Late for your plane? Try this

A guy sitting with a bottle of water

I caught sight of him and my heart sank. I had about twenty seconds to decide whether or not I could hide – then realised that there was no way.

people waiting for their plane

“Hey, you!!” My friend Talib waved, from three rows ahead of me on the plane. “Are you going to WDS??”

World Domination Summit is a yearly conference in Portland, where several thousand do-gooders getting together to make the world a better place. I go every year – and am now the conference’s Storytelling Coach.

“I am!” I said, waving back. “Let’s chat when we get to Calgary!”

I’d met Talib a few times before and really liked him. He’s smart, articulate, funny, and it’s always a nice change to find a man working in my very woman-heavy field, of coaching and personal growth.

But I love travelling alone. LOVE. And I worried that, him being here was going to cut into my special airplane solo time.

Five hours later, we got off the plane. Talib waited for me to catch up, and we chatted on the way to our next flight. We looked on the screens, saw it was gate 35 and wandered in the direction of the mid-thirties.

Very quickly, my obsession with staying in my Marsha-only bubble started to seem absurd. Talib and I were having SO much fun. Before this, we’d only ever hung out with others in a group, and getting to learn about the work he does was fascinating. He traverses the bridge between the often female-centric, often floaty world of holding space in life coaching, and that of dude-bros who are starting to realise there’s more to life than the surface-level things their friends are interested in, but they don’t know where to turn.

We talked about the difference between societal expectations and pressure on men (Be a Provider!) and women (Grow some babies!). The hour or so we had to wait for the flight to Portland whizzed by.

Suddenly – Talib stopped talking, concern flashing across his face.

“Hey, is it weird that the flight leaves in twenty minutes and they haven’t called us yet?”
“Yes, totally weird,” I said. “Let’s go right to gate 35 and wait there.”

As we walked up, we passed 32…33…34…36…37 – hang on.

“Excuse me?” I grabbed a gent in uniform as he was passing. “Where’s gate 35?”

“Oh honey,” he looked at me with pity. “Gate 35 is the American side. It’s about ten minutes walk that way and you gotta go through US customs first.”

Talib and I glanced at each other, wide-eyed – then RAN.

Tearing through the corridors of the airport, Talib explained that he has Nexus – the thing that let’s you jump the line. When we finally found US Customs, there was a MASSIVE queue – about 100 people. I ran to the front, and breathlessly said to a lady, “Hi! I’m so sorry to ask – our flight leaves in fifteen minutes. Would you mind if we jumped in line?” people waiting for their plane

She smiled kindly, “You’re welcome to – but, once we get through this door, there’s another hundred people beyond.”

Nausea tugged at my stomach. I turned to Talib, “Don’t let me make you late – you take your Nexus and go. GO! I’ll see you on the plane!”

As he ran off, I went into the next room. I hurried up the side of the crowd, and, again, found a lady at the front of the queue.

“Hi! I’m so sorry – my flight leaves in fourteen minutes. Could I please jump in?”
She twisted her mouth up and tilted her head to one side.
“We’re late too,” she spat. “And there’s another room full of people through that door.”

Oh god. Oh god. I walked up and through – and she was right. Five snaking lines before the customs booths.

Over to the left, I saw a short lady with a lanyard being approached by six young gentlemen, all very tall, who seemed to be wearing matching tracksuits. I walked up, and heard her telling them,

“It’s ok, I’ll get you fast-tracked through customs.” The tension released in my shoulders. Thank god. It was going to be ok.

She turned to me and I tried to balance my smile somewhere between warm, a little embarrassed and enormously grateful.

“Hi!” I said, handing her my boarding pass. “My flight leaves in thirteen minutes. I didn’t realise we had to go through customs!”

She looked down, then shook her head.
“You’re on Air Canada. I’m American Airlines. I can’t help you.”

As she stepped away – WHUMP! – all the panic flew back into my chest.

I saw a TSA Officer walking past.
“Excuse me!” He turned and looked at me, but kept walking. I jogged alongside. “My flight leaves in thirteen minutes! Can I jump the queue, please? I didn’t know I had to go through customs.”

