My mad dash through Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport

Until last week, I wouldn’t believe it if you told me one day I’d find myself running through an airport like a crazy woman with just 40 minutes left before my flight was scheduled to depart. Okay, let me be honest. Sometimes I run a little late but oh my goodness, I’d never ever been THAT late.

A snapshot of the Atlanta skyline
A snapshot of the dramatic Atlanta skyline

Please note, I didn’t say 40 minutes before the flight closed or 40 minutes before boarding. I said – and meant – 40 minutes before take-off! While you’re working out the logistics in your head, do me a favor, will you? Please try to figure out how you’d manage to accomplish that feat in Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International – the world’s busiest airport.

Stumped? I’d be too, if it didn’t miraculously work out for me. I was in Atlanta for business and my luncheon and final meeting ran longer than anticipated. So, by the time my colleague and I got off the highway and onto the airport exit, our watches said “oh, no” while our frantic minds were saying, “you better press the gas and go”.

Standing outside one of the major nerve centers of World News, the CNN Center
Standing outside the venue of my last meeting and one of the major nerve centers of world news – the CNN Center

Sounds incredible, right? Let me reenact it for you..

3:20 p.m.             Pull up to the car rental return area, hand over the keys and as there’s simply no time to wait, you ask for the receipt to be sent via email.  Grab your luggage from the trunk and simultaneously ask the attendant to point you in the direction of the terminal building.

3:25 p.m.             Climb, not stand patiently, on the escalators to the SkyTrain that will take you to the main processing area. Respectfully ask the persons ahead of you to move to the right in order to give you space to ascend –  quickly!

3:27 p.m.             Ladies, forget about business attire and its accompanying proprieties because subconsciously you know this dash is not going to happen with heels on. So while the train is still moving, open your carry-on and switch the fancy shoes for flip-fops. Make sure you do it with some ‘I know what I am doing’ aplomb and don’t miss a beat when the well-dressed guy standing next to you jovially asks if he can change his shoes too. Just incline your head and smile sweetly while you point to his two-toned wingtips and remind him he’s not the one wearing heels.  You, on the other hand, need to go low as you’re getting ready for a race against the clock that would make Jamaican Olympian sprint queen Shelly-Ann Fraser proud.

Work shoes were not made for running through busy airports
Note to self: work shoes were not made for running through busy airports

3:33 p.m.             Haul your bag and lost pride down the next set of escalators in close pursuit of your colleague who you told to go ahead because he was familiar with the layout.  In an airport that serves 225 domestic and international destinations combined, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize it will be easier to follow his profile than try to read a gazillion signs. But just before you round the bend, pause to lock eyes with the guy who is still checking you out and tell him to wish you luck. He does so with a nod and a smile and PRONTO – that adds a little more pep in your, let’s be quite frank about this, less than graceful step!

3: 35 p.m.            Thank your lucky stars for the wisdom of online check-in as it gets you to where you need to be in about two minutes flat. But then you see the queue ahead of you and stop abruptly. You look down at your watch and look back at the line quizzically. In between wondering how to get into a fast track lane you’re mentally calculating exactly how many of the average 250,000 passengers a day that pass through this airport are standing between you and your gate right now. 

Lengthy queues at Hartsfield-Jackson International (Image source: Atlanta Journal Constitution)
Lengthy queues at Hartsfield-Jackson International (Image source: Atlanta Journal Constitution)

3: 37 p.m.            A glance at your watch underscores that the time for shyness and political correctness is long gone, so you rely on your Caribbean go-getter instincts and ask the attendant in the Delta Priority line to let you through.  She explains she is not supposed to do that and she also feels the need to let you know your chances of making your flight are slim to none because even after this checkpoint, you have another train to catch. You politely tell her you are aware of that but you’d appreciate it if she could still try.

3:41 p.m.             The attendant moves off to speak with some other colleagues while the clock keeps ticking. She eventually saunters back and motions for you join her line which is significantly shorter but still has quite a few people in it. Then, the other agent who greets you at the top tells you he can’t put you ahead of the persons at the front of the line. There’s no room for shame in your game at that point so without skipping a beat, you make eye contact with middle-aged gentleman and explain your dilemma to him and anyone within ear shot who will listen. He acquiesces and thankfully, the people ahead of him allow you to move ahead of them too.

Atlanta SkyTrain Image source: Wikipedia)
Atlanta SkyTrain Image source: Wikipedia)

3:45 p.m.             Go into full throttle sprint mode to catch the other train that will get you to the departure gate. Try not to erupt in nervous giggles when you glance behind you and see your colleague “bussing it” in full jacket and tie, with his shoe laces still undone because he didn’t have time to red-do them after the security check.

3: 51 p.m.            Approach the gate, greet the agent and swipe your mobile bar code as directed. With very little breath left, you simply nod in agreement when she says you’ll have to check your bag at the gateway.

3:52 p.m.             Leave your bag, as directed.

3:54 p.m.             Enter the plane and go directly to the restroom to assess the full level of your dishevelment.

3:55 p.m.             Find your seat and sit down right as they announce the door is closing. Expect your chest to be heaving, your heart to be racing and your body to be lightly covered in sweat. Finally, let out that breath you’ve been holding, then lean back in your chair, secure your seatbelt and close your eyes.

You did it!

Thanking the Lord for my trusted flip-flops while the two guys next two must have been wondering, what's up with this woman?
Thanking the Lord for my trusted flip-flops while the two guys next to me must have been rolling their eyes and wondering, what’s her story?”



