I’ve flown all my life; in fact, it’s my favorite way to travel! I recently had a layover in Atlanta and I thought it would be a perfect way to tell you how I turned what some people view as a burden or hassle and turned it into a positive and relaxing experience for myself. So this week I am sharing my layover experience with you, but I do want to warn you it’s pretty long.
As y’all know I flew down to Florida and back last month to see my land! When I booked my flight I knew that I was going to be in Atlanta for a few hours, and believe it or not I was beyond excited! I had never been to their airport before and knew that it was a major hub. I was actually excited for both of the new airports on my trip as it was my first time in Fort Myers as well. By the way your airport was adorable! (PS: Locals to Ft. Myers don’t like it when you call their airport adorable.)
My first flight landed a little early, which just gave me even more time! The first thing I did was find out what gate/terminal I needed to be in and route how to get there. In this case I had to take the tram, luckily I’m used to trams because of Detroit Metro only difference was that this one was underground. Atlanta’s tram is no joke, it doesn’t just tell you gates but restaurants and shopping at each stop! I felt like I was in a busy high tech mall. Sure, it was crowded and people were in a hurry. But I had three hours to get to where I needed to be. My phone was on the fritz that weekend and currently wasn’t turning on, which could have freaked me out but I figured as long as I had my iPad and internet I would be fine. I know I’m not the only one to start freaking out when my phone doesn’t work.
Once I got off the tram, I went up the escalator and was simply in awe. That mall feeling definitely struck me again and I had a sense of wonder which I get when I get to explore new places. I did a quick walk to my gate, that way I knew in my mind exactly where I needed to be even though it didn’t have my flight information posted yet. Ironically it had Newport News, Virginia posted which is around where I am headed on Thursday!
Next I knew I needed to feed myself. As my Mamaw says “A girls gotta eat!” and it was 7:30pm, definitely time for me to eat. I love when restaurants post their menu’s outside of the door as it totally helps this vegetarian figure out a game plan. Since I had a while I thought it would be great to go to one of the restaurants rather than a quick service as I wasn’t in a hurry. Chinese sounded wonderful so I ended up going with P.F. Changs, which I know and love! I told my waiter as soon as we met that I didn’t have to board for 2 1/2 hours so that he knew I wasn’t rushed and could easily prioritize other guests. This was actually my first time at P.F. Changs as a vegetarian, so it was a new experience for me. I ended up ordering a glass of Pinot Noir and Egg Drop Soup to start with as I pulled out my iPad and started writing a blog about my weekend. On my waiter’s next check in I ended up choosing the Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps. Oh my goodness y’all, those were so amazing that I still dream about them! Although I skipped the lettuce part of it and ate it like it was meant to stand alone. I finished my blog, finished my meal, finished my wine and boy was I relaxed, accomplished and overall content.
I still had an hour and knew I needed coffee if I was going to stay up for this red eye flight. Let’s face it, I always need coffee! But on my initial swipe throughout the terminal I never did see my favorite green mermaid signaling a homing beacon. I found a couple of store employees chilling by there respective doors and asked if there was a Starbucks in the terminal? They told me unfortunately not, and that that is the number one question they receive every single day. So I asked where they got coffee and they directed me to a little coffee stand in the opposite direction of my gate. But hey, I had an hour still!
Tip to finding good coffee: When in doubt, ask the employees where they go! It’s usually spot on!
I found the coffee stand but boy was it far down there! (That will come up later!) I ordered my Americano and slowly headed back to the other side of the terminal to my gate. I noticed that the Newport News was still on the screen but I also knew there was plenty of time for it to change as that plane was just now leaving. I’m a bit social so I even talked with a couple Ladies who were concerned about the screen and I assured them what flight I was on as well. I simply sipped my coffee, put my headphones in and caught up on Instagram videos as I finally got my phone to turn on.
