(Recent UM J School grad Madelyn Beck is on her way to the national finals of the Hearst Journalism Awards.  Here’s an update on her travels to the San Francisco event.  She shows true journalistic ingenuity as she overcomes obstacles at the airport.)

 There’s a point in every great journey, just after taking off, when any sane person looks around and thinks: “What the hell have I done?”

Breaking into a cold sweat, the realization comes that you’re too far to go back. For me, it came shortly after the plane took off from the Bozeman airport.

The day had started with a bang after I nearly missed my first flight. Apparently, printing a boarding pass for Alaskan Airlines is actually impossible within 45 minutes of boarding time. It’s not like I over-slept. If anything I under-slept as I got up at 3 a.m. after tossing and turning most of the night as the drunk people upstairs kept pumping music and arguing over dumb things.

In my ignorance, I had merely decided to let my sister sleep until 5:15 before forcing her to drive me to the airport for my 6:10 a.m. flight.

One woman from the United Airlines told me that since I missed the time limits and hadn’t checked my large bag, I was out of options and would have to wait. I asked if there was anything at all I could do. Anything. At all. She said no, and if it was with her airlines, she’d make me wait. So, I fought the man and ran upstairs to security.

Once upstairs, I pulled some technological magic. I used my phone to take a picture of a PDF of the ticket I had saved on my laptop’s desktop. Then, using my phone’s picture of the barcode, I was somehow able to scan in.

But what about the massive bag? Well, luck and kindness helped there. I threw out my shampoo and conditioner, acted really panicked, and they just let it slide (though I did end up having to pay a checking fee at the gate…it was a really big bag).

And then the plane took off, and I was faced with the fact that I was going to San Francisco by myself to compete as a radio broadcaster for a possible $5000 prize. All the stupid mistakes I had ever made popped into my head and I thought: “Man, why am I here? These guys who are rooting for me are going to be so disappointed when I fail. I couldn’t even make it to the airport on time!”

But, once I actually got into the city and had to work out the subway system and the hotel room and finding food completely on my own, I realized that I had as good a chance as anyone else. And hey, if nothing else, it’s a free trip to San Francisco.

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