Lessons From A Frequent Flyer

 

Dear Reader,

I believe you can learn most of what you need to know about people in an airport. Who uses the walking escalator? Who prefers to walk? Who is in a hurry and walks on the escalator? Some people’s children respectfully pull their miniature luggage alongside mom or pop while others run wildly up and down the walkways as if their parents didn’t bother to explain the difference between public and private spaces.

Now I don’t know if I’ve just been flying too much this year, but lately the majority of people I see in airports look worn out, tired, and sad in a way. Sure some people travel for vacations, reunions, tournaments, concerts and these rare occasions people laugh and look happy sitting by their gates. But I’ll venture to say that most people travel for business and even if it is for pleasure, the frustration of delayed flights, overpriced food, and the annoyance of inefficiency (everyone else’s of course) stretches faces down into frowns.

If you fly enough, like I do as indicated by my newly upgraded “A-List” status, you know that most gates remain the same if you travel at the same time to the same place each week. There are some benefits to being a frequent flyer – the quicker security line, you know where all the restrooms are, what concourse has the best food (If you’re flying at DIA Concourse B is a winner here and has the most ‘healthy’ options by far), and if you know how to work the system you’re golden.

What nobody tells you is if you have the time to do so, book an early flight! By this I don’t necessarily mean the 6 or 7AM ones, but a flight that’s a couple hours earlier than your ‘ideal’ flight. Why?? Because about 50% of the time I believe airlines overbook flights! Out of the 10+ times I’ve flown this semester the airline has asked for people to volunteer to take a later flight for a $300 voucher. So if you’re flight is about to board make sure you’re standing closest to the ticket counter because that voucher could be yours and there… you keep doing that every time you fly and you’ll have to pay for half as many flights as you would have otherwise. So there, that’s my advice.

Of course there are other ‘inside’ the airplane lessons where you also learn about people: the ones who pack lightly, the ones with small bags and even though they have two of them they still put them under the seat in front of them. Those are selfless people…unlike the ones you put both of their carry-ons in the overhead bins privileging their own comfort over others. Depending on how big ones bags are some people abide by the fairness in putting one below the seat and one above. And there are those who help others put their bags up, and for some reason this always makes me happy.

If you’re in the window seat, some are kind enough to help the flight attendant hand you your peanuts and complimentary beverage. Others refuse to tough your plastic cup at the risk of brushing against your hand. I also figure most people want to make connections. Not just their plane connections, but human connections. I have to say I don’t think I look all that friendly on airplanes but for one reason or another people usually end up talking to me. Whether or not you’re grading, have a book, or getting out your I-Pod you can tell there are just some people who don’t want to be bothered and there are some who are just craving conversation and a connection, even if just for a brief hour long plane ride I don’t necessarily think these people are lonely (though some may be) but maybe that’s just part of what makes us human, that longing to connect or help.

I’ve been lucky enough to be seated next to a fireman (some of you know that story), a speech therapist, an elocutionist, and an older lady who shared half her sandwich with me. For some reason flying reminds me why I get frustrated with people, but every now and then someone (in fact each trip), even if it’s just one person, reminds me why the journey, wherever you’re going, is always worth it. Reader, the next time to take to our friendly skies, remember it’s ok to smile walking down the aisle and to not be afraid of sticking yourself in that middle seat, you never know whom you’ll meet.

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