Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Be Kind To Your Well Traveled Friend

It was only a matter of time before I posted about airline travel. The following is a longwinded nastygram fueled by 4+ years of life on the road, but ultimately I'm here to help and you are welcome.

As the holiday traveling season approaches I can’t help but reflect upon my former career and how much I despised the holiday traveling season. Soon we’ll start seeing video on the news of crowded airports crawling with angry, exhausted travelers standing in lines or stretched out on filthy airport floors using carry on bags and purses as pillows.

Fifty percent (and sometimes more) of my work required me to traipse about the United States and Canada on airplanes during all seasons. You get used to it and begin to recognize the same poor souls every week. Eventually you get to know the valet ("Where to this week, Mrs. Lady?") and airline employees on a first name basis, especially if you live in a small city like I do. To those of you who travel more frequently than that for longer than 4 years - if you do this and are somehow able to maintain your sanity, let alone personal relationships with real people, you're a flippin' superhero.

My work typically had me flying out on a Monday and returning on Friday, but occasionally I would have to fly on a Saturday or Sunday which required me to intermingle with the families and visiting vacationers, otherwise known as annoying people who don’t know jack about air travel. During the holiday season you will run into these folks on any given day, not just weekends.

Now that I am no longer traveling and am not nearly as irritable as I used to be (it's true your stock in Tylenol has gone down) I have come to realize that it's not their fault they don't know jack about airline travel. So, in the spirit of the upcoming season (hey it is too upcoming, I saw Christmas ornaments on display at Macy's weeks ago) and hope that we all will get to our destinations more swiftly (and with fewer dirty looks) I offer these tips for safe holiday airline travel, and also not getting clobbered senseless with a briefcase by haggard, work weary corporate traveling types:

1. DO please (for the sweet love of BABY JESUS) when it is your turn - step up to the next available computerized check-in machine (uh, the thing that looks like an ATM). Don't stand there at the head of the line like a jackass waiting for one of the uniformed human beings behind the counter to help you. They are busy putting stickers on luggage and checking ID's of the people who went before you who you surely observed during your 30 minute wait, using the computerized check-in machine. You must help yourself. It is your turn. The time is now. Go to the available machine. Go to it. Go to it now. Yes, you. It's your turn. Right now. Go.

2. Stay the hell out of the way of people carrying laptops who already have their jackets and shoes off in the line for the TSA. These people (formerly me) obviously have done this a time or two before and don’t want to stamp around, impatiently behind you while you fuck about and take 10 minutes to get your shit together. Fucking about defined as behaving in a way thay may cause safety hazard, delay or mess including but not limited to:

- Waiting until you are at the roller belt and bins area to take off your complicated boots or stilettos lacing up the calf, that means you, glamorous woman wearing gobs of make-up. Gentlemen, please remove your belts and move along.

- Crying or fussing when the mean old TSA tosses your 4oz. mister of Fantasy by Brittany Spears into the garbage because it was not properly stored in a plastic ziplock sandwich bag. It's your own fault for not being prepared, shut your yap and move it along. Please refer to #3 below for further instruction. BTW Please note: If you are wearing an overpowering fragrance everyone already hates you and are hoping to hell they will not be seated anywhere near you.

- Hurriedly jamming your Big Mac and fries into your greasy cake hole, leaving a trail of sesame seeds and special sauce all over the floor while others behind you, in bare or stockinged feet, are forced to dance around in your crumbs. This applies to any other food source purchased in an ignorant rush outside of security, including but not limited to:

- Nasty weird “breakfast sandwich”
- Nasty weird “breakfast burrito” although less messy.
- Styrofoam bowl of Frosted Mini-Wheats - yes, I once stepped in milk.
- Cinna-bon, although they do smell delicious, please refer to #7 below.
- Healthier items brought from home such as bananas, apples, carrot sticks. Are you seriously going run that banana peel thru the x-ray? Yes. I guess you are.

3. Do not argue with, sass or otherwise engage in conversation with the TSA except to say please and/or thank you, have a nice day, etc..

4. Don’t make a spectacle of yourself in the terminal with sobbing, tearful goodbyes. Do you think the rest of us aren’t leaving loved ones behind? Hold it together or hug and cry it out at home. (People in military uniform and their loved ones are exempt from this guideline - as I'm likely to grab on and cry with you, and if I do it that makes it ok.)

