In New York City nothing comes easy, well unless you are searching for a mediocre meal from a street vendor; that always comes easy. But, when it comes to getting to the airport on a budget, you’re out of luck in the ease department.
The other week, I had my first opportunity to fly out of LaGuardia International Airport (LGA) alone. I have flown alone before out of airports in Kansas City, Dallas and Waco, and I have flown out of LGA with friends and family. But, something about getting there by myself, not really knowing what I was doing, and not really knowing how to get there kind of scared me. I didn’t want to miss my flight, get lost, or cry… Sure, I could have paid $36 for a taxi or a lesser $18 for a shuttle (both ways), but why would I want to do that when I could take the subway, and then bus, for free?
So, I decided that I wasn’t going t succumb to my fears. I wasn’t going to take the easy, less terrifying way out, and I wasn’t going to miss my flight. I was going to take the subway, with my luggage in tow, to the airport. Because in all reality, how difficult could it really be?
Did I mention my flight left at 6 a.m.?
Here is how my day began. I woke up at 3 a.m., and I checked to make sure my subway was running on time. It was scheduled to be at the stop near me at 3:46, my trusty iPhone told me it was, indeed, on time. Thank God.
I left my apartment at 3:30 to walk the seven minutes to the subway. I was expecting it to be eerily quiet. I was expecting to be nervous. And, I was expecting to be alone on the streets of NYC with only the rats to accompany me. Instead, I felt ignorant. People were everywhere. They were leaving the bars, singing in the streets, still drinking. I laughed to myself, this is the city that never sleeps, unless it is 7 a.m. on a Sunday morning.
I was both in awe and thankful for the city’s willingness to fight the exhaustion of the workweek and continued with a surge of confidence as I descended into the subway terminal. I swiped my way through and mentally checked off step one.
I had about a ten-minute wait for my train, because it really wasn’t exactly on time. Sometimes, when it comes to public transportation, I think the operators believe that five minutes late is on time. But it didn’t matter. I still had an hour before my bus was scheduled to leave for LGA.
While I was waiting for the subway, I got an exceptional musical treat. Five British guys, probably early twenties, were singing show tunes and dancing. They were waiting for the subway too, and they were obviously enjoying themselves after a night out. One of their friends was sleeping on the subway ground, which makes me gag when I think about it too much. Nevertheless, their singing kept me entertained and awake throughout my wait, and when my subway finally arrived I was sad to see them go.
I got on the subway and rode for four stops until Roosevelt Avenue where the Q70 picks up passengers in route to the airport. My plan was to catch the Q70 at 4:35 and take it to LGA with an hour and a half to spare until my flight was scheduled to depart.
If only it were that simple.
I walk out of the subway, confident in my navigation capabilities (what did we do before iPhones?). I looked for the bus stop sign, I stopped, and I waited. I stood there fore about ten minutes, by then it was 4:15, and then I began to look around. I was the only one standing there. “This is weird,” I thought to myself, “you would think more people go to the airport.”
That’s when I heard a woman behind me ask someone, “Well how am I supposed to get to the airport if the bus doesn’t stop here anymore?”
*Insert stomach drop.
I turned around and tried not to freak out. She had all of her luggage with her and was looking at the sign that said, very boldly, “Q70 DOES NOT STOP HERE ON WEEKENDS.”
I checked my phone, I had 15 minutes until I was supposed to be on the bus, so I began to frantically read the other signs posted. There were signs about bus schedules that didn’t pertain to me and signs about fares. Finally, I noticed a weathered sign stating that my bus stop was about a block away.
So, I picked up my things, and I walked toward my new bus stop, so much for relying on my iPhone. Before I saw the “Q70” sign, I saw the people waiting. Relief flooded me. “This must be it,” I thought to myself. And I was right. I still had ten more minutes to wait.
Unfortunately, after the fear and adrenaline left me I felt the conditions of the weather. Cold. It was about 20 degrees, and I was stupid enough to wear workout leggings and tennis shoes… I really can be smart sometimes.
Shivering and talking to myself, I tried to stay occupied until my bus arrived. After about another twenty minutes, because again nothing comes on time, it pulled up, and I got on, along with about 50 other people.
I found my way to a seat and sat, filled with relief at my navigation abilities. Until I realized I had no clue where to get off. I didn’t even know what terminal I was at. Shaking my head at myself, I pulled out my phone and typed in, “Southwest Terminal LGA.” Thankfully, it immediately told me I needed to be at Terminal B, and so I descended the bus steps within a matter of seconds of finding out my stop. Again, thank God for iPhones.
I walked into the airport and finally felt settled. I did it. I accomplished my minuscule goal all before 5 a.m.; point one for Alex.
In retrospect, this wasn’t that big of an accomplishment. I mean, people do this every day, sometimes even twice a day. But, I immediately felt empowered. I felt like an actual adult. I felt like my problem solving skills were finally surfacing. I felt that if I could successfully navigate the subway, bus and airport before the sun even rose for the day, then I could actually do anything. It wouldn’t always be easy, but nothing worth it ever is.
I sat down at the airport excited for the day ahead. And for the first time, I wasn’t nervous.