More than 3.4 million hungry, tired and otherwise grouchy Americans began flooding the nation’s airports this past weekend in advance of Thanksgiving.
And I was one of them. Again.
Every year, I squirrel away my precious vacation time until November and December, so I can spend as much time at my Indiana home as possible during the holidays.
That typically means my suitcase and I are frequent sights at regional airports this time of year, and though flying is the most convenient — and statistically speaking, safest — form of mass transit, it also can be a real freak show.
Not to mention, it is a fascinating study in the rapid deterioration of manners and social decorum in modern society.
Put otherwise right-minded people in an airport, and they become animals, a transformation I have always chalked up to the sizable sum of money one forks over to fly combined with the fear we all feel traveling 30,000 feet in the air in a machine we have no clue how to operate.
But watching people break down psychologically and act like barbarians sure is entertaining — as long as you’re not one of them.
Given that I’m a seasoned holiday traveler, I thought I’d prepare a short field guide of the folks you can expect to see — and should mostly avoid — at the airport and onboard your flights.
• The Traveler Who Was Somehow Caught Offguard by the Clearly Marked Security Checkpoint: These people are woefully unprepared to go through security but don’t mind holding up everyone else. They have to take their laptops out of the bag? When did that become a rule? And don’t look now, but they seemed to have crammed the contents of their entire medicine cabinet into their carry-on. Are they in the appropriately sized bottles? We’ll see.
• The Traveler Who Is Irrationally Angry at the Gate Agent: Look, no one likes it when their flight is delayed and missing their connecting flight seems more and more likely, but I doubt that the person who drove to work today in a 2000 Honda Accord with 114,000 miles had a lot of input in that decision. But feel free to get short with them anyway. You might get lucky and be put on that special flight just for jerks. Tons of leg space and always on time.
• The Traveler Who Wants to be Your Friend for Forever ... or an Hour: The world needs about 1,000 percent more friendly people, but let’s be honest, this conversation about how technology is ruining the world is just a time-killer. And not for nothing, they’re wrong. Technology is great. How else can one explain being able to put an entire movie I can’t watch on my iPod, so I can instead have a mindless discussion about how thick laptops used to be?
• The Person Seated in Row 35 Who Sprints Up the Aisle as Soon as the Plane Stops Moving: We have been offloading vehicles for more than a century, and the process has changed very little. Those seated closest to the door get off first, followed by everyone else in descending order. Not these people. They are not going to let their seat assignment stop them from being an inconsiderate moron. These are the people you taunt when you see them at baggage claim. “Was it worth it? To look like a rude jerk in front of a group of total strangers who will always remember you this way? Like until you die?”
And those are just the basics. You could get lucky and spot Businessman Too Important to Talk to Anyone Around Him or God Forbid Sit in Silence or People Traveling Together But Couldn’t be Bothered to Get Tickets Near One Another So Would You Mind Cramming into the Window Seat?
In honor of holiday travel, this week’s playlist includes eight songs dedicated to the absurdity of life as a traveler.
Exercise a little kindness, folks. It goes a long way.
Especially in a cramped metal tube several miles in the sky.
• Guster, “Airport” — Some Guster songs can trick you into thinking you might actually like Guster. This is one of them.
• Angus & Julia Stone, “Big Jet Plane” — Hopefully you get one of these and not a puddle-jumper. Bigger is usually better.
• Cold War Kids, “Flying Upside Down” — Man, I really hope not.
• The Black Keys, “Have Love Will Travel” — If only everyone at the airport had this mentality.
• Jefferson Airplane, “Blues from an Airplane” — A great song but nary a mention of peanuts or that guy who just won’t turn off his reading light.
• Drive-By Truckers, “Shut Up and Get on the Plane” — Seriously.
• Friendly Fires, “Hawaiian Air” — A song that perfectly captures the whimsy and amusement we should all feel flying. As comedian Louis C.K. astutely pointed out, YOU’RE FLYING!
• The Go-Go’s, “Vacation” — Is there a better travel song than this? I think not.