Last month, following 24 hours in Boston and a long weekend in Martha’s Vineyard, I headed up to Albany for a quick night to meet Alex’s mom Kathryn for the first time. I’ve been a long-time fan of all the Baackes ladies through reading Alex’s blog for the past five years, and I simply found it unacceptable that we would be so close to New York and not get to become best friends with them all.
So, to Albany we went.
It took us a little over six hours by car from the time we left Martha’s Vineyard, thanks to (multiple) stops for snacks, gas and the bathroom; Alex informs me in typically takes her in the neighborhood of four. Once we pulled into town, we had just enough time to get to know Kathryn and Miller over a glass of wine on their lovely sun porch before it was time to head into Albany for her birthday celebration.
We had a dinner reservation at Ama Cocina, which is one of Albany’s new hotspots and an amazing Mexican joint to boot. We ordered a little of everything on the menu, complete with (again, multiple) margaritas.
I may have gotten caught taking photos in the bathroom, but seriously, how cool is this mural in the stall?
The next morning, we had breakfast before Angie’s flight and then Alex dropped me off downtown as she checked some to-do items off her list after being overseas for the past nine months. Albany is such a lovely town full of old abandoned brick warehouses that SVV and I would love to get our hands on and turn into lofts and work space for startups, a pipe dream of ours.
I milled around a bit before finding a spot at the bar of the City Beer Hall to meet my lunch companion.
One of the highlights of my time in Albany was, no doubt, my extended happy hour with MonsteRawr, she with the mighty pen, colorful hair and puns for days; one of my oldest blog friends. And we only met in person last month.
As we were leaving, the sky clouded over and dumped typhoon levels of rain on top of us, drenching us both to the core. That thwarted any plans I had for a photo walk, so Alex swung back around to the plaza to pick me up and we went for coffee on Lark Street instead.
That night, after a quick dinner with Alex, Kathryn and Miller at a cute little food hall, Troy Kitchen, my hospitable hosts transported me to the airport. American Airlines had already canceled my flight one time a week prior—or rather, changed my itinerary entirely so that I was flying out six hours earlier than I booked—and I had to set them straight(/tell them to put me on a later flight), so when the text alerts started arriving from them that morning saying my flight was delayed 10 hours in advance, well, let’s just say I wasn’t surprised.
What I was surprised to find was once I arrived at Albany International Airport at 8:35pm for a flight taking off at 10:15 was that TSA was closed.
That’s right, friends: TSA went home for the night.
Lucky for me, Alex had come inside the airport with me to check on her own Pre-Check status, so not only did I have a documentarian on hand, but I also had someone to confirm that I was not going crazy.
What you’re seeing here is me, a ticketed passenger who arrived 90 minutes prior to her flight, trying to get my security screening and failing spectacularly.
There was not an American Airlines employee in sight, so we went up to the arrivals floor where we finally found a lone airport rep who had a “don’t shoot the messenger!” look plastered on his face when we confirmed that, indeed, TSA was shut down for the night.
“Sorry,” he shrugged. “Budget cuts and all. They’re not allowed to work past 8:30pm.”
“Wha-wha-what?” I asked in disbelief. “But there are flights still leaving! So, how do I get to mine—you just wave me through?”
“You don’t,” he said with the slightest trace of pity in his voice. “You come back tomorrow.” Another shrug.
Miranda Lambert croons “you can’t go home again”—well, that’s definitely true if TSA has anything to say about it.
But how was I going to even get rebooked if AA was MIA? And worst of all, what if I had actually had an important thing to get back to? I guess American and TSA didn’t really care if I reached my destination or not.
Indifferent Airport Employee redirected us to the lost baggage center where we encountered Disgruntled AA Employee who did not seem too keen on helping us either. Or rather he seemed flummoxed that I missed a flight that had taken off an hour ago.
“Um, no, sir,” I sighed, trying to maintain my polite Southern demeanor. “Check the monitor.”
He didn’t believe me until finally we showed him that, sure enough, there was one flight taking off from the airport later that night—and it was my flight, and it was still an hour away from departing. In fact, the incoming flight hadn’t even landed yet.
Sigh, this time it was his turn to emote, as he called someone up on his walkie-talkie.
“Go see the ticket counter.”
We had another rude run-in with an AA employee who basically said I was at fault for not arriving more than two hours before my flight—uh, excuse me? with a carry-on, in a tiny airport, with Pre-Check? why on Earth would I ever think to assume that TSA would ever shut down with flights still departing the airport?—but luckily the ticket counter gal, from Knoxville ironically, was as nice as they came and super apologetic. She’d tried to call me, she said, but apparently had the wrong number: the nine digits for Chase instead as I’d used points to book the flight.
I left Alex’s house super early the next morning, around 5am, as I no longer trusted this airport or that airline—plus, friends had told me their lines could be long. I got there to find I was the second person in the line, and I was stoked that having Pre-Check meant I didn’t have to unpack all my electronics. Only, due to budget cuts, Pre-Check wasn’t open at 6am! Just my luck; off my shoes came, out my electronics went. Oh, Albany.
The good news is that I arrived in Nashville right at noon in plenty of time to take a Lyft to lunch to meet some friends, have a couple shots of whiskey at a new distillery, run to our condo and take a shower to get red-carpet ready, then hit the arena for CMT Awards by 3pm. It was cutting it close, but what are you gonna do?
Bottom line: A huge thanks to the sweet Knoxville gal who got me back in time, and a huge pox upon the houses of American Airlines and TSA for trying to prevent me from doing just that. Seriously, guys? I’ve got a job to do.
Regardless of my travel follies—because seriously, when do things go smoothly for me?—which were more humorous than annoying, my 24 hours in Albany was lovely, and I hope I get more time the next time I’m back to do this cool city justice.