5 minutes before we were supposed to start boarding and the screen still had not changed. There was an attendant at the desk, so I still wasn’t too worried about it but the Ladies I was talking to earlier got my attention and let me know that the gate had changed to the other side of the terminal… just now. No problem, I’m not the first zone. I simply grabbed my bag and started walking. I was almost out of my gate when I noticed these two elderly Ladies sitting there in their wheelchairs having been dropped off at the front of the gate and abandoned. They were pretty far from the other seats so I made sure that they were also aware of the change. As I started my terminal long walk a young 22 year old was walking next to me complaining about the gate change. I talked to her the whole power walk and took her mind off of the rush while we talked about what we had both done that weekend. She had flown and driven to go to a concert in Alabama. However when I told her my story she was amazed and truly forgot about the urgency and stress. When we finally got to our new gate we parted ways to different seats. As I sat down I couldn’t help but smile and the coffee stand across the aisle from my new gate. I had just been here, and I watched the barista close down the gate to go home for the night. However, my phone wouldn’t turn on again.
I enjoyed chatting with the people next to me as we waited for our zones to be called, they had flown down for their daughter’s wedding! The newlyweds were on the other side of them going through their pictures from the weekend. Meanwhile the couple across from me were throwing a fit about the change, delays and overall it seems that they just weren’t having a good day. As I boarded the plane I made sure that the two elderly women in wheelchairs were already on board; I smiled at the Parents of the newlyweds and assured them that the new couple were behind me; I nodded to the Ladies who had told me about the gate change and I took my seat in the center.
I was expecting to sleep, or at least rest my eyes on this flight. However, God had other plans for me. I laughed at those coming on board complaining that there were no TV’s on this plane. At this point I gave up on my phone as I would have to turn it off anyways. The young woman on my left was definitely entertaining and kept me laughing the whole flight. She was on her way home to Lansing after spending time with friends that didn’t go over well, and boy did she have a long night ahead of her as she was also flying into Detroit but was going to drive to Saginaw to get her dog and then back home to Lansing. That’s like 4 hours of driving y’all and we landed at 1:30am. The gentleman on my right was on his way to his OTHER home from his home in Savannah. But the three of us were laughing, sharing pictures of our dogs and overall having a great time as three complete strangers in close proximity. He was also a builder and was giving me tips on my land, while I was giving him ideas on how to build a home in Antarctica as his goal in life is to build a house on every continent and he only had two or three left to achieve his goal.
The flight landed on time. I was home. I was actually a bit relieved that our gate was in the center of the terminal as that gives a straight shot down to baggage claim. I gave my best to my seat mates and headed on my route. When I got down to baggage claim I headed to the assigned one on the screen, but I did stop and think that it was odd that another one was running empty when there were only two flights at this time of night that landed. I simply shrugged and walked all the way to the end of the room where it was indicated. Then I waited. Phone still not on. Finally I noticed activity at that random running baggage belt and couldn’t help but wonder if they got the wrong one? I looked around at my plane mates all sitting exhausted in the chairs and I started walking towards the moving belt which was about 4 carousels down. Immediately I saw my purple leopard suitcase and smiled as my intuition was right again. I grabbed my bag and looked back at about 20% of my plane mates still sitting and waiting. Technically my shuttle was the other direction, but I headed the opposite way. As I approached I announced that the baggage screen was wrong and our luggage was being dropped off at the one moving. As everyone started jumping to life I turned back around and headed to my shuttle.
I ended up having to wait at least 5 minutes for my shuttle to my car and was on the verge of calling the company when the friendly red bus turned the corner. Of course there was a mad rush to get on it and I was one of the last ones. By the time I sat in the very back seat it was hitting me at how tired I was and I started to panic trying to turn on my phone. I was shocked when the driver announced my ticket as being the first car and I gave directions until I saw my truck. I managed to wake everyone up when I exclaimed, “There’s my Hemi!”. The whole bus chuckled and the driver grabbed my bag and CARRIED it in the RAIN to my car for me. Never had I had such service and thanked him profusely! Finally, I made my way home.
Sorry this was so long, and yes I gave more to my night than just my layover. But I wanted to express how important it is to not sweat the small stuff and to keep your cool. I look back at my night and I’m shocked at how smooth my reactions were and how it could have gone so horribly in the other direction. Especially looking at how it reflected on others around me. Instead, God kept me calm, soothing, relaxed, accomplished and in wonder throughout my long night home. As always, He was taking care of me. He was my Pilot.