I love, love, love to travel. And when I say “travel,” I mean “sit in airports.”
I’m not being facetious. I think airports are exciting places in which to hang out.
I know we’re all a little put out lately with the changes in security measures and more annoyingly, the airlines’ ability to find new and clever ways to charge us for things we didn’t even know were possible (Want to check your luggage? That will be $25. Want to carry on your luggage? That will be $25. Traveling without any luggage? Please move to the side for a full body scan. M’am, there is a one-child limit per family group flying. If you must bring the other twin, there will be a $125 service charge).
But all that aside, I love stepping into an airport, especially the ones where the ticket counters are spread out for miles in what looks like a big-box store, giving the impression that you have to simply pick a random destination, step to the counter, and you can bring that oversized portion of exoticness home with you.
I love waiting around at my gate. My carry-on is always stocked to be a virtual playground-in-a-bag, so I have all kinds of things to pull out and entertain myself with. This usually means three or four weeks of backlogged New Yorkers that are perfect air travel reading material. When else will I have the time to work my way through a 15-page sea of black and white on the greatness that is Tim Gunn?
On this most recent trip, I used the travel time to curl up in an extremely comfortable waiting area and knock out 7,000 words for my NaNo novel.
Also, at the airport, you can be as social or as reclusive as you choose to be. If you feel like being chatty, just scan your gate’s waiting area and you will quickly pick out the fellow passenger who can’t keep her mouth shut. Wanna make a new friend? Sit down next to her.
Or perhaps you are still looking for your lifemate? Use your gate-wait time to case the joint, find someone you think is aesthetically pleasing, and after observing them for a few minutes to be sure they are not secretly batshit, then sit down next to them and flirt outrageously. (A good opening line is, “Hi, can I share your power outlet? I need a little charge.”) Because even if you get rejected, no worries, you never have to see that guy again.
Personally, I enjoy the “me” time when I travel. Hours stretch ahead to read a good book, play on the internet, plot world domination. For once I’m in a place where my list of things I should be doing is useless because there’s nothing to clean, no errands to run, no work meetings to attend. Airport time is my own and I love it. And if you’re not traveling alone? It is soooooo easy to ditch someone in an airport. Trust me. Tell them you’re going off to find the Starbucks (be sure there isn’t one two steps away, however, which is a very real possibility these days), turn the corner out of their view, and then do whatever you want. For added assurance, ask them to watch your bags, which ties them to the gate and lets you wander hands-free!
Airports are also the place where I abandon all traces of my eating rules. This is sometimes necessary because you are in a tiny, crappy airport where the only available food for your 6 a.m. flight is stale donut holes and the M&Ms at the Hudson News counter. What can you do? A girl needs sustenance.
More likely, though, you are at an airport that has been seriously upgraded to cater to your every whim. At the new terminal at the Raleigh-Durham airport, I had Starbucks and a fantastic healthy snack kiosk where I loaded up on granola bars, an asian chicken wrap for lunch on the plane, a bottled Starbucks frappucino and some dried fruit. Later at my layover in Chicago, I came across a fabulous Cibo gourmet kiosk that sold things like red pepper hummus and veggies, a cheese and fruit platter, turkey and brie on ciabbatta, cold peanut noodles, Vosges chocolates—sorry, I’m getting off-track with its yumminess. Let’s just say that the selection of snacks was better than what I would have in the stores around my office on a normal day.
(There was also the most unbelievable cheese popcorn I’ve ever had from the Nuts on Clark outlet at the O’Hare airport. I’m just sayin’.)
When it comes down to it, this is what I love about airports—the constraints of air travel give me permission to change my usual behaviors and treat myself. They’re not serving a meal on my 3 hour flight—why shouldn’t I have cheese popcorn for lunch? Ooooh, they don’t stock Selma’s gigantic bad-ass cookies anywhere within driving distance of my home; I deserve to buy one to take back with me. That guy that looks like a cross between Elvis and John Edward and Criss Angel? He’s too weird and cute to not strke up a conversation with him.
There are a lot of aspects about air travel these days that are extremely frustrating and stressful, but if you’re not embracing the delights of cheese popcorn and quiet time, then you’re just not doing it right.