Some Observations on Holiday Travel

“Hey, people who travel with your bed pillow.  You look insane.” – Jim Gaffigan

Can you help me understand why so many people dislike traveling during the holidays?

I have to imagine that there are people in the world who can think of nothing worse than traveling by air on a major holiday.  Much less the busiest day of the year in air travel – the day before Thanksgiving. And while I can certainly see where they are coming from – millions of people, delays, high stress environment, delays, lines, delays, horrifically long security process, delays, high strung and/or angry people, delays, screaming kids, delays, people who have simply lost all self control, and the always super pleasant “oh that’s going to be an additional charge” at the ticket counter of most major airlines – I proactively choose to embrace the crazy and drastically lower my expectations of the entire process just so I can sit back, relax, and enjoy human nature at its finest, the sights, the sounds, and the general hilariousness of the day.

My travel observations this Thanksgiving were nothing short of spectacular. Please enjoy. 

The Security Line – I’m a TSA Pre-check traveler.  On the day before Thanksgiving, the TSA pre-check line was closed at the Charleston airport (I assume due to the late hour of my departure and related limited staff) so I was sharing the same line with the common-folk who had to remove shoes, belts, laptops, pocket lint, jackets, etc.  Enter a man arguing with the TSA employee about why on earth did he have to remove his shoes if I didn’t have to remove mine, taking it as far as saying he was being profiled.  Easy sir, I was screened and background checked by homeland security and I paid $80 – money well spent in my opinion – to not have to take off my coveted black fleece or my shoes (ever thought about how dirty that floor is that your standing on barefoot – I have) or remove my laptop from my bag.  Look it up. It’s called TSA Pre-check. So quit your fussing, sir, and remove your shoes with a smile. And how about you say a kind thank you to the TSA agent who has dealt with people like you for his entire shift!

The Security Line, Again – Possibly my favorite security-line related comment is “This whole process is ridiculous. Why is this line taking SO long?? I’m going to miss my flight because of this!”  Let’s all take pause and think about that for a second.  Three things happening here.  Frivolous use of the word ‘ridiculous’, poor time management, and general stupidity.

Let’s break this one down.

Is it really ‘ridiculous’ that there is a security screening process at the airport? You know, a process designed to ensure your safety to the best of the TSA’s ability so that you can get on that plane and safely arrive to your destination. Have we forgotten about domestic and international terrorism? That’s not just a new trendy “buzz word” folks; that shit is real. Have we forgotten about the far too common acts of violence that continue to take over the headlines and news feeds? Also not fake. Also not a trendy “buzz word”.  So is it really ‘ridiculous’ that you and your bag get screened for explosives, chemicals, weapons, and such along with everyone else and all their stuff before ya hop on that airplane? Is it? I say have at it, be thorough, and take all the time you need. I’m happy to be patient when it comes to my security and safety. 

If you are at a risk of missing your flight because the line happens to be long today – again, day before thanksgiving…busiest day for air travel – whose fault is that?! I’m going to just throw this out there to see if it sticks – it’s completely your fault, not the line’s fault! Crazy theory, I know!  But if you neglect to turn your brain on and plan accordingly for the BUSIEST TRAVEL DAY OF THE YEAR, you really only have yourself to blame. Cue the Chris Stapleton hit. That’s just poor time management.  If you are getting to the security line as your flight is boarding it means you didn’t nail the execution.  Sure the intentions were great, but where you may have excelled in theory, you completely dropped the ball in practice.  And no, you may not get in front of me. Several seconds of time will not bring that plane back to the gate.  

Let’s also not be asinine and start blaming the line.  A line is a thing, a concept. It’s not a person. It doesn’t have feelings.  And it cannot defend itself.  Leave the line be and let it have a peaceful existence.  After all, it’s got to deal with us irrationally behaved humans all day long!  Get there early, hydrate, and embrace the people watching; I promise you won’t miss your flight.  That is assuming you don’t get there a day late (and a dollar short) or that you don’t get too distracted by the epic people watching. Now that would be ridiculous.

Pre-flight Snack Hoarding – Where are you going with all of those snacks you just victoriously purchased at a 600% mark-up at the Hudson News store?? When was the last time you ate? Are you hibernating this winter and stocking up? Do you have a carb and/or nuget difficiency? 

Delayed Flights and Logistical Complications – I’ve traveled quite a bit during my lifetime and learned early on that the best way to approach air travel is to drastically lower your expectations that everything will go as planned.  If you take that approach, you’re golden.  Rarely will you be disappointed and rarely will anything shock you. 

Flight delayed?  No problem, I’ll get my book out and pop in the ole headphones.  