Looking at me impassively, he said, “There’s nothing you can do, ma’am.” He turned back and kept walking.


“You need to get back in line,” and he disappeared.

This is it, I thought, and the dragging feeling of shame and disappointment pulled at my chest. I’m such an IDIOT. I should have KNOWN there’d be customs.

In front of me, the lanyard lady from American Airlines was arguing with a TSA agent. He was telling her, “We can’t walk them through. They have to do customs here.”

She stepped forward and said something to him quietly. He rolled his eyes, lifted up the barrier to the portion right at the front of the line, and started ushering the young guys through.

Seeing my chance, I sidled up and slipped in behind before he closed the barrier again.

I stood there, trying to look invisible. I’m 5’7”, but they were each a full head taller than me so it wasn’t hard. Eventually, it was my turn to go through customs.

Done, I walked through to the next room…only to realise we now had to go back through security – and tackle another 100-strong line.

Right in front of me, the young men were being frog-marched by Ms Lanyard, and so I followed. We got waved past the man ordering the long line, and sent towards the business class express lane.

She explained to the guy checking the boarding passes that they were to be allowed through, then she left.

I followed them, last in line. When he got to me, the agent looked at my boarding pass – then back up at me with confusion.

“You’re not going to Dallas with them!”

Imploring, I told him, “My flight leaves in eight minutes!

His eyes widened, “GO!” He waved me through.

There were about ten people in this line, most of them from the group of young men. As we inched towards the belt and the metal detector, one of the guys looked at me, and then did a double-take.

“Hey!” he said. “You’ve been with us the whole time!”

“I know,” I squished my mouth and wrunkled my nose in apology. “I was really late for my flight. It leaves in six minutes, so I just kind of pretended I was with you guys. You rescued me!”

He laughed and his friend joined in.

“Are you guys on some sort of team?”

“Yeah,” the friend said. “We’re the Scorpions, San Antonio’s official soccer team. We were playing a game in Toronto.”

“Woah! How did it go?”

“Not good,” he shook his head. “We lost four-nill.”

“Well, listen,” I looked up at him and then the friend, “I promise you, your luck is going to turn around now. This is karma – this’ll come back to you. And if I ever see your team playing, I am going to cheer SO LOUDLY.”

They laughed again, then the first guy said, “Hey…six minutes? You wanna go in front of us?”

“Oh my god! Thank you!!!”

They ushered me forward. There were two business men at the front who’d been watching this unfold.
“Can I…” I started.
“Go! Go!” they said, and I shoved my laptop and bag in the tray, then rushed through the metal detector.

On the other side, Talib was waiting for me. I grabbed my stuff and shouted “Run!” as I caught up with him, and we pelted towards gate 35.

The flight attendent spotted us. “Shandur and Hussain?”

“That’s us!!!” we yelled, showed her our boarding passes and passports, then tumbled onto the plane. They closed the door behind us.

As we made our way to sit down, Talib stared at me.

“What HAPPENED??”A guy sitting with a bottle of water

I collapsed into my seat.

“Soccer team…” I gasped, “…running…. I’ll tell you when I catch my breath.”


Thanks so much for reading! If you can think of someone who’d enjoy this – perhaps a friend who also has hairy travelling experiences, you can do that by clicking one of the buttons below – or sharing it on Facebook by clicking on these words.

I would love – LOVE – to hear your wangling onto plane story. I bet you have one – or one from a friend. Let me know in the comments below!

And if you have stories you’d like to use in your blogs, on your website copy, in videos, talks or anywhere else – but want some help making them short and powerful, I’d LOVE to do that for you. Take a look at, or if it’s telling your Business “Why” story,

You rule!

xx (Yes Yes) Marsha

PS want to know my best-ever client secret – and get even more advice, tips, plus stories that I won’t put on the internet? Come and join the Yes Yes Family – it’s free! Just pop your details in below:


Photo Credits: Philipp Dubach, via unsplash, IsaacMao via Compfight cc,


  • Nawale

    Reply Reply August 10, 2016

    Hi Marsha, almost missed my train stop because I could not wait to read if you finally got on that plane. You RULE!

