My husband and I pulled into the rental car return at San Francisco International Airport. We were flying back home to Tampa with my 10-year-old cat that got carsick during the 6-hour car ride from northern California. After a few stops and hitting morning rush hour traffic in an unfamiliar city, things got stressful.
We made our way through the terminal, then stood in line for awhile wondering if we’d make it through security before boarding. The line was barely moving. Just then, a TSA employee came over and selected a large group of us and redirected us to some kind of special holding room. We all assumed it was a new line to speed up screening.
We hadn’t moved an inch in 45 minutes and we, along with many others, had now missed our flights. One night of no sleep, a long drive, a carsick cat, and now a missed flight made for lots of tension. People were angry. Eventually an apologetic TSA employee came over and told everyone to get back in line at the main security gate-the one we probably would have completed already. You can imagine the frustration at this point!
We stood at the ticketing counter with the angry mob awaiting our fate and hoping we’d be out of there soon. We finally got tickets on a connecting flight to Las Vegas departing two hours later with another 7-hour layover before we’d be heading back to Tampa. It was our only option.
We saw the Vegas strip in the distance through the concourse windows. I took my cat out of his carrier since we had such a long wait, and walked him around on his leash getting many strange looks from travelers playing slot machines. I prayed my cat didn’t need to use the bathroom for the foreseeable future. (Thankfully he held it until Tampa!)
When we finally boarded our flight, we realized we were not seated together. My poor husband volunteered to sit in the very last row, right next to the bathroom. I was somewhere in the middle with a screaming cat who fell asleep after about 2 hours. I felt terrible. We expected the tranquilizer to hold him over through our flight home. We had no idea that our 14-hour trip would be extended to almost another full day!
Stepping into the humid, Florida air never felt so good!
What I learned:
Looking back, I can definitely see how things could have gone smoother for us. I will never again drive all night before flying across the country. We’ll get a hotel room the night before. It’s amazing what one good night’s sleep can do! Arriving at the airport just barely in time to head through security is a bad idea. Almost always, something will go wrong. When flying with a cat, I will bring some kind of portable litter box and delay the tranquilizer until after going through security.