40! Or that I could exit the security area and get back in line to do the whole take your shoes off process over again. I reasoned with myself that I had enough time to get back in line and make it through TSA one more time to save my precious water bottle. Well, I dump every drop of water out of my bottle, put it in my bag, I show my ticket and passport, I get back in line, I am waiting their and seeing the time pass, finally, I take off my shoes, all of my jewelery, all of this for the second time, I think, ok, I have time, I’ll make it. As I stand their shoeless looking down the rotating ramp, I see it! My bags again, it’s coming down the ramp, I’m doing a little dance with time to spare, until bam, my bag takes a left turn and goes straight into the hands of TSA. AGAIN. At this point I cry as if my bag were my child being taken straight out of my arms. This is how you start to feel when you’ve spent nearly an hour going through security. So I go back to security staff and beg them to remember my face, “ME! Remember? The idiot 21 year old who left a full water bottle in her bag? Yeah! That girl! Luckily they remembered and I pleaded, oh please help me, my bag is up for inspection again, I promise you everything is out of there, I poured out the water, my flight leaves in 20 minutes! The man says, “I’ll see what I can do.” I see him speak to one of his coworkers and points to my bag. The woman grabs it and brings it up to the front for inspection and I hear her say, “Who’s bag is this. Excuse me, who does this belong to?” I weave my way through other helpless mothers and fathers of stuffed and lifeless luggage babies and I say, “Me! Me! That’s my baby, I mean bag.” She immediately feels the bag and says in a disappointed voice, “ma’am, you forgot to take out your computer.” I hear again, “is this your first time flying?” At this point I have lost all confidence in making it two years in a foreign country when I can’t even follow basic airport instructions. To be fair, it’s a full moon if you believe in that stuff, I’m stressed out from having to say bye to basically everyone I know and I just want to make my flight.
She quickly checks the rest of the bag, says it’s good to go and I run to the gate with 15 minutes to spare. As I approach the gate I see some guy signaling to his wife I presume, and I hear him say, “Come on! We are going to miss it! I quickly check my ticket to make sure that isn’t my gate and yes of course it is. The couple, myself and several others missed the flight headed to Miami at 11:05AM. Oh fuck. This is not good, I have orientation at 5 o’clock and I missed my flight. I plead with the desk lady, “No you don’t understand, I need to make this flight, I’m off to the Peace Corps, please, I’m going to miss my orientation.” The lady (at this point I read her name tag and learned her name, Georgia) kind of gives me a second look, like oh the Peace Corps. She proceeds to tell me that she had several family members serve our country through the military. She told me how noble it is to be doing what I am doing. In my head I’m thinking well I don’t if I’ll be doing any of it now that I missed my flight. I see Georgia pick up her radio and start speaking to staff on board. She ultimately tells me it’s just too late. The tears start forming, my face starts getting hot, I start getting prepared for people to see my ugly crying face, I can’t help it. I’m on the phone with my Dad, Georgia is tip tapping on her computer seeming to be doing everything she can to get me to Miami. My dad attempts to console me but I am still in tears. Georgia says, I can get you on a 3:30pm flight to Miami. By that time I will have missed orientation, but it’s my only choice. She books the 3:30pm flight and then proceeds to tell me that there is a list of things she’ll be getting yelled at for and one more conscious mistake can’t hurt. She steps outside of the desk and says, “I don’t care if I get in trouble, I’m bringing out the big guns.” I start following right behind this fierce woman going straight up these stairs leading into this white glossy looking, corporate feeling American Airlines secret floor. She looks around and quickly tells me that she doesn’t see any familiar faces so this might not go as planned. I’m still unsure at this point as to what is going on. She tells me to put my game face on and I figure this means look like a desperate 20-something with puffy eyes who just wants to get to Peace Corps orientation. And she’s got on this, “My whole family has served in the military and I’m bringing out the big guns look.” And both of us storm straight up to this lady behind a desk. She says, “Hey there, I know that this is against American Airlines rules but long story short this young lady is going to serve in the Peace Corps and she has missed her flight. Can she stay up here until her later 3:30pm flight? Picture me standing there with the ultimate puppy face even though I have no idea what Georgia is really asking for. Either way, this lady says of course and Georgia takes me around this dazzling floor with private lounges, TV’s, a full bar, buffet style hors d’oeuvres, and the works, turns out we’re hanging out in the first class floor. She shows me this touch screen sleek black machine and tells me to treat myself to a nice cappuccino or tea while I wait for my flight. I find a seat and Georgia walks back to talk to the nice lady who let me in here and then starts walking back towards me, she hands me two white tickets and says, it’s all gonna be ok, here’s two free premium drink vouchers for the bar, you’re gonna do great, god speed, and before ya know it she’s gone.
I have a feeling it’s going to be these little things that keeps me hopeful in life. Thank you Georgia, for making a young and nervous recent college grad feel like she’s not alone.