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Airport Survival: When the flying gets rough – I didn't

I'm too damn nice.
And I'm just going to have to do something about it.

It's Tuesday morning. About 7:15 a.m. The Portland sun is beautiful; the sky is clear. While I sit at this table in the food court area of the Portland airport, I type and drink coffee. Planes take off and land. Luggage carts roll back and forth across the tarmac. There is motion, and stillness, and the warm beauty of an Oregon near-summer day.
The only problem is that I shouldn’t be seeing any of it.
I should be about halfway to Salt Lake City, Utah, right now, so I can catch a connecting flight to New York. Way the hell up in the air, kicked back, napping because I only slept for an hour last night.
As you might have surmised, a couple of things went wrong this morning.
For starters, while I like to take governmental and corporate suggestions and guidelines with more than a bit of salt, that whole “get there bloody shaggin early” bit is spot-on. If someone tells you arriving at the airport only an hour before your flight is sufficient, don’t listen to them. Thank them for the suggestion. Then ignore it.
Get there bloody early.
Do the 2 hours, especially in summer, now that school’s out and people are vacationing. Bring a book; we all could stand to read a little more anyway. Waiting won’t get on your nerves nearly as much as missing your flight will.
The line was long. The airport was a zoo. The people around me, leaving on similar flights. Anyone to flag down, maybe try to jump ahead some? Nope.
When it comes to check-in, technology is your friend.
Oh, but there were self-check-in kiosks. These things rock; e-ticketed passengers check in, print their boarding pass, check their bags, and bam, they’re underway. The kiosks are great things, I hear tell but wouldn’t know because I didn’t see them through the throngs. Believe you me, when I say that now, after having seen the ticket counter for the second time this morning and the kiosks for the first, I feel a bit stoopid.
Will things work out? Most likely. The ticket counter agent – a very nice woman named Rita – has a bead on a flight to Atlanta that will then get me to Newark. It’ll be 6 hours later than originally planned, but if in that 6 hours I’m where I’m supposed to be, that’s better than another 6 hours that I’m not.
But I wonder what could’ve made this turn out the way it was originally supposed to.
I’m not prone to raising my voice. I’ve always been a “nice guy”. One of those kinda quiet ones. Nice and quiet have their merits, but too much ain’t good. Today, I keep wondering what would’ve happened if I had been more assertive. Had tried harder to flag someone down and get myself to an agent. Or if I’d not been so overwhelmed by the size of the line, that I’d hunted for the check-in kiosks I’d heard about, to see if they were an option for me. Or, once I did reach the counter, if I’d just had the ticket agent re-route me right then and there. If I had done one of those things, I’d be on a plane right now.
I’m not happy. Being too nice does not make you happy. Right now it’s pissing me off. But the sun is shining in Portland. I have a hot cuppa coffee, not to mention the strawberries, cheese and peaches that I packed to nibble on today. There are books, and writing.
And time. There is time. I’m just not yet spending that time where I was hoping to spend it. By about 10:30 tonight, the story should be different.
And next time, I’m getting to the airport early, regardless of any suggestions otherwise. If things are crazy, I’m going to raise my voice, stamp my feet and dance like a loon on crack if I have to. I’m getting on that flight.
Being nice has its merits. Being quiet can be advantageous. But today was not a day for either one, and now, watching a plane take off, I’m paying for it.
Time to stop being so bloody quiet and nice, when it comes to bloody travel.
Let’s end this on a positive note though. What have we learned today?

  • Get in early. Especially during summer. Kids are out, people are taking vacations – you get in early, you have boarding pass and are at your gate early. You can catch up sleep on the plane. Airline staff all told me that the morning’s zoo was due in part to all the kids being out of school, so families are heading out.
  • Find the kiosks. Forget the counter, and the lines that come with. Go to the machine, run your stuff, and get your boarding pass. Most airlines also let you then proceed to designated areas of the ticket counter for bag checking. Will there still be a line? Probably. But it’ll move faster. Look around, or find someone and ask. After you book your flights, go to the airline’s website for details on whether or not they have checkin kiosks, and what the requirements are to use it.
  • Always look, always ask. Not necessarily in that order, either. Use your eyes, your voice and your ears – and again, not necessarily in that order. Seek, inquire, and ye shall find and receive.
  • Hunt down the people in charge. When it’s busy and the line is huge, sometimes you’ll see an airline rep working the line, looking for e-ticket folks, first and business class, etc. They may also be able to bump you up in line. Find this person. Shout and dance, but get their attention. I’d be writing a very different post if I had.
  • If stuff goes wrong, be nice. It ain’t the rep’s fault. Stuff happens, and missed flights are one of the crap parts of travel. It’ll get sorted out, but the anticipation meantime can be frustrating as hell. Be nice to your rep, ask them how their day’s going; the nicer you are, the harder they’re going to try to help you.
    Rita came through in fine style. I’m finishing this while looking through another long bank of windows, sitting in a very comfy chair. My strawberries have survived 2 security checks, but they’re looking like I’d better get to snacking or else have strawberry mush in my bag. A Southwest flight is taxiing in. A guy in sunglasses and a blue untucked shirt loads bags onto the luggage ramp of a United Airlines plane. The sky is still blue.
    I’m not pissed anymore. You’re never pissed once there’s resolution. And you’re not nervous, once that ticket’s in your hand.
    But I’m still too nice, still too quiet. Travel requires that sometimes you have to make some noise. Unless I want to start getting off on the stress of missing a flight, I’m going to have to learn to get a little loud, and even a little ugly, sometimes.
    But please excuse me for now though – it’s boarding time, and I have a plane to catch.