Traveling For Work: Guinness World Records Attempt Judge

Tavia Levy
Tavia Levy, marketing executive at Guiness World Records

Meet Tavia Levy, a perky twenty-something marketing executive who was born in Jamaica but is now living in New York City. With her millennial “I can do anything I set out to do” mindset, she already has a built-in formula for fun and career success but when you add an anything-but-routine job at the US headquarters for Guinness World Records to that, a life that’s already good gets noticeably better.

Tavia, please tell my readers what you do.

I work on marketing programs that target businesses and consumers.  So, for example, I promote our services to companies that may want to attempt a record to launch a new product, celebrate a company anniversary or create a once-in-a-life-time customer experience. I also design marketing campaigns to promote the Guinness World Records 2016 annual book and Gamer’s Edition.  

Okay, that sounds like you have an important role to play and clearly there is variety in your tasks but forgive me for being so candid, it also sounds very normal. At a company that verifies records like the Heaviest Weight Lifted by a Tongue and Fastest Half Marathon Pushing a Pram, some days must be extra-ordinary.

(She chuckled and chided me gently about my rush to get to the good stuff).  Well, you didn’t let me finish. Sometimes, I also get to judge world record attempts around the country and overseas.

Outside the Roman coliseum
Pinch me,Is that really the Roman Colloseum?

(Like an animated kid, I started rubbing my hands together in glee.) Yes, tell us about that, please!

My office covers North and South America and the Caribbean but the company only has three full-time judges on staff so their calendars book up quickly. When that happens, other team members get to travel to verify that world record attempts have been performed according to the guidelines.

Where has work-related travel taken you and with the range of records out there, how do you prepare for that?

It’s a steep learning curve. Shortly after I started here, I began working alongside full-time employees who have been judging record attempts for a while. By ‘shadowing’ them I learnt how to carefully review and familiarize myself with similar records. I was later sent to London for a week of intense training where I attended media training and stage presentation classes.

Many focal points in London
The budding jetsetter capturing many focal points in London

After the week, I continued to understudy the full-time judges before I could go solo. A little over a year has passed since then and already I have been to Dallas once and Canada twice to adjudicate events. I’ve also traveled to Las Vegas and San Francisco for conferences.

Enjoying Toronto's harbor front
Enjoying the sights and sounds on the harbor front in Toronto

Tell us about some of the most memorable records you’ve observed and/or officiated at.

After my London trip, I ‘shadowed’ the record for the Longest Dance Relay at MTV here in New York City, an event that lasted 24 hours. That was crazy fun! And perhaps the most unusual record I’ve observed to date, was the Fastest Time To Type A Text Message On A Touch-Screen Mobile Phone. To break the record, you had to type a sentence that had every letter of the alphabet in it.  Brazilian teenager Marcel Fernandes Filho, the guy who held the record for doing it in 26 seconds, did it in 17 instead. He was sponsored by Syntellia, a software company that designed a new Fleksy keyboard you can download to your phone.

He was so fast, it was amazing! I mean, could you type this sentence in 17 seconds? The razor-toothed piranhas of the genera Serrasalmus and Pygocentrus are the most ferocious freshwater fish in the world. In reality they seldom attack a human.

London again!
London again!

SURE I could. (Yeah, right.) Days like that sound like so much fun.  Do you get to fit any destination experiences into those trips?

Absolutely! After that trip to London, I took some personal time and extended my trip so I could visit Paris, Rome, Barcelona and Amsterdam – in a whirlwind nine days. Europe was such an amazing experience, I’ve been bitten by the travel bug ever since. In fact, I’m headed to Hong Kong, the Philippines and Thailand soon for vacation.

Do you do anything differently when you are traveling for work versus pleasure?

Well, the truth is, I mix business with pleasure whenever possible but I pack much less for work trips that’s for sure! Everything else is pretty much standard. I troll TripAdvisor for reviews; research restaurants on Yelp!; download DuoLingo if I’ll be in a foreign country ( and sometimes it can be helpful even if the mother tongue of the country I am visiting is English); and I find great map apps.

In front of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco
In front of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco

What are your top two travel tips?

Become Flightdeal.com obsessed like I am. The site publishes glitch fares and is a great source of daily updates on the best discounts. Plus, sign up for an airline credit card and use it for everything you can, even your rent!

One final question because I know you will soon have to go pack for your next trip.  What would you say to that person who is sitting at home and dreaming of seeing the world but isn’t sure where to begin?

Don’t be overwhelmed; it’s possible! I’ve always wanted to travel – ever since I was little kid – but I didn’t think I could ever afford to do so. Thankfully, I landed a job with travel benefits but I’m also learning how to be resourceful about traveling on my own. Take my word for it, you don’t have to be a millionaire or work in a travel-specific role to see far-flung lands.

Look at me, I have a bachelor of science in journalism! I thought I would be writing newspaper and magazine articles or writing, editing and publishing books. Who knows, the best-seller lists and Pulitzer prizes may come at a later date but right now, I’m snapping pictures, collecting memories and relishing this chapter of my life 100 per cent.


If your company is interested in attempting a world record, you can connect with Tavia on LinkedIn. Or if you want to keep up with her travels, you can follow her on Instagram @taviaxcx. 

To read more travel stories from Jamaican travel blogger Tommie, you can visit her blog here or connect on FaceBook, Twitter or Instagram. Just type in My Travel Stamps.