Nothing brings people together quite like being the victims of a shitshow, especially at the hands of Sun Country Airlines.
I saw this bonding of humanity first-hand yesterday when I flew out of the Humphrey Terminal, or “the small terminal,” as it is informally known. This terminal is a joy because once you exit security, it takes maximum 5 minutes to get to your gate. There’s no tram to catch, no moving walkways, no stress. It feels like you’re in Margaritaville. OR SO I THOUGHT.
Being “the small terminal,” I cast aside my usual anxieties about arriving to the airport 2+ hours before my flight, deciding that I could begin my Uber voyage when I’d usually be arriving. Time of flight departure: 7:00 AM. Time on the clock? 5:00.
My Uber driver did his darndest to make it around the labyrinth of summer highway construction, but despite his best efforts, it made a dent in our time, and we rolled up at 5:45 AM. “No problem,” I reassured him. “It’s the small terminal.”
I strutted into the airport grinning, the words “today is the day I go to LA” thumping in my heart and plastered on my face. Ah, but what was that in the distance? Past rows and rows of empty baggage lines, I glimpsed chaos: hoards of people clumped in front of one desk, the group overflowing into the hallway.
No. I blinked, thinking maybe this was a desert mirage already.
Shouts and the sound of gunfire confirmed in was real.* When I got in the line for passengers with boarding passes, a line substantially shorter than that for general check-ins, I felt relieved. Phew, I thought. I’m in the right lane, there are only twelve people ahead of me, and it’s all going to be okay.
Minutes passed, which I knew because I kept impulsively checking my phone, resisting the temptation to text every person in my contacts “UGH GONNA MISS MY FLIGHT.” Then one of the desk employees called out in a strained voice, “All passengers for Fort Lauderdale, all passengers for Fort Lauderdale! Come up and form a line on the left side!”
The family ahead of me sighed. Kids, parents, and youth groups rushed under the line divider and formed a new line next to ours.
“This is ridiculous! They just keep pulling people!” The father in front of me exclaimed, looking around at the many lines. His daughter pointed to a woman in the other line who was wearing black and white patterned bell-bottoms. “We would have been right behind her!” She said with a smile on her face. That woman was only four from the front.
Time on the clock? 6:05 AM.
“All passengers for Atlanta, all passengers for Atlanta!” Another crew of neck pillow-clad jet-setters ducked under the line and dragged their suitcases past every other pissed-off passenger. The line had grown even more frenzied. A group behind me became particularly vocal as they observed the ebbs and flows of the crowd. “Are we moving forwards, or are we just getting closer together?” One woman asked after we took one measly step. “They’re just pulling everyone in front of our line! How is that fair?” “Sun Country used to be top notch, but it has really gone downhill.” Then the woman asked the guy next to her, “So are you flying to Boston for work or for fun?”
Wow. I had assumed they were lifelong friends, but evidently they had just met. Already the family in front and I had established we were both going to LAX, and that if they called our flight up, I needed to stick with them. “You’re part of the family for the day,” the mom said. In that moment, I was happy to be adopted. The mood there reminded me of scenes in apocalyptic movies like The Day After Tomorrow where the regular citizens are trying to escape and people are crowded together and turning against one another but also coming together to fight for their lives. In this case, the four overworked Sun Country employees were the rich and powerful, and they were feeling our wrath, our ignored discontentment bubbling over.
Soon enough, they called LAX to form its own line. It was 6:20. The family ahead of me looked back and nodded to be sure I followed their lead. A charismatic woman who oozed news anchor vibes filed in behind me and guided me from line to line as we continued to be moved around. I think I imprinted on her. “Good luck,” we all said to each other as we checked our bags and rushed to security, giving forlorn glances over our shoulders as if someone might be left behind and killed by the imminent natural disaster.
When we finally arrived to the gate, I saw the family; they’d stopped for coffee and tea after getting through security. “We made it!” The mother cheered when she saw me. On our flight, the news anchor woman stopped to ask about my trip on her way to the bathroom. While I did not enjoy that stressful experience and will never again neglect my duty to arrive 2 hours before a flight, even at the “small terminal,” I was glad to meet those people, and I hope they’re enjoying L.A.
By the way–I’m in L.A. to take a West Coast road trip with my lifelong friend, my partner in debauchery and class projects, my Nathan Fielder’s-wife-to-be. She lives in Los Angeles, so we’re starting here, then journeying up the coast to Vancouver, B.C. beginning tomorrow. Stay tuned for stories of eating, praying, and loving!
*There was not actually gunfire, but it FELT like there could be.