A Disorganized Guide to Airports

For an unemployed 18-year-old, I fly a lot. And there’s not much to do in airports but think about all the ways you screwed up, so here’s a list of things I’ve learned about airports.

 

I. Shoes

This is something I frequently forget until I’m halfway through security: ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS wear shoes you can slip on and off. You don’t want to be the guy who has to pull all his opened bags off to the Bench of Shame so he can tie his shoes again. Sandals, zippers, loose sneakers, hell, this is the one time I would green-light the Crocs.

 

II. Weapons

And while we’re talking about security, I’ll sheepishly say you should always check your bags BEFORE the TSA agent does. If you’re bringing a purse or messenger bag you didn’t pack specifically with this trip in mind (I always bring the same bag I bring everywhere), you might have things that shouldn’t be on a plane. I’ve brought pepper spray by accident, and a forgotten pocketknife that made it through three security checks and Japanese customs before getting confiscated by a New York agent (New York’s a bit more concerned about these things). Even if you think you don’t have anything to worry about, look through anyway. I found three knives and a lighter in my purse five minutes ago. (I’m also a little crazy.)

 

III. Time

A rule of my father’s (a weekly-average flier) – always leave more time than you think you need. There should be at least two hours between arriving and the scheduled takeoff; ideally, more like three. Yeah, you’re gonna be sitting at the gate for a while, but it’s a good idea to leave enough time to panic over whatever you need to (I once had an airport print the wrong gate number on my boarding pass – my actual gate was on the other side of the building). Which brings me to my next advice…

 

IV. Pay Attention

Waiting for a plane is boring as hell, yes. But if you want to actually get on the plane, be aware of what’s going on with your flight. Check the boards. Find a place you can sit and watch the boards. Be really, really anal about checking the boards. Remember things often get pushed around, and your boarding pass will not magically grow that new information.

 

V. Baggage

This is something I’ve thankfully never had to experience, but I’m always a little afraid of – checked bags sometimes get lost, mislabeled, misplaced, or bumped to different flights, so always pack essentials in your carry-on. I always have toiletries and a change of clothes with me on the plane, because it’s a real possibility I’ll need to live without my checked bag for a day or two. (Checking baggage can also be expensive and irritating, so if you’re only going to be gone for a few days, just take a carry-on. Let’s face it, I wear the same five pieces of clothing most of the time anyway.)

 

VI. Don’t Panic

Yes, it’s a not-so-sneaky Hitchhiker’s Guide reference, but it’s also important: no matter how badly you just screwed up, someone is screwing up worse at any given moment. Sometimes, the most comforting thing to remember is people are idiots. Sometimes they make understandable mistakes, sometimes they make incredibly stupid mistakes no one else could possibly understand. Remember the staff have dealt with so much worse than whatever your problem is. Sure, you’ll feel silly, but the person helping you has seen it all. This goes along with the next point:

 

VII. Don’t Be a Jackass

Yes, flying is stressful, and confusing, and often happens at the worst possible hour of the day, but (and this is advice that applies anywhere) being an asshole won’t get you anywhere. The only difference between a frustrated passenger throwing a tantrum and a frustrated passenger being polite and patient is the staff WANTS to help the latter. Everyone in the airport is awake when they probably would rather not be, and most problems are simply beyond the control of the person you’re arguing with. They understand and might even sympathize with the fact that you need to get to Phoenix by 2:00, but if the plane is late, the plane is late, and complaining isn’t going to change that.

 

I’ll add to this on Thursday, when I land in SFO and have spent the day seeing all the crap I missed here…

 

 

 

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4 thoughts on “A Disorganized Guide to Airports

  1. MikeFook September 4, 2013 / 5:04 AM

    eff your blog’s verification bullshit by the way. jesus i can’t leave a comment half the time i want because i cant figure out a password for wordpress.com. anyway to shut that shite off?

    MF MikeFook.com

    Everything is determinedby forces over which we have no control. It is determined for the insect as well as for the star. Human beings, vegetables, or cosmic dustwe all dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by an invisible piper. Albert Einstein

    On Wed, Sep 4, 2013 at 3:52 PM, Ramblings of a Typically Arrogant American

  2. Vern Lovic September 4, 2013 / 5:04 AM

    Great list Hannah. What about electronically checking in? That’s been a lifesaver for me. Saves me from lines. I also bring tons of stuff to eat on the plane, something to drink if i can get it on there. If you need internet, figure out where it’s coming from before you get in the airport. Buy whatever service you need so you’re set. If your carry on is heavy – buy one with wheels. Bring a frickin’ hat if it’s winter. Don’t forget socks. If there’s an outlet, use it – don’t be cool going on batteries, you’ll need them later for something when there is no outlet around – guaranteed.

  3. Laura Lindsay September 4, 2013 / 4:21 PM

    Great post!! Mmmm, socks… Warmy Warmy!

  4. Stan Stanek September 4, 2013 / 9:34 PM

    Hannah, the last time I flew, you weren’t even born yet. Those were the days when you ran through the airport to make your flight screamin, “Wait! No no no! Hold the plane! ” and drop your bags at the door. Now they will shoot you for that.
    You could smoke on the plane and carry knives. One could go to the airport just to watch the planes take off. Yes, those were the days.

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