5. If you are seated next to a person donning sunglasses (especially at night) and headphones with her head leaning against the window who appears to be sleeping – Do NOT poke her in the arm and try to engage her in a conversation. (Yes, this happened to me, not once but twice. Once to ask me where I was going – ah, the same place as you dumbass, and once by a totally different dumbass on another flight to ask if I would switch seats – ah, no dumbass, I’m sleeping and I specifically booked a window seat and boarded the plane early in order to more easily do so. Night, night.)

6. Make every effort possible to stay in your seat and if you absolutely must get up – DO NOT grasp the seat rest in front of you for leverage as there is a sleeping lady in it (me) being catapulted forward and startled awake each time you do.

7. Once more on the subject of food and fragrances. If you are bringing your own meal onto the flight, be aware that whatever it is probably stinks to high heaven and doubly so in such a small, cramped space. In particular (stinkwise) and apparently wildly popular in flight snacks, including but not limited to:

- Beef jerky (or for that matter, jerky of any kind)
- Tunafish sandwiches
- Sausage pizza
- Garlic chicken stir fry
- Anything with onions or garlic
- Cinna-bon - although not because it stinks, it actually smells quite tasty and is making the sleepy lady even hungrier than she already was.

8. Unless you are under the age of 5 and traveling to Hong Kong, do not wear pajama pants and bring your bed pillow as carry on. While it poses no safety risk or irritating delay, it does make you look like a rube who has never traveled farther than the peapatch except to go to the feed store. My otherwise beautiful and perfect nieces do this and it drives me mad. I guess this guideline only applies if you are traveling with me. If you're not traveling with me I don't give a shit what you wear, unless of course it's sleeveless and you keep bumping your bare skin into to me.

9. And finally - Do not make snide comments when boarding as you plod past the sad corporate slugs in first class. Some of us are indeed assholes but hear me out.

- When I hear this, “It must be nice to be rich!” I am thinking this: It is a domestic flight and only marginally nice and I am not rich. Being seated in first class most likely means that we have spent countless, weeks, days and possibly months away from our homes and the people we love, thereby earning us the much deserved points required for a "free" (there is a steep personal price, my friend) upgrade.

All that time I spent rolling my eyes and giving withering looks to strangers in airports I was dreaming of the day when I could have a normal job and come home every night after a short 9 hour day to a husband who will hold me tight and where my pajama pants are only a few feet away. I was also longing for the day that I could be one of them, the dreaded traveling family and visiting vacationer, annoying the crap out of the homesick corporate assholes. At long last, now I'm one of those lucky bastards.
UPDATE 10/18/07 10:15 am
As is the nature of my passive aggression I now feel the need to add in a few disclaimers to this post. Upon reflection and reading it over and over I have decided it's mucho on the mean side and most of these numbered steps highlight only one side of the story. The side of me that has spoken in this post is the side coming home after 5 or more 12 to 16 hour workdays where I have been in some strange place among strange people, the center of attention talk, talk, talking my head off the entire time. It's the side of me that is exausted, lonely for my own bed and sick of the sound of my own voice.

The other side of me in the airport at the beginning of the work week is a kinder, gentler me, more prone to actually help people use the check-in kiosk, stay awake (not wearing sunglasses and headphones), and probably even smiling at and speaking to my fellow travelers. I hope you run into her sometime, she's really nice. Although, the angry side is the one with the better sense of humor.
10:38 - One more thing - because the airlines haved jammed the seats together so close, it's nearly impossible NOT to grab the seat rest in front of you, especially when it's "reclining" (a whole inch! I'm really relaxed now!) so I just wanted to say I'm guilty of it too, and am less inclined to be upset when other people do it to me if they acknowledge the catapulting and say "excuse me" or "so sorry".


Family Adventure said...

OK, the post is hilarious. At the same time, I TOTALLY agree with most of your issues! I don't travel for business, but I do travel quite frequently with family, and it drives me CRAZY when I see people in the security checkups blabbering away, making absolutely no effort to PREPARE before they get to the front of the line. They are also the ones who have mounds of change in their pockets, belts, lace up shoes, bottles of alcohol in their carry-ons, a missing boarding card because they forgot where they put it, etc., etc.

The pulling on the headrest in front is another pet peeve of mine as well.

Blood pressure's rising just thinking about it!

You must be SO glad you are out of that scene.

- Heidi

The Lady Who Doesn't Lunch: said...

Good morning Family Ad - I'm glad you liked it! I still think it's a bit on the mean side, but it's over 4 years of pent up frustration. I may edit it some more so as not to ruin my reputation as a lady.

minijonb said...

this post was great. it reminded me why i've always thought that traveling for business is so overrated. it might sound interesting to those who never do it, but it's a living hell for those who do. make sure you enjoy your holiday season this year.

cooper green said...