Flight cancelled due to a broken captains chair in the cockpit?  Eh, I’ll catch the next one.  The next one’s tomorrow? No biggie.  I’ll catch a little shut-eye at the gate.  

Small fire on plane as you walk down the gangway causing what happens to be the final flight going out of the Jackson, MS airport, because of an impending major snow storm (yes, snow in Mississippi) which warrants shutting down the airport due to the complete lack of snow removal infrastructure in the Southern state, to be cancelled?  No problemo, I will just rent a car and drive the 17 hours to Charleston in the wee hours of the morning so I can beat the snow storm and not get stuck in Jackson, MS indefinitely.  

Flight cancelled indefinitely as you are about to board your flight from Barcelona to Newark due to the volcanic ash from the Icelandic volcanic eruption that subsequently shut-down European airspace?  Thanks to a very understanding boss and a globally-capable blackberry, this sounds like an extra (and very expensive) week of fun and exploration in Barcelona.  No complaints here. 

Mechanical issues on your plane in Flagstaff, AZ – a very very small airport with no back-up plane – after your epic river rafting trip that results in your having to be bussed to Phoenix (also known as the surface of the sun) where they claim to be awaiting your arrival to help expedite the check-in and security process (never believe this empty promise – it’s a load of horse dung) so you don’t miss your connection?  For sure sign me up for that scenic drive from Flagstaff to Phoenix with the relatively funny bus driver – no question.  

So yeah!  Nothing shocks me anymore with air travel.  My point is…well I don’t appear to have a point. Never mind. 

By the way, all of those examples are absolutely real. Seriously. 

Anyways.  Flights will be delayed and possibly cancelled on the busiest travel day of the year.  It’s going to happen without question. My 8:40pm flight to Baltimore was delayed by 35 minutes as of 10:40am-ish.  Literally 10 hours before my flight, they’re saying, “yep folks, the delay is really happening so go ahead and grab that dinner you’ve been wavering about all afternoon cause you will definitely have the time.” Did I get irritated by the delay? Nope. Did I complain to the nice people at the gate desk about the delay? Sure didn’t. Did I go on and on and on about the inconvenience of the 35 minute flight delay to the folks sitting nearby at the gate?  I most certainly did not. Did I put my badass orange Bluetooth Parrot Zik headphones on and carefully select my playlist of choice (the selection: a tasteful mix of the Lumineers, The Head and the Heart, Adele, DMB, Brendan James, Chris Stapleton, Jason Isbell, Will Hoge, Pink, and “Hold On” by Wilson Phillips) to drown out the noise as the complaining commenced? You’re damn right I did! 

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There are simply some things you don’t joke about.  Wilson Phillips is one of them.

I’m sure they’ll hold the plane for me – One of my other favorite things to hear as folks are waiting to deplane or disembark or get the heck off the plane is some version of, “Ohhhhh. My connecting flight leaves in a few minutes. But most of the people on this flight are probably on the same connection; I’m sure they will hold the plane for me. Right?”

No.

They are most certainly not going to hold the plane for you.  Don’t buy into that! But I do appreciate the thorough thought process.  Love it when people try to talk their way through something like that in an effort to rationalize the inevitable.  Like how do you know that most of the 300+ travelers are on your connecting flight? Did you ask them? Did you get a passenger list with all of their itineraries? I’m guessing not, but that’s ok, just keep telling yourself that. “I’m sure they will hold the plane for us” – that’s a very rare occurrence I have to imagine. Sure it would be nice if you were in that situation, but there’s no logic in that (kind of like there’s no logic in how Delta boards their aircraft – random zones where the groups are spread out all over the plane – really Delta?!).  Delay entire flight for the convenience of one traveler? Nope. Rebooking 300+ travelers for the sake of one?  During the holidays?  On the BUSIEST DAY OF AIR TRAVEL? Let’s not get ridiculous (note this is not a frivolous use of the word ridiculous). 

Frustration due to the amount of time it takes to disembark the plane (aka why does it take so long to get that door open) – Folks, it’s called protocol.  Search around for that patience pill.  No no…no no…keep searching, it’s around here somewhere.

Kids on a leash – I am the proud parent of 2 sassy senior lab-mixes, Reese and Montana.  Reese and Montana don’t travel on airplanes.  They do at times get hooked up to the end of a leash when the situation warrants it.  I’m not a parent of human children, which puts me in an awkward position here.  Enter kids on a leash.  Part of me wants to judge that, the other part thinks “hm, not totally impractical for an airport situation.”  It absolutely makes me chuckle every time – but I have no idea if that’s judgement-chuckle or what-genius-thought-up-that-thing-chuckle.  I do think that the leash could be released once on the aircraft though. It’s a confined space with one aisle and hundreds of free babysitters.  Really, where are they going to go?  And how much damage could they legitimately do? But – as I am not a parent of human children, what do I know. So no judgement. Just an observation.

