I have spent much of my adult life traveling, which means I have spent countless hours in airports. My wife has mentioned she thinks I spend too much time there, because I like to get there early. I’ve put those relaxing airport waits to good use over the years by observing human behavior. Basically, I’m a people watcher. Believe me when I tell you, I wish I had the power to give time outs to people I don’t know for their bad behavior in airports. I’m talking about adults. If there was a “time out room” in airports, a place you had to go sit for 20 minutes because you are acting like an idiot, the room would be full if I was in charge of handing out the penalties. It’s amazing what I see in airports.
Recently, as I contentedly sat in gate area A18 of San Juan airport calmly reading my paper, I was distracted by the sounds of what I thought was a stampede. Looking up I saw a couple probably in their 40’s, running toward their gate, obviously late, shoulder bags flopping against their sides. Two young kids, pre-teens, I’m assuming theirs, were frantically trying to catch up. It was hard for them to keep pace because the parents weighed them down with carryon bags, backpacks and takeout food packages. Mules couldn’t carry more supplies.
For the entire time this family was in my field of vision, the father who was sweating profusely let loose with a barrage of accusations, blaming everyone but himself for being late. “I told you we should have left earlier……if you didn’t have to go to the bathroom every 10 minutes……I told you gate 18 was over here.”
Now, what’s interesting to me is this. I’m going to guess that this family was returning from their annual ritual of…”the family vacation.” They probably planned this trip for a year, looking forward to the 2 or 3 weeks per year vacation his employer generously gave him. The bright red glow on their faces from way too much sun in way too little a time leads me to believe they tried to get a year’s worth of sun in 10 days. When you spend most of the year holed up in an office or playing video games and then take your pale skin tone to the Caribbean for a week, you end up looking like a lobster. That’s not an attractive look.
So now, the vacation has come to an end. I picture Dad’s day was ruined early, when he discovered while packing at the hotel that little Johnnie collected way to many sea shells and Mom bought way too many t-shits during their stay to fit in their bags, and they are running late because little Suzie had to stop to visit the rest room on the way to the airport and Little Johnnie just had to have a healthy breakfast from Burger King. Dads freaking out.
I watch this while I calmly glance at my watch, sip my Latte and turn my paper to the Sports section. I have plenty of time.
Their much anticipated vacation culminates with the family sprinting through the airport; the kids look like pack horses and dad’s yelling at everyone every step of the way. Sounds like a great way to end a vacation doesn’t it?
How about this for an idea. After your vacation, get to the airport a little early.What? Early?
That’s right, get there early. That way you can casually stand in the check in line and talk to your kids with a smile, ask them what they liked most about the vacation. Nonchalantly go through security, giggling when mom sets the alarm off because she forgot to take off the toe ring she bought in Old San Juan. Slowly stroll through the concourse with not a care in the world, window-shop if you like, you have time. While mom visits the Duty Free store, dad can take the kids to the food court and little Johnnie can get his bacon double cheeseburger. Arrive at your gate 15-20 minutes before boarding, enough time to get your Ipod, book and whatever else you need for the flight out of your carryon bags. Sit back and glance at the newspaper your bringing home for a souvenir, take a breath, relax. Ten minutes till boarding, your ready, unperturbed and well fed.
Or…..you can arrive late, dash through the airport while yelling at your family spoiling whatever nice memories you may have made on vacation.
I like my scenario better.