Thoughts of an Annoyed Traveler

Northwest Airlines Boeing 757-251 Economy Class.

I think air travel brings out the worst in me. At least in my thoughts – not so much in my behavior, which is pretty honed and efficient after a dozen or so work trips over the past few years. But I find myself getting increasingly judgmental of my fellow travelers who aren’t as practiced, or at least don’t act like it.

Newark -> Minneapolis -> Spokane is a pretty easy route, especially with a comfortable-but-not-too-long layover in Minnie, enough time for me to hit the ladies’ room, grab a peanut butter chocolate chip bagel from Einstein’s (I can’t resist – it’s a place I frequented as kid, but I haven’t lived near one since I was 13), and play on my laptop a bit at the gate.

The security line at Newark was surprisingly quick, but that’s usually the first place that I begin to get annoyed. Remember that scene in Up In the Air, where George Clooney evaluates the lines and sees something like a family with kids, a senior couple, and Japanese businessmen (and obviously picks the last line to get in)? That’s me. I have it down to a routine: shoes off, laptop out, baggie of toiletries out, slide bins along. I don’t think it’s particularly hard to do quickly, but I know not everyone has gone through the routine as often as I have. So, I do my best to be patient and kind. I mean – that’s something I try to do in life overall, anyway. I should of course practice it at the airport.

But it’s worse on the plane. I imagine it’s kind of like road rage, which I don’t really experience. Usually, I board with my zone, slide my backpack/purse under the seat in front of me, pull out the in-flight magazine, and then simmer with irritation while I watch my fellow passengers board. Why? Well it could be any number of reasons, but usually I’m giving the stink-eye to travelers who are attempting to cram a WAY TOO BIG suitcase into the overhead bin. Every time! Every flight, there’s a handful of people just in my eyeline who squeeeeze their giant rolling bags up top and have to slam the door closed with all their might. Check your bag, already!!

But. My rational mind tells me that really, it’s not such a big deal. I’m rarely in a huge hurry, and when I have been, I can’t think of a time where I’ve been held up to the point that I miss a connection or something. And I know that not everyone can afford to check their bags. And further – not everyone has the privilege of air travel as often as I do. That’s the real rub, there. Just because I’m confident in nearly any airport doesn’t mean… well, anything, really.

I know that someday I might travel alone with a couple of kids and have a rough time corralling all the people and stuff, and someday I will be old and frail and clinging to my husband as I slowly make my way onto a plane, and face any number of challenges I can’t yet anticipate. So: patience and compassion. Good lessons to practice in an airport, or anywhere.

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