  • Neil Tyra

    Reply Reply August 10, 2016

    One time missed a flight because I was sitting at the bar, directly NEXT to the gate, chatting up a beautiful woman. Sauntered over to the gate an hour late because at that point I couldn’t tell time either.

    On another later occasion, my wife and I were returning from our honeymoon. We got to the airport only to discover that she had left her grandmother’s mink stole in the closet onboard the ship we had sailed for the honeymoon. We raced back to the dock in a cab, my wife somehow managed to convince the staff of the situation while I waited in the cab, she ran back out WITH the mink stole (don’t ask me how it was still in the cabin/room, and we then sped back to the airport, to the gate (this was pre-TSA world) where they had just closed the door. Once again, my wife managed to convince the gate personnel to re-open the plan door (something that would NEVER happen today), and we plopped down into our seats for the return fight home.

    Highlight of the experience: I got to jump into a cab and breathlessly state, “To the docks, and step on it!”

    • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Neil, these are AMAZING!! both are hilarious, and utterly brilliant. Thank you!!


      PS I have ALWAYS wanted to go on a Cruise – ever since watching Carry on Cruising. I hope it was amazing!

  • Anne Gage

    Reply Reply August 10, 2016

    Two years ago, my husband and I had just disembarked from our British Airways flight at Heathrow. Jetlagged and hungry, I was looking forward to a leisurely breakfast and coffee before catching our connecting flight to Newcastle. If you’ve ever been in Terminal 5 at Heathrow you know that it’s a marathon of walking, escalators and a train just to get to the immigration area. As we arrived at the train, hubby announces that he’s left his cell phone on the plane! We find a helpful purple vested person who tells us we can’t get back to the plane, but British Airways customer service will help us out. They did (BA customer service is awesome!), but as we waited and waited and waited for the phone to arrive, I watched the minutes tick by … eating up that leisurely time between our connecting flight. We still had to get through immigration and security. And, I was still hungry and desperate for a coffee. Finally, with only about 30 minutes before our connecting flight the phone arrived. We flew through immigration and got to the top of the escalator to enter security when I reached for purse to get out the little plastic baggie containing my small lotions & gels. My purse was not slung over my shoulder … I was horrified and my stomach dropped to my feet. Our cash and my drivers’ license (that I needed for the rental car at the other end) were in my purse. I was near panic. Even the helpful purple vested people weren’t sure what to do to help us. They pushed us through to the front of the security line. And just because I wasn’t stressed enough yet, I set off the alarm on the metal detector. We rushed to find another BA Customer Service desk. My purse was still sitting on the chair where I had left it on the other side of immigration. Feeling so grateful that it hadn’t been confiscated or blown up (haven’t we all heard those airport announcements telling what happens to abandoned bags?). Still haven’t been able to get a coffee. While waiting for the bag to be brought over from the other side, I made a visit to the toilet. When I come out, hubby says “I just heard them announce your name and to go to one of the BA customer service booths, but I don’t know which one.” (Why are there not speakers in the toilets in airports???) Back we go to one then another booth (taking us further from our gate each time.) Yay!!! I got my purse back with everything still inside and we dash to the boarding gate with 5 minutes to spare. Never has a coffee and biscuit on an airplane tasted so good.

    • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Anne!! What a story – that was a stressful read! So glad you got there in the end :) :)

      Thanks!! xxxyyM

  • Emma Seymour

    Reply Reply August 11, 2016

    Great story Marsha, I love it.
    I always, ALWAYS wear a good sports bra and running shoes when I fly… you just never know when you might need to move fast!
    Emma x

  • Natasha

    Reply Reply August 11, 2016

    Amazing story! Are you following the fortunes of the Scorpions now? Have you managed to turn their fortunes around by sheer willpower yet, or do you need our help for that?

  • Jeff Callahan

    Reply Reply September 7, 2016

    Whew! I feel like I was there! Glad you made it!

  • Ryder

    Reply Reply October 21, 2016

    Such a great story! I had a similar problem at the Tokyo airport, but luckily didn’t have to deal with the lines. I would have never even thought of sticking with that group. Thanks for this, and speaking at the BioLinc event – it was really informative.

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