Let me just try to explain the insane concept of boarding a flying machine fixed with two wings, a nose, air blasting at you at all directions, usually babies crying, dozens of leather chairs fixed equal parts vertical and horizontal. Some veteran flyers, some not so much.
Me, not so much. Although, I’m getting there.
The thing about flying is that no matter how experienced you are, there is always a twinge of anticipation, anxiety, nervousness, and uncomfortableness. I can’t begin to describe those feelings for someone new to the game of bolting yourself thousands of miles into the air. But I can try.
You wake up in the morning, not too early if you’re lucky. Get ready, double check you’ve packed whats necessary, eat and prep to leave. The very second you get into your car, the bus, or the taxi that is going to take to you the airport, your heart starts to tense.
It begins to tense in the same way you might feel before a big public speech, or recent bad news, or waiting for an important call. It starts early. For me, my body also feels the need to get extricate anything that is in it, no matter if I actually need to keep it for nutrients. Not good.
The ride to the airport ends. You actually feel a slight tinge of relief. Part of the anxiety was getting there on time. I could have left literally 5 hours earlier than needed and still been nervous about time.
So, you arrive. Step into the entry gates and check in. No one is servicing the desk at that time? Great, you have to use the self service kiosk that requires you to think, read and be patient with a system you’ve never used before. If it works—then great. But until then, you know in your gut something will go on and you won’t be able to print your boarding ticket.
This is where I have mastered the “wondering not knowing what to do face,” so that if I walk up to a customer service person, they’ll want to help, and be nice about it. That too, everyone fucking better be nice because THIS IS STRESSFUL.
Whew, boarding pass is printed. Now to find your gate. This has never been a problem. I often find myself double and quadruple checking my pass while I hold it in my sweaty hand, speed walking through the airport. Speed walking. It doesn’t matter if I have 2 hours ahead of me to kill, I am speed walking to my gate.
Found it. Seemingly a hundred miles from the TSA scans, but the exercise was needed in prep for the 5+/- hour flight ahead of me. Now, time to wait, play on my phone. Get some snacks. But snacks that aren’t too far away unless I have a travel buddy that will watch my stuff at the gate.
Your gate fills with people, and you just hope that your flight announcer at the airport doesn’t have the thickest accent you’ve ever heard. Otherwise, you’re left to fend for yourself and find someone who can actually understand that accent that sounds like a mix of Jamaican and Boston Accents in the overhead speakers.
Zone 2. I always seem to book in zone 2. It’s an alright zone, I don’t feel anything poor towards it. UNTIL SOMEONE RECLINES THERE CHAIR ALL THE WAY DOWN. It reaches your knees. I’m not even that tall and all the sudden I have the back of a chair head less than 2 feet in front of my nose. I passive aggressively tend to be a bit less of an enjoyable neighbor when this happens.
I skipped the part where you find your seat. That part is fine. Same story with the sweaty hands and constantly checking my seat row number and adjacent letter. I try to always get a window seat. The sky fascinates me.
Either way, I usually fall asleep within the first two hours of a flight. I’m one of those. Those people that fall asleep and their jaw completely relax and mouth proceeds to stay open the entirety of your nap. I tend not to care. The key is to partially cover your face with your sweatshirt and scarf and not have any gum in your mouth.
Turbulence. A little bit doesn’t scare me so much. But if there’s a 10+ minute stretch of “ROUGH AIR” You best bet that I’m upright in my seat with my seatbelt cinched tight, clenching my hands on either side of the arm rests. Double checking the plane exits, doing unnecessary mental preparation, and thinking about the meaning of life all at once that it actually passes that time a bit faster.
I’m always cold during flights. There’s only been two flights I’ve ever been on were I’m actually hot, but that’s a rare occasion. My trick is to wear those bigger sweatshirts and coat on the plane instead of packing. Even if it’s a spring day and those aren’t needed, they double as blankets or pillows for sleep.
The peanut train rolls around. It never makes any difference if the attendant on your side is nice or not. Those peanuts, pretzels and 6 ounces of soda are always the same. I tend to wolf those down before they even pass rows behind me. That actually makes me realize something. I should pack more snacks. Snacks get me through long days at work and school, of which I spend in a chair much like those on a flight. Only difference would be strange cabin pressure and no swivel chair.
It’d probably make this process easier for me. Early signs of food addiction, lets ignore that.
The attendants announce the beginnings of a decrease in altitude. Ouch my ears. Also, that moment you fall through and under the clouds only to realize you are actually above water. Shit. Traveling to coastal states this always happens and doesn’t cease to surprise and scare the shit out of me. The worst is flying into JFK. Where the landing strip is met with the ocean. Land those tiny little wheels that hold this giant however thousand pound piece of machinery must land right on time.
Flying takes a lot of trust, you know. I’d like to be able to meet my pilot. My life is in his/her hands either way. Maybe not though, a weird vibe and I’d have to change my travel plans all together. Cause wtf do you do if your pilot is having a bad day? Trust them? Definitely not.
Anyways, landing. It’s great unless you have a layover. Navigating airports isn’t too big of an anxiety trigger, but time is. It’ all in preparation for this one. I’d never book a flight with less than an hour layover.
Boom, process repeats until the final countdown is complete and you make it to your final destination.
Baggage claim? Great. I’ve had the worst experience you could imagine with this. After a 3 month stay on the East coast, my flight back home LOST MY LUGGAGE. You best bet that those 3 months of working in the big city required all my favorite things to wear and have. Mostly wear. ARE ALL LOST. You get a smile and a confirmation that those bags will be delivered to your doorstep until THEY AREN’T.
The process of filing a property claim is stressful and a cause for mourning all in one. On one hand, I want to suck the airline out for all it’s worth and file a huge claim for all the sentimental things they lost of mine. On the other hand, I want to cry, kick and scream that my possessions are gone. Cool, a 4-6 week process to get that situated and get my money back? Awesome, let me just wear the same two pairs of underwear, pants and bra for 4 weeks until I have that money to rebuild my entire wardrobe from the ground up.
My rant could go on, I could spend 1,000 more words complaining about that. Lesson? Well, if I need to check a bag, I will never fly Delta, and will avoid the airline at all costs.
Once that blows over and you’re ready to fly again, you really wonder why the fuck anyone does this.