Day 4: Monday the 2nd
When we woke up on Monday morning, my mom was ready to GO. We had to be in the lobby with our stuff by 9:35, so she woke up at like 6:45 to get a shower. I wasn’t in much of a hurry to leave paradise, so I took my good ole time. While waiting for my mom to get out of the shower, I went outside to the balcony and watched a coatis nearly kill himself climbing a tree. I took video of him, but it’s not all that exciting, in retrospect.
Eventually, we headed to the buffet for our last meal with Omar, and then grabbed our stuff to head to the lobby. We got our second hour and a half tour of Cancun on the way to the airport, but this time we had to share our shuttle with a couple from DC. They were nice enough, but they had a much different opinion of our resort. When we got to the Cancun airport, we parted from them, and made our way through customs and security.
Once we got through, we were directed through the Duty Free shop. I’m a sucker for Duty Free shopping, so of course I had to buy something. I ended up with two hot sauces and one bottle of vanilla. The cashier sealed up my bag, then put the sealed bag into another, and sealed that one as well. This is important, because it comes into play later in the day.
Eventually, we made it to our gate, and got onto the plane. Somehow, we got separated – I was in 32A and my mom was in 28D. Not a big deal. But by the time we got to O’Hare, I was a little annoyed. Something was going on with the communications at O’Hare, which caused us to taxi for about 20 minutes after landing. We arrived around 4:40, and our flight to Pittsburgh was at 5:56. By the time we got off the plane, it was after 5 and we still had to go through security again.
When we checked our boarding passes, we saw that the plane to PIT was supposed to stop boarding at 5:41. The security line is nowhere near the international arrivals gate, so we spent probably 15 minutes traveling to that area. Time check: around 5:20. Of course the security line was long and disorganized. An entire Chinese family just blatantly cut in front of us. As we neared the plastic bins to put our shoes into, I checked the time once more: 5:35. I threw my stuff into a bin and passed through security with no problem, then stepped off to the side to wait for my bag. My mom passed through with no problem as well, and her stuff passed through… but mine still hadn’t. The security checker picked up my Duty Free bag, looked at me, and yelled at me that they’d need to test my Duty Free goods.
At this point, I was starting to panic a little, but really only because my mom was getting anxious. I told her to go ahead without me and that I’d get to the gate in a minute. She left, and I stood there. And stood there. And stood there some more. Eventually, the TSA checker yelled at someone that she needed someone to do a bag test, and an older gentleman came over to test my hot sauce and vanilla.
First, he confirmed that I bought it at the Duty Free shop in Mexico. He was concerned, he said, because it wasn’t packaged correctly. According to him, they shouldn’t have used the outer bag – nevermind that both the outer and inner bags were sealed. He took about 3 minutes to find a pair of scissors to cut the bag open. He kept looking at me, and to be honest, I was freaking out a little internally, so I probably looked a little shifty – I kept looking at the bag, at him, at where my gate was supposed to be (though it was so far away that I couldn’t see it from the TSA area), my phone… I was a nervous wreck. I wanted to tell him to just keep the darn hot sauce, but then I thought that might throw up a red flag. I tried to keep quiet as he struggled to open the bags and then looked over each of the bottles one by one. He literally took one out of the bag, looked at it, turned it over, checked out the ingredients, and set it down on the table before moving on to the next one. Then, when he was ready to test them, he walked them over one by one to the testing machine. Walked over the first hot sauce, put it in the tester, then walked it back over to the table and looked at it some more. Repeated this with each bottle. Then, he looked at the receipt. Inspected it. Finally, he admitted that the Cancun airport DID package my purchase correctly; it just wasn’t evident from the outside. He then asked me about Cancun. I gave him as short of an answer as I could. I feel a little bad, because he seemed like a genuinely nice dude, but I didn’t have time to make small talk. Then he asked about the rest of my travel plans – where was I heading to? I told him and he asked when my flight was, to which I answered “Now. It stops boarding at 5:41.” At this point, he realized that he’s been holding me up and tells me he’s sorry and that all I have to do is run towards the right and then go down a hallway to get to gate B19. “If you run, you should be able to make it,” he said.
So run I did… until I slipped. And fell. HARD. Right in front of the Chili’s Too restaurant. I heard a collective gasp as I tried to brace my fall by using my left shoulder and knee. I heard the bag of hot sauce and vanilla bounce off the hard floor once, and then stop. An older gentleman stopped to ask me if I was ok, but I was too stunned to respond. A younger guy grabbed my Duty Free bag and handed it to me. I thanked them and said a general “sorry” to everyone in my vicinity before fast-walking towards gate B19. Halfway there, I realized I was going to cry. I was in pain – so much pain – and in total shock. I knew I had to keep moving, and when I finally caught sight of B19, I was greeted by my mom yelling at me to hurry up and run – they were closing the gate (I found out later that she told the gate agent, “We have one more, she’s held up in security” and he told her “Well, she has two minutes to get here, so she’d better hurry up.”)
As soon as I saw my mom, I couldn’t help it – I started bawling. Like, full-out ugly cry. How often as an adult do you get hurt and all you want is your mom, and your mom is actually there? Not often. Once she saw I was crying, her face changed entirely. She went from ticked to panicked in .00001 second. She asked what happened, and I told her. The gate agents looked mildly interested, and one of them asked if I wanted to talk to a supervisor about what had happened. My mom snapped at her, “Well we can’t, now, can we, because we’ll miss our flight.” I tried to lift my bag and I couldn’t – the shoulder hurt too much. Sobbing, I made my way onto the plane and found my seat. Luckily, this time my mom was sitting beside me, so I didn’t have to deal with strangers wondering what the heck was wrong with me.
The entire ride back to Pittsburgh, I felt like I was going to vomit – probably from the shock. When we got off the plane in Pittsburgh, my mom had to grab my stuff because I couldn’t use my left arm. It was not a great trip back.
I’m happy to say that I feel much better now; I can move my arm again and there doesn’t seem to be any serious damage. I’m very sore, but I have mostly full range of movement. I’m going to be fine. Now the question is, do I lodge a complaint with the O’Hare airport? Is it even worth it? A large part of me thinks that since we made it home and there’s no real damage, there’s no reason to dredge up the incidents of Monday night. Another part of me is still really ticked that I was held up so long in security, and that there were communications problems that caused us to taxi for 20 minutes. Had either of these situations not happened, I wouldn’t have had to run to the gate to make the flight. My instinct is to blame security, because the inspection was completely unnecessary and took way longer than it should have, but on the other hand, at least they’re being diligent.
So now I’m back in Pittsburgh, and back to work, and while it’s painful to be out of the Mexican sun, it’s more painful to move my neck and shoulder. I’ll survive, but from now on, my formerly-favorite airport will be forever tarnished in my mind. If I can avoid it, I think I’ll be scheduling future flights to route through other airports. I’d like the last few hours of this trip to never happen again.
So be forewarned – if you’re traveling from Mexico to the US and you get stuck in Chicago, don’t even bother with buying Duty Free hot sauce if you value your body parts working as intended.