The Friendly Skies

detroit airport

I’m an hour away from home in Burlington right now (5:30 a.m.), heading to Detroit so I can fly to Pittsburgh for a meeting. I’ll reverse the entire process this afternoon, getting home (if all goes well) in time to sleep in my own bed.

I’ve been traveling a lot more for work recently, which I actually don’t mind at all. It gives me a chance to be in my office or to meet up with colleagues in other places, which I really enjoy. I like a hotel room and a quiet night. At home, it gives Matt and John get a chance to figure out their own dinners and routines without me there trying to micromanage everybody. Win win win.

But with all that being said, air travel is not always the best way to experience humans beings. Since I’m low on sleep and currently in an airport, I hope I’ll be forgiven for my grouchiness as I share a couple of thoughts for my fellow travelers.

1. Volume. Even if you can’t see my head in the row in front of you, I promise it has ears attached. I can hear every word of your story about the trade show you just went to in Atlanta. I don’t really want to hear it, and I suspect that the person you’re telling it to doesn’t want to hear it either. Even when you aren’t sure, just assume your voice carries, and err on the side of quiet. Shhhh.

2. Smelly food. You certainly have the right to whatever food you like on the plane. It’s not the DC metro — you can eat. But if you pick food that’s messy, or loud, or has a really strong smell, you’re essentially subjecting everyone around you to the experience of your meal. Please, skip the nachos or pizza and just get yourself a muffin or a turkey sandwich. It’s better for you anyway.

3. Full-size pillows from home. Attention teenage girls: you don’t need to bring your pillow. It is not a security blanket. You aren’t going to stretch out luxuriously to take a nap or text with your friends. Your seat is barely wide enough for your body without a giant pillow, and nobody in your row wants to share that pillow with you. It’s going to be a nuisance. You’ll wish you hadn’t brought it, and so will everyone else.

3. On that note… While you’re leaving your pillow at home, I recommend that you also leave your sweats and pajamas at home. Unless you’re boarding a 17-hour flight from New York to South Africa, it is not going to kill you to wear actual, non-lounge-related clothing. Airports are still public places. And speaking of clothing:

4. Short shorts. I always find tiny shorts unflattering and inappropriate, but on a plane, I also find them kind of gross. In them, you’re going to put huge swaths of your skin on the seat, where similar swaths of some other person’s skin were just a few minutes ago. Would you want to rub your legs against the legs of some random person from the street? No, you would not. But that’s essentially what you’re doing. Tank tops: almost as bad. Cover up on the plane, folks.

5. Big carry-ons. On planes, the rules of space and time do apply. And that means that they apply to the suitcase you heaved on board stuffed within an inch of its life. If your suitcase won’t fit above you, determine that quickly and get on with plan B. Don’t stand there shoving and looking at it as if something might happen differently this time. It will not.

6. Heavy carry-ons. It also bugs the heck out of me when people (usually women, although I’m sorry if that’s sexist) get onto a plane with a suitcase that they can’t lift, and then stand in the aisle looking helpless until someone comes to the rescue. Don’t do it! Don’t be a damsel in distress. If you can’t deal with your bag yourself: check it.

7. Carry-ons in general. Honestly, if I ruled the world, there would be no overhead compartment. The whole thing is ridiculous.

8. Kids. Parents, I feel your pain. I’ve been the one on a plane with a crying baby. I’ve been there with a bouncy toddler. All you can do is  be prepared (snacks! stickers!) and do your best. But be respectful of everybody else in the airport and at least try to stick with inside voices. It’s when you’re not making any effort to control things that people (including me) start giving you the stink eye.

9. And finally, Seat reclining. No. The very minor adjustment to your comfort is not worth the smack in the face to the person behind you.

Never before have so many people been asked to be so patient in such a small space. Courtesy is all we have. So please, my fellow travelers: be quiet, be nice, be polite, be tidy, and we’ll all get though this just fine.


P.S. Now I’m in Detroit. This is actually a really lovely airport.

4 thoughts on “The Friendly Skies

  1. You covered nearly all of my air travel pet-peeves except for two: 1) arm chair hoggers. Drives me crazy when the person next to me thinks so highly of him/herself that they assume the chair arm is all theirs. 2) line-cutters. Boarding the plane should be straightforward, as a very precise system is in-place: if you hear your zone number called, then it’s time for you to board. You are not allowed to assign yourself a lower zone number. Deboarding the plane should also be straightforward, but follows an unwritten rule: the passengers deboard from the front to the back of the plane. If you are seated behind me, good manners dictate that you don’t shove up into the aisle and block me from getting out of my seat as we are unboarding.

    • Oh yes – I totally agree with the zone number thing. And I think if they would just take away the overhead compartments, it would help, don’t you? It’s hustling for the overhead that gets everybody all worked up.

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