Lifting the armrest up and not putting it back down – Huge traveling pet-peeve of mine.  Folks, unless I know you extremely well AND have the desire to cozy up with you and share the limited space in what you’ve now turned into a bench or love seat of sorts by lifting up the armrest between our two seats, pleas sour the armrest back down. I paid for a single seat.  Not a shared double-wide.  Totally fine to lift it up while you get yourself situated in your seat, but please let’s make that temporary and put the armrest down as soon as humanly possible. Unless your name is Adam Levine.  Then we can snuggle.

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Need I say more?

Singing Flight Attendant – many months ago a YouTube video of a Southwest Airlines flight attendant doing a hilarious safety overview went viral.  Look it up if you haven’t seen it – great stuff. She ended up going on quite a few talk shows and was gifted all sorts of items and such.  In other words…it turned out pretty well for her.  On my flight from back to sunny and beautiful Charleston, a flight attendant named Jennifer started singing to the tune of “Take me out to he ballgame” (which I didn’t get because it’s not baseball season, but hey) a little jingle that she’d put together about airplanes.  My initial thought was that she’s definitely hoping some passenger is recording a video of this in HD, posting it on YouTube, and setting her up for multiple TV appearances once she lands.  Valiant attempt by Jennifer but the key and pitch was a little squirrelly.  6 people clapped. 6. The other flight attendant jokingly said, “Jennifer you’ve got all of 10 people here who thought that was clap-worthy” (I underestimated that, obviously).  At this point I am fairly confident that this is a planned bit as Jennifer took this in stride as she cackled and responded, “Well that’s 10 more than the last flight.”  

Thank you Southwest Airlines for allowing your staff to have a sense of humor!

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Welcome to Baltimore.

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The Airport pick-up line at BWI.  Took my pal, Judy, 45 minutes to go roughly 1 mile. It wasn’t very funny at the time!

So if you are looking for a fun time traveling, go ahead and book yourself a trip over Thanksgiving (or another major holiday).  It’s fantastic.

To wrap up my Thanksgiving related posts, I will close with a list of some of my favorite commentary made over the course of Thanksgiving day:

  • How does this work? 
  • I’m not sure if that’s going to hold.
  • Is that too much butter?
  • Keep Sarah away from the potato water.
  • Sarah, stop blogging.
  • Do we have enough mashed potatoes?
  • Where is the rice? (I’m the only one who says that)
  • What’s the over/under on how often the potato water incident of 2011 comes up?
  • I need an extension cord.
  • Sarah, pay attention and stop blogging.
  • No, that’s vegan cheese.
  • Calm yourself; go eat some cheese.
  • Do the dishes Cinderelly. (Wait – sorry that’s out of context).
  • Status of the baby bird?
  • You’re laughing but it’s not funny.
  • Live your dreams, Ava.
  • Only morons dump out potato water.
  • How am I supposed to even see that.
  • Am I going to get asked to leave the kitchen when the potato water is in play?
  • Are you still working on your blog?? (Said with a slight amount of tone)
  • Are you ok if I leave a little fat for flavor?
  • Potatoes au gratin light up my life.
  • The little bird is at 143°
  • Things often cook better if the oven is kept closed.
  • Could you hand me a radish dipped in ample ranch?
  • Just shove it on in there and get the temp.
  • I said 2.5 hours is how long it would take. (said with a firm tone)
  • I said hold it!
  • Do you need help with that? (In the “you look like you have no idea what you’re doing” tone)
  • Where is the little turkey??
  • Sarah, what are you typing?
  • Is that mine? (An important reference to the wine glass)
  • Ouch that’s hot!
  • Is that turkey?
  • SHUT UP!!!
  • Is this set at 50% power?
  • Is there no rice?
  • Nothing quite says happy thanksgiving like a crack cocaine joke.
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Meet the host, Judy, and the uber organized event planner, Ava.

 

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It was touch and go there for a moment, but the bird made it to the oven.

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Pin-point accuracy, Ava!

 

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Is anyone else concerned about this?

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THE potato water.  In 2011, I accidentally dumped it out.  There was panic.  There were tears.  The gravy was ruined.  The Thanksgiving Holiday in shambles.

 

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The pre-potato water gravy situation.

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The gravy. Post potato water.

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The calm before the storm

 

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The storm.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

 

3 thoughts on “Some Observations on Holiday Travel

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