I travel. A. Lot. And, before you tell me how much you wish you could travel too, or how lucky I am, you really should know that its not nearly as glamorous as it sounds. For starters, this is my 104th night away from my home, bed and husband this calendar year for work. You did not read that wrong: 104.
There are many types of travelers at the airport. I am the super experienced type. I can pack my suitcase in the dark (proven in the black-out of 2012), On average, I can get from the departures drop-off to gate in 11-minutes. I know that seat 9D on Southwest Airlines gets beverage service first and that you can unload from the rear of the aircraft in Burbank. Yahoo.
I also know, I am in the minority. Most people at the airport look like they are 100% miserable. These include families traveling with young children, exhausted looking seniors, disabled people and everyone else who is encumbered with the weight of over packed luggage looking like an out-of-shape Himalayan Sherpa.
People, let me do you all a favor and make a suggestion: skip the neck pillow. For that matter, don’t bring your own pillow of any kind. Wherever you are going there will be pillows.
All these travelers arrive at the airport excited because they’re going on vacation, or they are going home from vacation. Either way, the journey holds promise. And then, they face the reality of the airport.
Parking is terrible. Although, I will enthusiastically endorse The Parking Spot valet service for its reasonable (relatively speaking) pricing and option to have my car washed.
The check-in is terrible. Yet, I’ll give props to Virgin Americafor having a lounge-like atmosphere with fresh floral arrangements and mood lighting. Heaven help you if you’ve accidentally booked United Airlines. I assure you, you’ll never make that mistake twice. Once you’ve been nickled-and-dimed to check your baggage, prepare yourself for the strip-search.
My grandma, who shall remain anonymous because I love her very dearly, is 82 years old. She is a vibrant sprite of a woman who jet-sets on non-stop flights across the country visiting her loved ones, touring art museums, going to operas and hiking national parks. We recently were at LAX together and she boasted that at her age she no longer has to remove her shoes or take off her windbreaker for security. This all sounded magical until the TSA discovered via X-ray that she had a full carry-on of needlepoint which evidently does require very close inspection. If you are a lucky senior who qualifies to for a hassle-free security check, think twice before packing needles.
Security is the great equalizer. Is it wrong that I take perverse pleasure in seeing a really high-maintenance woman strip off her cool bomber jacket, belt, jewelry and designer boots revealing her white sweat socks? That’s right fancy lady, we’re all the same.
Except we’re not, because I’m special. I’m A-List. I skip the line because I have earned it. I have been in that line more this year than most of you will be in your whole lives. So, I get my own lane of ultra experienced travelers like me. And, I love it. No one in my lane wears a belt or, gasp, travels with liquids.
I’m convinced airports recommend you get there 2-hours early so that you have a ridiculous amount of time to burn in their shops and restaurants. It’s a moneymaker, people. Don’t fall for it. A typical airline boards 30-min before takeoff. Plan accordingly. You do not really want that Brookstone moon sand or the grab bag of cheese-its. And, maybe you do want bubblegum, but hopefully you aren’t in Orlando where its been banned.
Most irregular travelers begin to lose their cool somewhere between the security frisk and the gate. You can spot them by their bewildered upward gaze as they simultaneously search for directional signs and logjam traffic behind them. This paralyzing indecision is too much for many. Add overstimulation by competing amplified announcements, “prepare yourself, the moving walkway is about to end”, “Southwest Airlines flight #475 is boarding the A-group”, “American Airlines is paging passenger Jerection, Hugh Jerection”. Add in a couple whiny kids or a barking dog. Things get worse not better in a hurry.
The airport is not a happy place for most people. I do have some recommendations for airport architects. More power outlets, more bathrooms, more food that healthy people eat. Fewer grab-and-go food shops selling a stink-bomb bag of McDonalds someone will tote onto my next flight. We need less noise, more seats and dignity. More space for kids to play away from workers who need space to work.
Alas, it is time to go. Or, is it?
As I’m flexing my travel savvy, I’ve hit a snag. Who in their right mind plans a trip to New England the week before Christmas? Me. Under protest. For business reasons only. And, sure enough Murphy’s Law has prevailed. A snowstorm sits atop Boston blocking my progress. So, I’m camped out in an airport, again. Me and all the other people here fending for ourselves, duking it out for power outlets and seats at the bar. If I get to New England tonight, it will be a miracle.
Travel, even for the most experienced travelers, can be a lonely hassle. And, while I realize this is not the most sunny of my regards, it is the truth. On day 104 of my travel year, the only place I really want to travel is home. Maybe if Mother Nature really takes a dump on New England, I’ll reroute back to Burbank, back where I belong. My fingers are crossed.