A very well-written post, Lady. I work in a place where there are frequently fly-in, week-long sessions conducted by people who do that kind of thing for a living, and I've often wondered what kind of a toll it took on their lives. You have reaffirmed my priorities. I'll be content to continue sitting in my Exotic Foreign City and letting the dog-tired, airport-weary homeless people do all the hard work.

The Guv'ner said...

OH man. It had to be said. I don't travel for work, I feel awful for people who do, like my own boss who flies to London three times a month for five days at a time. Don't get me wrong, some people I am just happy to see GONE. I do fly a fair bit between home (New York) and homeTOWN (Glasgow) and consider myself quite coherent with the ways and whatnots of air travel. For example, I always have my passport, green card, boarding pass and any other necessary paperwork at hand when I get to the desk/screeners and I always have everything pretty much ready to go in seconds.

When I flew to Florida last year, this woman (WOMAN SINGULAR) had five - FIVE - suitcases and the counter lady from the airline was giving her a hard time. "But why can't I take them all on, it's not like the plane will CRASH" she was whining. Five suitcases! One woman. Going for get week. WTF was in there? Her family? I hated that woman and I still hate her till this day as she took up valuable counter space and time whining, bleating, cajoling, packing and unpacking cases, calling relatives, having tantrums and making me grind my teeth down to gnarly stumps...I only wanted to drop my one little bag off.

This is why when home check in began to be a norm I might have actually cried with joy.

Also, don't ask people to give up their window/aisle seat for your middle seat. NO ONE wants the middle seat. Book earlier if you want my effing window, pal. And no, don't start me on seat recliners. They should be illegal. If you're going to let annoying people recline their seat in coach, you need to start removing alternate rows because if one more person's seat back is in my face, stabbing my tray into me, I will commit an act of homicide.

Gosh I'm all riled up now...

The Lady Who Doesn't Lunch: said...

Minijonb - It was not a glamour job for sure - I was constantly covered in cat, dog, and varieties of other shed mammal fur. I did however get to go to some really cool obscure places that people don't normally visit. I met a real cowboy in Colorado (he wore chaps and everything), have seen race horses get physical therapy and once saw a goat get an x-ray. I've been in beautiful mountains and deserts and once saw whales spouting from my hotel window. But I was ultimately all alone.

Coop! - I'm flattered and pleased you liked it. You are a wise man. Stay put and cuddle up.

The Lady Who Doesn't Lunch: said...

Guv - the whole experience makes the blood boil.

I tend to not even bother "reclining" my seat anymore in coach because the last time I did the jackhole behind me splattered yogurt in my hair when he opened the container.

The Lady Who Doesn't Lunch: said...

Oh, and I've changed my little avatar thingy. A lady has to change her look now and again to keep things interesting.

The Guv'ner said...

In case you get REALLY bored, THIS is a Live Journal post from earlier in the year I wrote on the same basic subject. Solidarity, sister!!!

Step Right Up said...

I did quite a bit of traveling in the past for athletics and the rest of my traveling has been totally leisure.

I do not envy people who travel for the sole purpose of work. Travel should equal fun. And when it's not fun, just look what happens.

Maybe the airlines should start having "Business-Only" flights that include lines in the terminal also especially for business travelers.

I apologize if we have ever been on the same flight together and you have seen me with pajama pants on and a pillow. Flights are so uncomfortable that the least I can do for my sanity is have a pillow bigger than one a barbie doll would use and my comfy pj pants.

Now start doing some leisure travel with your loved ones!

The Lady Who Doesn't Lunch: said...

Guv - thanks for that link. That is quite possibly the funniest goddamn thing I've ever read on the subject. And filled with so much heartfelt genuine rage. Loved it.

Step - I knew this would happen. Some one I like (I do, I like your posts and all of your comments) has read this and also worn PJ's on a flight. I really, really didn't mind except that I was jealous. I lack whatever self confidence it takes to go out in public in my PJ's. I can't wear sweatpants in public either. It's a curse. I probably would've carried my pillow, but I always had too much work gear and am afraid for it to touch anything in the airport/plane/public restroom, etc. If you can do it - carry on! (so to speak)

Churlita said...

I could never travel for a living. I'm too much of a homebody. You are a strong person to do that for so long.

I love this post. Mean can be very, very funny.

step right up said...

Lady luncher, whaddya mean you can't wear sweat pants in public? My pear shaped mama can't either but she does it anyway, God love her. ;)