There are several questions that run through one’s mind when one is out of shape and sprinting from one end of the O’Hare airport to the other to catch a connecting flight that is scheduled to depart in six minutes.

  1. Is it better for my overall time to sprint in small bursts punctuated by episodes of heaving and panting or to maintain a steady speed-walk?
  2. If I make it to the flight but have a heart attack in the process, will I still be able to enjoy the vacation?
  3. Should I stop for a sip of water that would refresh me and potentially increase my speed or might the time lost on that sip of water cost me the flight?
  4. Same question about shedding my winter coat.
  5. Should I check the texts I’m getting from Noemi, who has already boarded? On one hand, she may be telling me the flight is already leaving, in which case I could stop running. But if the flight is not already leaving, the time it took to read her texts may have cost me the flight and a big chunk of our island getaway.

Halfway through my run I got blocked by a group of twenty Muslim children who had managed to spread themselves out across the entire width of the airport walkway while a slow-moving chaperone walked backwards in front of them taking photographs.

I grabbed my phone and glanced at Noemi’s three most recent texts:

“OMG you better knock some people over and bust a move to the gate!!”

“We’re all boarded!”

“They gave up your seat to a crew member!”

If I missed this flight, I would certainly miss our next flight from Miami to Curacao—a flight that only occurs once every twenty-four hours. Best case scenario, I’d miss one fifth of our vacation.

I live for vacation.

I shoved some Muslim children out of my way, resumed my sprint, and miraculously reached the gate in time to be greeted by a gangly, no-nonsense agent who waved at me with both arms fully extended and shouted, “HURRY UP WE’RE LEAVING NOW!”

Imagine Noemi’s surprise when she saw me appear on that plane, red-faced and gasping. I can honestly say I’ve never felt so close to death.

The funny thing is, this same exact thing happened when we traveled together a little over a year ago. It’s an event that I refer to as The Great O’Hare Sprint of 2013, and it had taken such an emotional and physical toll on me that I’d gone to great lengths to avoid it this time.

This time, I’d purposely chosen a very early flight out of Cedar Rapids that would grant me a leisurely two-and-a-half-hour layover at O’Hare. I’d fantasized about spending that time enjoying a nice sit-down lunch, adult beverage, and gossip magazine while patiently awaiting Noemi’s arrival. When I received an email two weeks prior to this trip informing me I’d been moved to a later flight that would give me only a one hour layover, I’d called American Airlines and demanded to be placed back on the earlier flight.

What I never could have predicted was that all passengers would be forced to stay on the plane two hours after it landed because no gates were open, despite the texts Noemi kept sending during that time (which shall henceforth be referred to as The Great O’Hare Sit-A-Thon of 2015) that said, “I don’t get it. I see loads of open gates.”

But anyway, I made it. I didn’t exactly make any friends whilst shoving people back into their rows while exiting my first flight, but I made it all the same.

Three hours later we landed in Miami and de-boarded the plane, realizing we somehow only had twenty minutes until our next flight’s scheduled departure. We booked it to the airbus that would take us to the other end of the airport. We were both starving and Noemi had to pee. We debated whether we had time to meet one or both of those needs and then devised a plan.

“Go go go!” I ordered when we exited the airbus. Noemi ran to the bathroom and I ran to Wendy’s. We would meet back up at our gate.

Time was of the essence, and although I don’t normally condone butting in line, I straight up had to cut in front of some Amish lady who was taking way too long to notice that there was an open register.

Once I had ordered and was waiting for my food, I heard the following announcement on the intercom:

“Everyone who is going to Curacao should already be boarded. Flight is preparing for departure.”

There are several questions that run through one’s mind when one does not want to miss one’s flight to Curacao but is also violently hungry and has already placed her order at Wendy’s.

  1. Can I get away with just grabbing the next order that comes up?
  2. Are these spicy chicken sandwiches worth the risk of missing one fifth of my island getaway?
  3. How mad would Noemi be if I showed up on the plane without food?
  4. If Noemi makes the flight and I don’t, will they make me pay for a whole new flight by using the justification that Noemi made the connection so I should have, too? Will it work against my case, in that situation, to be clutching a bag of Wendy’s?

To be continued…