Sunday, January 15, 2012

Planes, Trains and Humvees

Call me crazy, but I actually enjoy air travel. Yes, you lose a day, but it’s an excuse to spend said day reading and/or napping. I also enjoy airports. Yes, the food is overpriced and you have to lug your carryon to the bathroom, but they’re great venues for people watching. Or you can buy expensive exotic perfumes duty free (I’ve never actually done this – I favor my $12 drugstore cologne – but it’s nice to have the option). Or you can get your shoes shined or sit in one of those $1 massage chairs (actually never done this either). Or you can catch up on the latest celebrity gossip without ever buying the magazines (Definitely done this. I hope people who see me realize US Weekly is just a way of killing time. Really, it is. Seriously. Don’t judge me).

I think there’s a part of me that has always found air travel intriguing. I’ve never quite understood why people get so unbelievably I’m-going-to-yell-at-these-poor-people-just-trying-to-do-their-jobs/thank-goodness-I’m-on-blood-pressure-medication stressed about it.

But as I flew back to Boston this week, sleepy, but relaxed and contentedly stuffed with Christmas chocolate; as I was bombarded with the little airport annoyances and the people overtly annoyed by them, something donned on me: maybe I don’t get so annoyed because I’ve been through much more bothersome travel scenarios. For example, after having driven across the country, I know air travel sure as heck beats that option. And air travel anywhere sure as heck beats air travel to and from rural Afghanistan.

Looking around at my fellow travelers annoyedly aligning their laptops, shoes and carryons on the security belt, I wanted to tell them that it’s better than emptying out the entire contents of several jam-packed duffel bags into bins and watching someone sort through it all with a fine tooth comb, throwing away things like vitamins no longer in their original container.

At the crowded terminal, overhearing my fellow travelers annoyedly groaned about layovers, early arrivals and “long flights from Vegas,” I wanted to tell them it’s better than boarding an exhaust-spewing bus in the middle of the night, twice as many body armor-clad people as seats, and 24-hours straight of flight time; it’s better than transferring from contract aircraft to military aircraft to smaller military aircraft to helicopter; it’s better than a four-day layover in Kuwait or at Bagram Air Base, sleeping under a tent in a rickety bunk with 100 other people, with all the lights on all the time, and finally drifting off into a fitful sleep only to be jolted awake by the sirens of incoming mortars.

Squeezing into a coach seat while my fellow travelers annoyedly huffed and puffed about limited leg room and noisy children, I wanted to tell them it’s better than pull-down web seating on a C-130 where your butt falls asleep almost immediately after takeoff and your hair keeps getting caught in the netting behind you; where the engines are so loud they issue passengers earplugs.

Hefting my mondo, just-barely-within-weight-limits suitcase onto the airport shuttle the driver exclaimed, “Wow! You made that look easy!” I almost said, “Dude, you should have seen me in full body armor lugging four bags and two weapons across the HLZ while the Chinook spewed dust and gravel everywhere” (or more accurately, “You should have seen me in full body armor being helped by my burly teammates . . .”)

I tried to assume the same smug pride later on the subway when I very politely informed the conductor that I had a large bag and would it be possible to exit from the middle door instead of climbing up, then down the steps of the front platform, and he very impolitely cut me off and grunted, “Use the front door.” (Seriously, MBTA? You open the rear doors for the first 12 stops of the route, it is really impossible to help an overloaded girl out?)

So yes, I would be lying if I said I don’t get annoyed at all. (Don’t even get me started on oversized carryon roller bags . . . ) There’s a part of me that does. But mostly I tell it to shut up. Besides, it’s the people who really bother me. I get annoyed at people getting annoyed. Then, instead of expressing my anger, I brood on it silently. Does that make me more stoic? Less annoying to objective observers? More prone to high blood pressure? Or just plain hypocritical?

Okay, I admit it, I’m a hypocrite. I tell myself this often, and often I forget. So now I’m saying it to you all so you can keep me accountable: Lauren, keep things in perspective.

When you’re wandering the isles at a home improvement store, dazed and confused because you know nothing about home improvement, don’t stress. It could be worse – you could be looking for twine and giant twisty ties to help pack all your life’s belongings into a 12x8 storage unit for the next year. (Except the cats, of course; those go to your parents).

When the T goes underground in the middle of your texting conversation and you’re cut off from technology for – gasp! – five whole minutes, don’t stress. It could be worse – you could climbing to the top of the old guard tower (where a somewhat paranoid but maybe slightly justified voice keeps telling you you’re going to get hit by sniper fire) to get two measly bars on your Afghanicrap cell phone.

When you’re waiting in line at a deli (café, restaurant, etc) and the customers and/or the servers are moving like molasses, don’t stress. It could be worse – you could be waiting in line outside a chow tent in the snow in anticipation of what is sure to be another exciting meal of dry, overcooked meat, soggy vegetables and your choice of three kinds of potatoes.

When you get your Seattle snow globe souvenir confiscated at airport security . . . well that really just doesn’t make any sense. What illegal substance could you possibly inject into a snow globe?

Whatever. I’ll get over it. Somehow, life will move on.

It always does.

(P.S. I think I just made up the word “annoyedly.” Catchy, huh?)


  1. Ah yes - the potatoes; Hot, Cold or frozen.

  2. Maybe you could have thrown the snow globe at someone's head? Nonetheless, nice post! :)

  3. Love it! I'm totally with you. I'm always amazed at how worked up people get about flying airlines. I love not knowing what's going to happen (seats oversold and I might get a voucher to get off the flight) and wondering if I'll sit next to an intriguing person on the flight. I refrain from checking bags though as having my bags lost is NOT a pleasant surprise! Best of luck in the real world Lauren...sounds like you're doing fantastic!