My mom and I at the Ontario, Calif., airport. That’s me there in front. She’s in seat 23C.
I recently took an extremely quick fly-out-Friday-evening/come-back-Sunday-afternoon cross-country trip. My flights and airport experiences may have taken place over a short period of time, but they were no less educational for their swiftness.
Because I’m a helper, I’m going to compile those lessons into a helpful little document for you.
Scenario: You have only 45 minutes to catch your connecting flight and have no idea how far away your arriving plane will be from your departing plane. You are concerned that they will be in different terminals, or possibly different airports.
How to handle it: Flat out denial. Assume that both gates will be right next to each other. Be pleasantly surprised when they are. Feel sad when the second flight is delayed and you’ve wasted that sweet, short trip from gate B7 to B2.
Scenario: You have scheduled a flight that lands late enough at night for your airport pick-up to be annoyingly late. You then watch your connecting flight be late, making your late-evening pickup a late-night pickup.
How to handle it: Send an apologetic text to the kind people who are planning to pick you up. Start with, “Oh noes!” and end with, “Can you take a nap in the cell phone parking lot?” Then go buy yourself a lot of cookies to make yourself feel better. How the people picking you up make themselves feel better is their business.
Scenario: The (cookieless) people giving you a ride can’t find their way out of the airport area.
How to handle it: Sit quietly in the backseat of the car as the knowledge that it is too fucking late and too fucking dark to find the freeway slowly permeates the car. Try to be as unobtrusive as possible, which is difficult considering you are the reason for the entire misbegotten journey.
Scenario: On the return trip, your airport buddy wants to leave for the airport sixteen hours ahead of time “just in case something happens.”
How to handle it: Mock her mercilessly. If, against all odds, there is a long-enough freeway backup on your way to the airport that her 16-hour time cushion becomes necessary, eat every single one of your words. Prepare yourself for the inevitable telling and retelling (and retelling) of this story whenever she wants to go to the airport again. Forever. Damn you, semi truck that blocked ALL FOUR LANES OF THE FREEWAY.
Scenario: You’ve shared a ride to the teeny tiny Ontario airport with someone who has a 12:40 flight. You have a 4:40 flight.
How to handle it: See if you can patronize every store in the airport. Start at one end and buy a burrito for lunch. Walk aaaaaaaalllll the way to the other end to find the bathroom. Walk back to the other side to buy a bottle of water to take on the plane. Return to the restaurant you saw by the bathroom that offered free refills on fountain sodas. Sit in that restaurant, drink all the soda, and read an entire book. Saunter back past the burrito place to find a different bathroom and, eventually, your gate.
Scenario: No one on your flight seems to think “Bring your roller bags and duffel bags to the counter for a yellow valet ticket so we can check it during the flight because it’s a small plane and your luggage will not fit in the overhead compartment,” applies to them.
How to handle it: Watch (with your yellow valet ticket firmly attached to your bag) as passenger after passenger tries to take their roller bags and duffel bags onto the plane with them. Feel slightly superior for being a reasonable person.
Scenario: On your first flight into Phoenix, the burly, leg-twitchy man sitting next to you turns to you and asks, “Will the plane bounce a lot when it lands? I haven’t flown in a long time and I’m really nervous.”
How to handle it: This guy is reaching out for help. You are going to have to, oh god, chat with him. Assume that you’re supposed to calm him down by distracting him with small talk. Wrack your brain for anything to talk about that doesn’t involve a plane crash, which is, dammit, the only thing you can think about anymore. Ask him what he does for a living. If he tells you that he is a financial advisor, realize that you have ZERO follow up questions about such a career. Cover topics like, “How many kids do you have?” and “No, Baltimore is more than a two-hour flight from Phoenix,” and “Yeah, I actually do think it matters if you’re not wearing your seatbelt when you land and if you’re afraid of crashing, why aren’t you wearing it already?” Eventually land safely.
Scenario: Your flight landed late. It is 7:10. Your connecting flight starts to board at 7:10. You REALLY want to get to the bathroom before you board your plane, but your gate-checked bag hasn’t yet arrived on the jetway.
How to handle it: Clutch your yellow valet ticket as you start to shriek, “YOUR STUPID RULES DON’T APPLY TO MEEEEEE!” Contemplate elbowing your way to the front of line as you loudly explain, “No, you don’t understand. See, *I* have a flight to catch.” Thank the good lord when (1) your bag is one of the first brought to the jetway and (2) your bag is bright orange so you can see from the back of the line that your bag is one of the first brought to the jetway. Once you get your bag, run to the bathroom and speed pee.
Scenario: You bought a cheeseburger in California. You want to eat it over Nebraska. How do you do so without succumbing to the airplane food awkwardness of eating food that no one else has?
How to handle it: Make a three-quarters turn toward the window and snarf the burger. Probably spill ketchup on yourself. Again, feel vaguely superior for having thought far enough ahead to buy that food in California.
Scenario: You drank sooooo much soda in California that you can’t fall asleep on your late-night flight.
How to handle it: Weep quietly.
Scenario: Your plane lands in Baltimore at 1:51 am.
How to handle it: Feel pleased that you thought to leave a can of soda in the car you parked at the airport as a caffeinated treat to greet you on your arrival. Feel less pleased when you pop that sucker open on the interstate on the drive home, only to have it explode all over your car, leaving only a chunk of frozen soda that won’t come out of the can hole. Coin the term “sodasplosion.” Sacrifice a t-shirt from your luggage to clean your car.
Scenario: Arrive home at 3 am.
How to handle it: Fall into bed, happy with both the good parts of the trip and the fact that the travel part of it is over. Try hard not to think about your alarm going off in three and a half hours.