Day 1 – Air Travel


(This post is part of the 30 for 30 challenge)

One learns a lot about people, and human nature in general, while in airports and on planes.  There is something about air travel, and the process of it, that tends to bring out some really interesting behaviors, unlike most other common mass gatherings of random strangers. And there really is no better time to observe these phenomena than in an airport on the day after Christmas..in Orlando..after all the parents and children are heading home from the Magic Kingdom.

One can almost predict the environment before even stepping foot into the terminal: More kids than usual, all of them tired and full of sugar, unhappy to be ending their time with the Big Mouse, exhausted parents in survival mode, ready to do whatever it takes to just get home in one piece and with a shred of sanity remaining.  In short, a really pleasant day to partake in air travel.141006135210-16-loud-noices-airport-behavior-horizontal-large-gallery

Instead of rehashing my own personal travel hell that is today, I will instead highlight some of my favorite air travel behavior phenomenon, and wish for this flight to be over..

Food on planes – One of the more amusing behaviors I often witness (and there are many), is people’s incessant need to eat large quantities of highly aromatic food on flights lasting no longer than most feature length films.  What is it about enclosed spaces and recycled air that makes people want to eat fully realized meals at all hours of the day? This occurred to me recently as I was gagging on the jerk chicken aromas coming from the plastic bag in the lap of the lady next to me on a 7:00am flight that lasted only two hours. I couldn’t help but wonder two things: 1) Do you normally eat barbecued meats this early in the morning, and 2) Can you not go two hours without stuffing your face?” Seemingly, from my feelings at the time, her answers to these questions in my mind, were “No, only to annoy you and, probably yes, but what’s the fun in that?”

Security checkpoints – This is the point in the air travel process where everyone forgets what has been the policy for literally the last ten years. Namely, NO liquids, NO shoes, NO belts or outer garments, and NO laptops in bags. This is also the point when hourly employees of the TSA get to show just how authoritative they can be. Every time I go through security I witness TSA employees talking to and treating people as if they were cattle. I’m convinced this is the same type of person that signs up to be a security guard at a shopping mall.

Kids on planes – Need I say more? (as I write this, there is one screaming next to me.  Not surprising since her mother literally fed her three whole donuts between sitting down and leaving the gate.  I wonder what she thought would happen?! Hmmm..)

Parent’s with kids on planes – Those poor souls…but still.. you shouldn’t feed them donuts, lest you pay for it later in the flight.

In-flight bathrooms – for me, a refuge.  I’m in their at least three times a flight.  Don’t worry, the bladder is fine, it’s just a way to escape all that is miserable about flying : the screaming kids, the stiff legs, the cramped back.  The lighting brings out every blemish and crevice in your face, but I’ll take it.  However, I do follow the seat belt rules. It never ceases to amaze me how often the flight attendants have to tell people to remain seated while the seat belt sign is on. Do people think they’ll just ‘sneak by this one time’?  I will admit though, sometimes it does feel a little excessive.  That damn sign is on half the flight usually!

Baggage Carousel – the moment when everyone gathers around the one end of the baggage belt waiting for their bag, everyone blocking everyone else, and inevitably dispersing as the bags begin to tumble out. Everyone believes their bag will be first.  Everyone, all the time.

What people wear to airports – Not that people should be expected to get dressed up to travel, but every time I travel it ceases to amaze me to see some of the things people wear.  Sweat pants and velour tracksuits are clearly the new norm, but I’ve also seen bathing suits. Yes, bathing suits. This is a prime example of the culture of convenience and comfort-at-all-costs that we currently find ourselves living.  Where a person can wear bathing trunks, a tank top, and sandals on a flight, removing sandals mid-flight and gingerly placing their calloused feet on your armrest, effectively saying, “Fuck you, I bought a ticket. I’ll do whatever the hell I want.”

And thus, the theme of this whole post – People now continually do whatever they feel like they can get away with when traveling.  Why? Because they not only feel they’ve purchased a high price item that entitles them to everything and more, but also because airlines and the government have made air travel such a tedious, uncomfortable experience, that people feel entitled to do whatever they want.  An effective “fuck you” to the Man.  What’s making it worse are the new airline policies of charging for everything besides the air in the cabin. Checked baggage, carry-on baggage, legroom, seat width, boarding order, expedited security access, in-flight food, everything about flying has now become an add-on to the experience of merely sitting strapped in a rigged upright plastic seat.  Oh joyous day.

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Author: Zack Hayhurst

New Yorker enthusiast, cartoon caption contest contender, book hoarder, cultural omnivore, writer

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