While the Airpocolypse may not involve killer machines waiting to scratch your face off (Skynet-style) or aliens threatening Will Smith and Bill Pullman with total annihilation (a la Independence Day), it’s just as real. And it’s UPON US. If you have ever braved the gauntlet that is the airport during the holiday season, you’ve stared death (or a United employee) in the eye, and I salute you, fellow crusaders. Forget the family drama that occurs once you reach your destination – getting there will take guts, prayers and every ounce of sanity you have.
What should be the most wonderful time of the year certainly doesn’t seem so cheery when it’s overshadowed by (a) the mad dash to the airport to try to beat other would-be holiday travelers at their own game (like the Amazing Race but with much higher stakes - everyone’s a player, but if I don't win, everybody loses); (b) the zig-zagging security line backed up for over an hour because there is only one lane open; (c) being forced to pray/cross your fingers/perform a ritual sacrifice to ensure that your flight actually takes off on time but refusing to talk of it out of fear of the ever-looming “jinx;” or (d) trying to create some sort of barrier between you and that awful-excuse-for-a-human stranger sitting beside you who either smells, eats loudly or is about to snore in your ear and let his arm creep over the invisible line down the middle of the arm rest into your territory (unfathomable). BOTTOM LINE: Holiday travel = death by 1,000 paper cuts. Why, you might ask?
Because people on a travel day – both travelers and airport "workers" alike – just don’t give a sh*t. Let's take a look at the mounting evidence:
1. The scam that is TSA Pre-Check. Have you heard the one about a mythical shortcut through security where you get to keep your shoes on and bypass all those plebs in the regular line? HILARIOUS. That tale is this generation's knock-knock joke. Think again. Turns out that even after you go through the interview process, get finger-printed, answer background questions and finally receive a “known traveler number,” oh, and PAY, you aren’t guaranteed to receive pre-check on your flights. Like EVER. Joke’s on me, TSA. I thought when you said I’d get access to pre-check benefits by going through the interview process, I’d actually get access. LIES.
2. Trying to get to the airport early to avoid the Home Alone mad dash through the airport? NEWSFLASH, Walter Cronkite – it’s a losing battle. And I would know. I grew up in a family in the travel business. Getting to the airport 1.5 hours before flight time wasn’t just a rule; it was LIFE. But even that pearl of wisdom won’t help you make it through the security line any faster. Why, you might ask? Because no matter the time of year, no matter what hour in the day, security will no doubt only have one lane open (well, one general lane open – there is always one “special people” lane open, but good luck making that cut (see above)), and the people running it will be in the middle of a “shift change.” EVERY time. ALL THE TIME. And on top of that, there will inevitably be some asshole in front of you who doesn’t realize he still has his belt on until he tries to go through the machine, or some woman who claims she “didn’t know” about the liquids rule (really, Nancy? It’s been a “thing” since 2006. Just throw out your Go-gurt and keep it moving). If people would be people and abide by the social contracts of our time, none of these issues would be issues. GEEZ.
3. Cramped seats. You kids today should know something: there used to be three glorious more inches of seat room on flights than what you currently have. Ah, I remember it well: basking in the glow of 7.62 additional centimeters of room. I felt like a queen (YAS)! In the last few years, though, such riche living was ripped from our grasp, and we were forced to cede those precious inches to the growing demand for additional seats on planes. While we weren’t happy about this, we agreed (eh, agreed, were forced to accept…same thing). But now the unthinkable is happening – airlines are considering STACKING us on top of each other. Like sardines. Literally. Like someone at the airlines had to hear me, er, someone on a flight complain about being packed in like sardines and think to themselves, “huh, what a great idea!” Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the future of air travel (Parental Discretion Advised, as this is an atrocity against humanity):
4. Dirty planes. I can’t believe this is even a thing, but it is. Who hasn’t experienced that true pit of fear that starts to grow in your stomach when you look up and see that the threat of brown liquid dripping on you from what should be an AC vent is real and is directly above your head?! AIRLINES, I CAN’T BELIEVE I HAVE TO SAY THIS, BUT CLEAN YOURSELVES UP. I’m embarrassed for you. We’re definitely paying you enough to keep your planes clean, so how about you give those planes a whore’s bath and at the very least spray a little Febreeze around before the next herd of passengers boards. GAWD.
5. People smells. PEOPLE OF EARTH, HEAR ME: sitting on a dirty plane is bad enough, but sitting next to a smelly person makes it INFINITELY worse. And don’t pretend like you don’t know you smell. You KNOW. You HAVE to know. Let’s all make a promise to bathe before a flight, mmkay? If you can’t do that, there is only one other acceptable option: buy a deodorant (any deodorant) from one of the 87 Hudson News stores in whatever airport you happen to be in, slather it on and then dowse yourself with cologne/perfume, as that smell, though over-powering, is much more preferable than radiating body-stink.
7. Baggage Claim. This is like last call at a singles bar. Everyone is hoping not to be the last one standing – waiting in internal angst as they watch the bags slowly come tumbling off the conveyor belt. You watch the person next to you grab their bag, smile and look around as if to say “I’m a winner, peace out, lowly airport peeps.” And realizing your bag is the only bag that didn’t make the journey home is a feeling of sadness mixed with rage with a dash of incredulity and persecution dropped in (I mean, you KNOW someone working at the airport decided to make it a personal mission to wreck your day). You begin the slow trudge to the baggage claim office, knowing immediately that your next 3 hours are going to be ruff. Ah, the joy of air travel.
AND there you have it. My list of grievances, in no particular order (though I think we can all agree that smells of any kind take the cake). Perhaps my biggest grievance, though, is this: no one has offered me a free wing pin in years. By my calculation, I’m owned 4,367 of them. I will humbly accept dollars.