Over the shouts of, “Shoes off! Laptops out! No liquids!” from our TSA buddies, you can sometimes hear the under-breath rants of disgruntled travelers admonishing the woman with a ginormous tube of self-tanner or the gentleman with three pockets full of pennies and two belts. And while their looks of scorn remind us about the bottle of Aquafina roaming around in our own laptop case, it’s hard not to commiserate. Because for every easy whoosh through the frequent traveler lane, there’s a poor fellow stuck behind the family of eleven, each carrying fully-loaded Sponge Bob backpacks.
I think I’ve collectively spent months of my life on an airplane, but on a recent journey to New Jersey I came across about every passenger misstep in the book (whilst rudely eating my garlic-laden pizza amongst hungry fellow travelers). So in honor of the average frequent traveler – the one whose miles get them a free drink but not a first class upgrade – here’s a list of gate-to-gate guidelines every newbie should know to make a three-leg journey through O’Hare feel a little more like a non-stop to San Diego.
1) Moving walkway standers must yield to walkers who must yield to those with rolling briefcases who must yield to children going the wrong way.
2) TSA totally gets that your hula-hooped sized earrings didn’t set off the metal detectors in Denver – just take them off anyways.
3) If you’re hogging the charging station with your laptop, iPad, and Blackberry, where am I supposed to plug in my lava lamp and hair dryer?
4) Fish weren’t meant to fly. Unless you’ve brought enough to share with the group, we politely ask you to surrender your sushi or tuna melt at the gate. Better yet, trade them in for an olfactory-friendly Cinnabon.
5) Asking me to give up my aisle seat so you can sit with your buddy is like offering to trade me Baltic Ave for my hotel on Boardwalk.
6) To avoid four hours of chit chat about how Continental’s peanuts beat United’s, the hierarchy of don’t-talk-to-me props goes: book, then headphones, then fake sleep. If you’re reading Sky Mall, you’re fair game.
7) If you feel you’re being watched, please confirm: your seat assignment, the volume on your MP3 player, or that you’re not completing someone else’s Sudoku – in that order.
8) That big blue cushion behind your head is completely, unarguably, 100% your territory. Feel free to jiggle it, shake it, and fall all over it when you get up to use the lavatory. But that big blue cushion in front of you? Hands off.
9) Airplane lavatories are the scary back alley of an airplane that we only dare visit under extreme duress. Let’s keep the “graffiti” off the toilet seat.
10) Getting a window-seater to the lavatory is like an awkwardly choreographed tango. No drink service for you.
11) It may be called a carousel, but busting through the crowded plane to be front and center for your big red bag won’t get you off the ride any faster.
12) When the plane finally lands after a long, turbulent journey, applaud. It makes people happy.
While even the well-traveled will accidentally board when their row hasn’t been called or nearly leave with someone else’s black-bag-with-blue-ribbon, there are always opportunities to make the skies a little friendlier. Although following my no-sushi rule is definitely a difficult commitment.