This last week I had the task of taking Hattie to camp. She and I were both excited not only because it was her first time going to camp but also because we were getting a little mother-daughter time for the two of us on the way. We drove to the airport, wrestled with her trunk and duffel bag, flew to Charlotte, rented a car, wrestled with the trunk and duffel bag again and drove to our friend’s house. After a great dinner party of close friends, we slept like rocks, got up the next morning and drove into the woods to get Hattie started on her 10 days of camp fabulousness. Piece. Of. Cake.
Now it was time for me to go back home. I drove to the Charlotte airport and dropped off the rental car. I breezed through my first flight with ease, even getting complimented by TSA agents for my prowess in going through security. I was feeling like a travel superstar. Of course it all came crashing down like Vesuvius. That’s what cocky will get you.
My flight from Detroit to Syracuse was supposed to leave around 9. I already had a long layover and wasn’t going to be getting home until the wee hours but I was prepared. What I wasn’t prepared for was that the airline I was using installed a new dispatching software system the day I was traveling. Let’s just say that the new software launch didn’t go well. As our flight departure time got pushed later and later, I began to hear horror stories. Now I know how people LOVE to share their tales of woe when the chips are down and I try really hard not to get sucked in but I was having a difficult time ignoring the words hanging in the air.
One woman had an earlier flight canceled because the co-pilot didn’t show up. Another had a flight canceled because there was a full crew but no plane. Apparently there was no coordination of who was supposed to be where and when. Delightful. Luckily I had my secret weapon. My husband is a platinum elite traveler and he has the credentials to prove it. As soon as I heard the word canceled announced in the same sentence as my flight number, I put in a call to my secret agent and he called his super secret phone numbers and got me a nice hotel room and a ticket for the next day. Of course, I did not share that information with anyone at the time. He’s a secret for a reason. Heh heh heh. Or he was…oops.
Anyway, I escaped from the line of miserable folks and got to the hotel just after midnight where I promptly passed out. I got up a mere 4 1/2 hours later and headed back to the airport to find out that my flight had been canceled. The plane that was supposed to be there for the early flight had never made it the night before. I worked with the ticket agent to find a seat on a plane going somewhere in the vicinity of home. You know, it’s never good when the ticket agent asks you, “What the hell happened here last night?”
I got a boarding pass and cleared security. Just on the other side of the metal detector I entered a war zone. Shrapnel from those unlucky enough to spend the night in the airport littered the floor. Bodies were strewn over every surface. Feet and hands dripping from seats like candle wax. It was ugly. The smell was worse. I joined the band of less-than-merry folks from last night and we made our way to our gate. Wait. Change gates. Wait. Change departure times. Wait. Watch “our” plane take off with someone else. Very adulterous, is it not? I certainly was feeling cheated.
To make a long story only slightly longer, after a dozen more gate and time changes, I finally made it onto a plane. We left a scant 4 hours late and landed 2 hours from my original destination where my secret agent was waiting. I survived. I was beaten down, exhausted and felt like my memory had been wiped clean but I made it.
In writing, it doesn’t sound as bad as it was. Let me clarify. It was BAD. Granted I did not have to sleep in the airport but it was still pretty bad. I began to doubt myself. It was exhausting to keep up with all of the gate and time changes. Paranoia sets in. I started to think that if I left to run to the bathroom or grab something to eat, I might miss some life-changing announcement and miss my chance to get home. Preposterous I know. But when you feel like you’re not being given all of the information, you cling to every word you get like treasure.
As we were waiting, I grew weary of reading. I didn’t want to do any of the things I had brought along to occupy my time. So I started to people watch. I love to watch people. Especially in scenarios like waiting in the airport. Disney was a people watching paradise. I’m not there to judge. I’m just fascinated by sociology and psychology. In all of my hours of watching I realized that there are several categories of airline passengers that most people can be lumped into.
The Information Snob – The Information Snob knows everything. This person always has the latest scoop and cannot wait to share it with anyone that will listen. This person finds great joy in being the “go-to guy” for those less informed who are feeling desperate. Also sometimes called The Controller/The Leader/The False Idol. Just for your information, this person is often wrong.
The Charger – The Charger must have his or her phone plugged in to charge at all times. To be away from an operational plug causes great distress.
The Ignoramus – The Ignoramus has no clue about anything happening around them. They don’t pay attention in line. They smack people with their luggage. They wander around aimlessly. It’s a wonder they make it to the airport at all. They have no idea that you can’t take a 12 ounce bottle of shampoo in your carryon. Their most frequent utterance is “sorry”. They do not mean it. Ever.
The Runner – The Runner runs everywhere regardless of necessity. Faster is always better. Even with a 3 hour layover.
The Stinker – The Stinker thought that they could bypass the shower and/or deodorant without being offensive. The Stinker is horribly mistaken. However, The Stinker will find that he or she will often have the seats on either side of them free for their bags while everyone else is pressed together. Interesting, no?
The Drama Queen – The Drama Queen throws a huge tantrum and then expects to be petted and served and checked on and felt sorry for. Usually female. That’s painful to admit but it’s true. She expects first class treatment whether she has paid the first class price or not. I did not encounter The DQ until I was waiting for the shuttle to the hotel the first night. The DQ had gotten a hotel reservation and was sure that she knew which bus to get on. The driver was trying to tell her that he was not going to the hotel where she said she had a room. She started screaming at him. She was calling him names and starting to cuss. Classy. Then, just because she did not have the undivided attention of the entire airport, she reached into her bag, pulled out a full bottle of red wine and smashed it on the ground. The man next to me said “that’s a damn shame”. It was. (just so you know, the bus driver was right…they usually are…)
The Settler – The Settler must get “settled” at each new location. Each of their items has to have a “home”. The Settler in our group was a nervous wreck by the 4th gate change. She barely got settled before the next switch. I honestly didn’t think she was going to make it.
The Snacker – The Snacker always has food in hand. Stress eating at its best. The woman in our group who was The Snacker was having a particularly hard time. She was very concerned what other people thought about her title as The Snacker. She made a huge deal out of the fact that she was trying to eat healthy foods and make good choices. She was a big girl and I could understand her angst. But she also happened to be The Charger of the group and the two titles were becoming a more burdensome load than she could manage. When we got to our last gate and were promised that we were actually getting onto this plane, she declared “Thank you Jesus!”, unplugged her phone and disappeared. She returned moments later with the biggest cupcake I have ever seen. She downed it in magnificent gulps and proclaimed to all of us watching with mouths agape, “That was totally worth it!” Then she plugged in her phone.
The Expert Traveler – The Expert Traveler wants nothing to do with any of the above. This person travels enough to actually know all that is going on and never buys tickets to the airport circus. Ever.
The airports have figured all of this out. They have amenities for every category. Executive lounges. Rows of plugs. Snacks abound. Television screens with useful information. Kiosks of crap at discount prices. Television screens with useless information. Loud announcements from Charlie Brown’s fourth grade teacher. Carts and buggies. Moving sidewalks. Yada yada yada.
Looking back, the whole ordeal was over in a flash. My adrenaline, peanut and caffeine levels have dropped back to normal. Just in time to go back and pick Hattie up this weekend. Maybe I’ll figure out what category I belong to by then.