Friends in Flight

You aren’t going to believe this. It’s just too good to be true. You’re going to think, “Wow this really would make for a great TV Show”.

My absolute best friend, Kaley, flies for free as well. Her dad also works for the airlines so her family has flying benefits. At any given point in the day, I could literally call her and say, “Hey! Do you want to go to New York?” No we don’t have our own private jets or a pool full of money, we just happen to be best friends who fly for free and who have the bulk of our other friends in New York City. That’s not out of the ordinary at all! Pshhh.

ISN’T THAT CRAZY? Oh, and that’s actually happened before, multiple times, the whole “Let’s fly to New York today!” thing. In fact that was the case of our most recent trip to the city. Our mutual friend had a college graduation party at a swanky venue in Midtown, Manhattan, and we couldn’t refuse the invitation. We decided to fly up for that party and spend one night in the city. Are we Serena van Der Woodsen and Blair Waldorf yet? We wish.

I tried to come up with a simile for traveling with your best friend, but all I could come up with is: “Traveling with your best friend is like traveling with your best friend”. It’s exactly how you would imagine it! Two teenagers taking on the airport (and Manhattan for that matter) like total pros. We have had conversations about how our families would hold competitions when we were little to see who could navigate through the airport the best. It may sound strange, but as an 8 year old I took such pride in knowing the airport terminals like the back of my hand. OK let’s be real, I still take pride in it. But I can’t talk about that feeling with just anyone, because they wouldn’t understand. But to talk about that with my best friend? Perfect.

While we ride the Plane Train in the Atlanta airport, we both mouth the words that the Voiceover is saying because we know them by heart: “The next station is Concourse A. A as in Alpha…” We hop off at our terminal, T (we had come from terminal F) and head to our gate. Businessmen and women stare us down, looking for a sign of a parent and then realizing that we are traveling alone to New York City, a feat that they never could have done at 18 and 19 years old.

But this isn’t our first rodeo together. Our first time traveling to The City alone was when we were 15 and 16 years old (along with our other friend who was 15). We were in Manhattan for a week by ourselves, training at Broadway Artists Alliance. None of our moms were there, as so many other kids’ were. In fact, my parents were out of the country that week and I barely had access to call them! Talk about becoming independent at a young age.

Ahhhh we were naïve then. I remember the three of us linked arms walking down the street as if we were playing Red Rover, nervous about potential dangers from New Yorkers. Man that was a scary walk… all the way to our nearest Starbucks at the end of our street. Bravo, young Kaley, Kelly, and Ann Marie. So proud.

However silly that sounds, I do give us credit for being three young teenagers in The Greatest City In The World alone. While there were hotel chaperones through our training program, our moms had all signed us up for the option of walking back alone and taking care of ourselves. And we did have some hardships on the trip: Our hotel room was on the second floor, visible to the lobby. Our 4th night there, our lock on the door broke. We had no idea what to do! I couldn’t call my parents, but thankfully the other two called theirs. And of course the moms began to freak out. Maybe calling them wasn’t the best idea after all… I mean we can handle this, right?

In the end, we notified the hotel concierge (who we were friends with by name; Winston and Paul we owe you one!) and they called a mechanic to fix it in the morning. We alerted a hotel chaperone of what happened, and she checked up on us that night. We ended up staying in the same room, and barred the doors with all visible furniture possible. (Imagine three girls shoving hotel room chairs and suitcases to barricade the room from the outside world).

So much has changed since then. When Kaley and I traveled to New York last week, we stayed in Harlem in my Uncle’s apartment to which I have a key. We rode the subway like it’s our job and walked through Midtown, this time not playing Red Rover but playing Lets Blend In Like Locals. And we do! Little lost lambs, otherwise known as tourists, will come up and ask us directions. Now THAT is how you know you’re a New Yorker.

I am so blessed to have a friend in a similar situation as me. Not only a friend but also my best friend! We understand each other so well and I can talk freely with someone about flying and not have to worry about sounding spoiled. Score!

While we don’t always get to sit together when we travel, the flight is still so much more fun with a friend.

When we reached 10,000 feet on our way home from our one night stand with Manhattan (that actually turned into two nights because New York wooed us), I snuck into first class and tossed Kay some cinnamon rolls.

As I deplaned when we landed in Atlanta, I walked up to Kaley where she had been waiting for me. A brown package flew threw the air and landed in my hands: Brownie Brittle, a treasure from the First Class Snack Bin.

Now that’s what I call friendship in flight.





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