Two weeks after the Transportation Security
Administration banned liquids, gels and mascara in carry-on
baggage, I traveled to the Caribbean on business. It was anything
but a seamless trip. I understand the "why" behind the need to
provide security in travel. It's the implementation that left me a
bit ragged at the end of a journey.
Day. Newark Liberty International Airport, 6 a.m. It was
dark. It was raining. The MapQuest directions to an off-site
parking lot landed me on a dead-end street facing a padlocked
cyclone fence. I whipped a U-turn and ended up dumping my car on
the rooftop level of the AirTrain parking lot at the P4 station --
the farthest from Terminal A and American Airlines.
I ran through the
rain, boarded the train and 10 minutes later entered Terminal A. By
habit, I headed straight for security and the gates. Then I
suddenly remembered: I had a suitcase to check. For the first time
in more than 15 years, I stood in a long line at the ticket counter
to check the same bag that I'd previously carried with me on
umpteen flights all over the world.
I had not been able
to rationalize traveling without the essentials, which in my case
included liquid makeup, toothpaste, perfume, hair gel, mouthwash
and lip gloss.
I know, I know. I
was going to Turks and Caicos, not exactly a third world country.
But it's difficult to find sapphire blue mascara in New Jersey, not
to mention Providenciales, and my time was limited. I had less than
48 hours on the island.
When I reached the
counter 20 minutes later, the American agent studied my itinerary,
took aim and fired: "This is an international ticket. The rule is
that you must check in three hours before departure."
"I know that where
I'm going to end up today is international, but my first flight
goes to Miami," I said. "I have a four-hour layover before I
connect to Provo. So from here to Miami is domestic,
She did not answer
my question. Instead, she repeated the
I persisted. "My
flight to Miami leaves at 7:20 a.m. You're saying I should have
been here at 4:20 a.m.? This counter doesn't even open until 6 a.m.
It's 6:05 a.m. now."
She ignored that
point. "No, you're too late for this flight. You still have to go
through security. You haven't allowed enough time for the check-in
process. You can't check in now, and even if you could, we can't
guarantee your bag will get on the flight."
"So what do you
suggest I do?" I asked.
To more thoroughly
confuse me, she contradicted herself. "Well, you can try and get on
this flight, but you will have to take your bag with
"But my bag has all
the stuff that the TSA said I can't take on."
"So throw the stuff
image of me tossing a $50 bottle of perfume given to me by my
husband flashed before me.
"You just said I
can't check in, but now you're saying I can check in but I have to
throw away my stuff?" My frustration was mounting. My voice had a
In the end, it was
the agent who decided my course of action. "Forget it. You're too
late for anything now. You'll have to take another
Again, I attempted
clarification. "Lady, first you say I'm too late. Then you say
maybe I can get on the flight, but I have to bring this bag --
after I throw everything out. Which is it? What am I
time at the counter: 17 minutes.
The agent had long
since stopped making eye contact or answering questions. She
pounded her keyboard. "Our next flight is 12:10 p.m. You're in
luck. There's a seat available."
Luck? No, this was
not luck! I'd been up since 3:30 a.m. and on the road by 4:10 a.m.
to make a 7:20 a.m. flight to Miami.
"Are you checking
your bag?" she asked. I just nodded. She handed me my boarding
"This one is for
your Miami flight. This one is for your next flight. You have a
three-hour layover in Miami."
Miami is such a fun airport to hang out in. The only decent coffee
is in the Cuban restaurant outside security.
So I had six hours
to kill at Newark. I went through security -- that ate up 40
minutes -- and stockpiled snacks until my 12:10 p.m. flight, which
departed at 2 p.m. No reason given for the delay.
I barely made the
connection in Miami. I sprinted from Terminal A to Terminal D (a
19-minute walk, according to the signs in the airport) and then
back to A again (a gate change had occurred during my mad dash
through the labyrinth).
On the flight to
Provo, it was soft drinks or coffee. I knew that real food had gone
the way of the pillow, blanket and leg room, but hope sprang
"Do you have any
pretzels?" I asked.
"No. We have a food
box. You want to buy it?"
dumped a grey cardboard container on my tray table. I couldn't see
inside it, but I knew that the $5 covered cheese and crackers,
maybe an apple and/or a granola bar. I declined on
I arrived in Provo
eventually, and so did my bag. It was well after dark. The resort
had no room service and its restaurants were closed by the time I
checked in. Traveling is good for diets.
Fast-forward to departure day from Turks and
Caicos. The wake-up call never came. When a worried
colleague called my room at 5:30 a.m. as he was getting into the
airport van, I woke up real fast. Eight minutes later, I was in the
lobby and then in a cab to the airport.
I don't know why I
bothered to rush. Check-in and security took an
hour-and-a-half. When I got to Miami,
the scheduled four-hour layover stretched to six hours. "Air
traffic control is holding all New York-area flights here for a
while" was the explanation. I called home. "Is it raining?" I asked
my husband. "No," he said.
Once I arrived in
Newark, it took an hour for my bag to tumble onto the carousel. Why
does everyone, including me, have black former carry-on
The escalator was
broken, so I followed the signs to the stairs, boarded the AirTrain
to P4, then headed for my car. The rooftop was deserted and dark.
Not one light illuminated the parking lot. I moved
I encountered the
cyclone fence again on my way home, but I navigated the U-turn and
somehow found I-78 heading west.
contact harried reporter Gay Nagle Myers, send e-mail to [email protected].