A couple of days ago, I spent two early morning hours getting on an airplane.
I have mixed feelings about the appropriate amount of time one needs to allocate to do all the things required to fly. From checking in, to going through security (with or without the rigamarole of shoe and laptop removal), to procuring food and water, and let’s not forget the last minute bathroom stop. Who doesn’t want to avoid airplane bathrooms?
Unless you’re looking to gain admission into the mile high club. Is that even a thing any more?
How Much Time To Allocate?
“Some people are adamant about either scenario.”
As I said, I am not always sure how much time to allot. There are instances where I find myself a little bored and question the value of the extra time. How fun is it to hang out in an airport? And there have been plenty of just-in-time sprints to the gate.
Some people are adamant about either scenario. A friend of mine claims that if you have more time than required to check in and buy bottled water then you’ve left too early. Another, has the complete other perspective choosing to designate so much time that the Admirals Club has assigned seating for him.
The real problem lies in the uncertainty. We do not have any real information about the actual situation, on the ground, at the airport. It’s anyone’s guess.
I have the good fortune to have found a tribe of entrepreneurial women on Clubhouse. If you aren’t familiar with Clubhouse, it is a chat-only app which entered the scene (and my life) in the midst of an ever-isolating pandemic. After meeting IRL (in real life) last September, we decided to get together again.
This Friday, I had an 8:25 AM flight to Nashville to rendezvous with my tribe.
A Fortuitous Situation:
“After finding my place at the tail of the reticulated python, I settled in. This was going to take a while.”
For whatever reason, this particular morning I decided to give myself a two hour window. Coffee, a bagel, and some email catch-up time in my mind’s eye as the reward for an early arrival. To me, that’s a pretty good way to spend an hour.
However, that is not what awaited me. The second the double doors automatically opened, it hit me – one of the longest lines at check-in I have ever seen. It was one of those lines that snakes around so many times, it takes about 10 minutes to find the end of.
After finding my place at the tail of the reticulated python, I settled in. This was going to take a while. There was a family of four in front of me replete with snowboards, helmets, and goggles. They appeared over burdened and stressed. Given my “I’m here for a while, might as well get used to it” position, I inquired about where they were going. Headed for California for Spring break, their flight was scheduled for a full hour before mine.
Discovering The Value Of An Hour:
“Their decision to allocate less time to this process was exacting a huge toll on them.”
Over the next hour or so I began to appreciate the value of those minutes. The actual cost of two very opposite mindsets played out before me. I knew my coffee email date was canceled, replaced by a whole lot of standing still, taking a few steps every five or so minutes, and dragging heavy bags across a carpeted floor.
Once I accepted my fate, I was free to settle in. With plenty of time, I was able to stay light-hearted, calm, and to be kind to those around me. Yes, it was inconvenient to navigate the crowd of agitated people, the non-functioning check-in kiosks, and the shortage of helpful staff. But inconvenience, at least to me, is manageable and sometimes can be entertaining.
The family in front of me was clearly having a completely different experience. They were busy. Busy checking how fast, or in this case, how slow the line was moving. Obsessively checking the status of the flight on their smartphone. Running off here and there in search of a better answer. Their frustration was palpable, their anxiety mounting with each passing minute.
There was nothing for me to offer them – they were already ahead of me. My heart hurt for them. Their decision to allocate less time to this process was exacting a huge toll on them. Even though we were standing in such close proximity to one another, each one of those 60 minutes was experienced so differently.
Somewhere amidst the frantic, try anything to make the flight attempts, reality hit them. Their flight was boarded and the gate closed. They were still standing, frazzled, and crestfallen in front of me. Then they disappeared. I presume to return home or to negotiate another flight out.
Making Peace With The Obvious Choice For Me:
Having the privilege of experiencing the chaos with detached interest, I realized that I really don’t have mixed feelings about how long to give myself at an airport.
And if you’re wondering about the coffee/bagel/email date I had planned for myself, let’s just say I bought myself a piggy bank and will be saving up my pennies towards an Admiral’s Club membership.