I’m a huge proponent of alternative travel (i.e. avoiding airplanes), and not just because I’m scared of flying. Travel by train, bus, or bicycle and you’ll see the in-betweens, which are where the unexpected happens, and where good stories are made. Who wants to hear another woebegone airport tale about missed flights, delays, screaming infants, or lost luggage? Here’s a little reminder as to why you should forfeit the flight.
1) Getting to the airport- Don’t even think about leaving your car in airport parking; it’ll cost as much as the plane ticket itself. It comes down to begging a friend, taking an overpriced Uber, or two hours standing on a bus with your giant suitcase and a stink eye from the driver.
2)Checking In- God forbid you didn’t check in online. There’s a family of six up front with twelve overweight bags, and they have to redistribute so they aren’t overcharged. It’s so backed up, in fact, that you can’t even access the electronic check in counter.
3)Security- It can’t get worse, but somehow it does. You haven’t seen so many people since Obama’s inauguration. Woman behind you nudges the back of your knee with her bag as if it’ll make the rest of the line move faster. Man in front can’t get his shoes off, and must to walk through the X ray thrice as he did not remove keys from pocket. You manage it all quite smoothly, your liquids actually follow the 3-1-1 rule, and you stand with your arms up as the machine shoots cancerous rays through your body. Your bag is searched because the container of lentils at the very bottom looks very suspicious.
4) Finding the gate- Hopefully you wore running shoes and your carry on has wheels. And hopefully you aren’t late, because you aren’t even in the right terminal, and once you do get to the correct one, your gate is way down at the end. If you’re late, run like you’re being chased, and totally use the moving walkway to your advantage. Don’t be afraid to firmly nudge other airport goers aside.
5) Boarding the plane- If the flight isn’t delayed, you and your fellow passengers must swarm like hungry dogs around the boarding zone ten minutes before the scheduled boarding time, but keep in mind that you won’t actually board for another twenty minutes. Wait. Then wait more. Then wait as overstuffed carry on bags are crammed into the overhead compartment. Then wait as the poor flight attendants check the bags that should’ve been checked in the first place.
6) Takeoff- Listen as the safety briefing whimsically portrays fatal emergencies with cheerful cartoons and songs. Wait in apprehension as the plane starts to back away from the terminal. Your plane is fifteenth in line (if you’re in Atlanta). The hulking aerodynamic deathtrap starts to move. Clench the arm rests and brace for impact as the front wheel leaves the earth and you and 415 other humans go barreling into the sky, your life in the hands of the sorcery that is physics.
7) In Flight- You’ve reached 30,000 feet and the pilot warns to keep your seatbelt fastened by euphemizing “dangerous flying conditions” with “a bit of rough air.” You apologetically climb over the guy the aisle seat to go wait in the bathroom line. Allow your legs to stretch, for a fleeting moment, to their natural lengths. Return to your seat, lose sense of time, and embrace the boredom, because once you finally nod off, the plane begins to shake ominously.
8) Landing- You feel the descent before it’s announced. Out the window, the trees and houses and buildings seem to be brushing the plane’s underbelly. Pray that the landing gear and brakes work.
9) Off the Plane- All passengers stand hopeful anticipation of leaving the stagnant air chamber, but it takes about fifteen more minutes before you start moving. Then, you must walk another mile to the baggage claim, fighting your way onto the escalator with the swarms of fellow bleary eyed travelers.
10) Baggage claim- Move as close to where the bags come out as possible, and stare fiercely, willing the next one to be yours. Flinch each time it isn’t. Breathe a sigh of relief when it miraculously shows itself, and push more people aside as you heave it off the carousel.
11) You aren’t quite at your destination yet, but you rejoice in the finale of the ordeal. ANYTHING but the airport.