We've all been there.
Running through the terminal like a crazed person, your heart in your throat, wondering why no one has manufactured a carry-on suited to wind sprints, wishing you had started training for that 10k to help with this moment, marveling at the insane Murphy's Law tenet that has somehow made your flight have on-time departure for the first time in the history of its route.
It's the day you're late for your flight.
So what do you do?
...We're glad you asked.
1. Be Nice.
You know that undying sense of self-worth that your mother instilled in you? How you are the most precious creature in all of God's creation, a unique and special snowflake that deserves deference and praise? Yeah. Bury that. Whether you're talking to a TSA agent or an airline gate agent, you're begging for mercy from a semi-powerful deity.
And if you're not into all-out begging, I suggest statements that recognize you're asking for special treatment, even though you're not special.
"Excuse me, sir, I know you get asked this all day long, but my flight leaves in 10 minutes...[hanging questioning silence]." Smile. Don't say it like it's his problem, because it's not. Remember: the TSA agent spends ALL DAY surrounded by the very same people who are making you late (the ones who, in the 15 years of their existence, have never heard of security screenings.)
And once you see that jetway door slam shut and the view pans out real fast like that camera shot they do in movies? The gate agent is really powerful, but not all-powerful. They can't hold the plane because #ontimearrivals but they CAN put you on the next flight with an empty seat for free.
2. At Least Try.
If you stroll up to that gate like it's a California spring day and then act outraged that the doors are closed, you're doing it wrong. Out of breath but with controlled demeanor is key. You're going for "I did everything I could to get here, but alas, the fates conspired against me. Please be my saving grace." Remember - you put your crown in your carry-on when your realized you were going to need favors. It'll be there when you get to the boardroom, but don't pull it back out quite yet.
If you're one of those people who waits to get right up to the TSA conveyor belt to clear your pockets and take off your jingle-jangle-jewelry, I am ashamed of you. That's amateur stuff. This should be muscle memory by now: put your jewelry/change in your carry-on when you put your license and boarding pass back after they check it; drop your bag on the pre-conveyor belt table and pull out the laptop to place in a bin. Leave your roll-aboard on its wheels while you strip your jacket and shoes. (No Pre-check? Me neither. But check your boarding pass anyway - you may have won the traveler's lottery.) Your roll-aboard pops up when you get to the actual conveyor belt and not before. This allows the people behind you to prep their bins, too. (See? There's flow. You know this.)
4. Have a friend on the inside.
You knew I'd get here eventually. Listen, when your heart is pounding in your chest and you have 12 minutes to departure and you're still snaking in the unending human beast that is the security line, you're going to begin having something like a panic attack. The whole world gets really intense, everybody around you starts making what sound like herd-animal noises, and you begin losing your grip on what's really going on.
What's really going on is that totally normal airport events have transpired to make you late. The train was delayed, the entire city is evacuating out of the same terminal as your flight, and everyone in front of you has extra carry-ons. The downside is: you're gonna miss your flight. The other downside is: there's nothing you can really do about it. The third downside: there isn't too much anyone else can do for you either.
"This stuff wouldn't happen to [insert celebrity name here]," you find yourself saying. Well, no. Because If you were a celebrity, you'd have your own plane. So this is why it's good to have a friend on the inside. In your case? It's your World Travel, Inc. agent. A quick phone call can connect you with a voice of reason. "I'm stuck in security and the flight leaves in 10. I mean 9 now. What do I do?" At this moment, all you want is someone to say, "Wow. What a crappy way to start your day. Let me see what I can do." Note: she's not going to hold the plane for you. She may be able to get you on a different flight. (Roll through security and head straight for the lounge. Pick up the internet and knock out some work.) She may even have good news: "Flight's been delayed by 15 minutes. Take a deep breath, don't forget to smile, and call me if you don't make it."
Missing your plane is stressful. Missing it because of stuff you couldn't control really stinks. It's nice to have a friend on the inside to balance you out. Remember: you're not in this alone. World Travel, Inc. is here for you.
Happy travels! (And don't forget to smile.)