I recently mentioned to my mom that I hate airports. Her reply? “You picked the wrong guy if you really despise them!”
What is it about airports that brings out all the feels? The airport environment is heightened somehow, as though they put something in the water or air. The arrivals area is decidedly more cheerful than departures. At the arrivals gate you see signs: “Welcome home, Katie” held by the cutest set of parents and dimpled younger brother; “Mr. John Smith” held by a blankfaced businesswoman; “Happy anniversary” accompanied by a 20-something young man holding a boquet of tulips. These people are awaiting the arrival of a loved one, a business associate, a girlfriend or wife. The hugs are numerous. The tears flow. No one seems too impatient or upset.
Departures, on the other hand, is entirely different. There are the goodbyes—the long hugs and last-second embraces, the sad tears, the last glances. After the goodbyes come the impatient sighs as we wait for that passenger (you know the one) who can’t remember to take out his laptop, the lady who insists that she isn’t wearing anything metallic and then finds her keys in her pockets, the TSA agents who can’t really be bothered—basically, the security theater to which we travelers are submitted every flight. You can see worried glances at wristwatches, foot tapping, and lots of fidgeting as well wait together. Momentarily united, we hope never to see each other again after this moment.
After the security theater, endured by all and hated by everyone, we rush to our gates, only to wait some more. We buy $3 cokes, $7 salads, and silent wish we were in a European airport, where at least we could enjoy a 350-mL bottle of red wine for $5. We watch for the screens to change, dreading any potential delays. Our supposed boarding time comes, goes. Nothing.
Finally a bored-looking airline employee says one word, which no one really listens to, and there is a bum rush to line up at the gate. Nothing happens for another ten minutes. We are now separated into two camps: those who choose to line up and those who do not. We believe fiercely in our causes, call them just and true. We look at the other camp despairingly, as if to pity them and their poor choices.
Then the privileged passengers, those who pay way too much money, are allowed to board first. I’ve never understood why boarding first is a privilege. More time on the airplane? I spend more than enough time on those things, thank you very much. Then parents with young children get to board, but the word young is interpreted differently by some. There is always that one family with a nine- and ten-year-old who try to take this chance to board before the rest of us plebes. I think it’s a bit too old; we all think it’s a bit too old, come on! But, of course, we remain silent, and they are allowed on the plane.
Zones are announced. People who line up hate zones. Me? I love zones, and I especially love it when people try to board before their time and get denied. Oh, sweet, sweet denial. You thought you were so smart, didn’t you?
You just got zoned.
Finally they call my zone. I wait some more, because—again—I am going to make it on the plane. Why rush it? I still end up having to wait in that tunnel while those special passengers try desperately to shove their overlarge suitcases into the overhead bins. The rest of us must follow rules, but these people—they’re special. So forget about the rules! Put your huge suitcase up there so the rest of us can’t. (These people tend to be the same people who are in a hurry to board. They know they’re in danger of having to check their bag.)
My airport anxiety is worse than my airplane anxiety, and it doesn’t dissipate until we’re off the ground. I hate taxiing. Taxiing is the worst, especially when the pilot keeps telling you that you’re next to take off. Lies, all lies! If we were next, we would be taking off by now, fibber! I try to take a few deep breaths at this time and remember that soon they’ll be serving us food. Delicious airplane food, am I right?
Finally, we’re in the air, and I can relax. Phew. Another day, another airport. On to the next.