I can still remember my first plane ride…

Three words: scary as fuck. But that’s mostly because I tend to be the sort of person who frets about anything and everything. I like to think that I run a tight ship, even though it’s mostly a case of doing everything myself so that I don’t have any rogue elements mucking up my vision of order. It certainly didn’t help that there didn’t seem to be any advice readily available online. Yes, Google is a fantastic resource (which is one of the reasons why I’ve yet to use Bing, though there’s also that awful dandelion color that is plastered on top of the page to consider as well) but all it did was pull up the TSA website. The only helpful thing there was their three ounce rule regarding liquids and their constant reassurances that the pat-downs could be conducted in private should anyone choose to do so. It’s all good stuff to know, but I never found anything else to assuage my fears. Maybe I can fix that here, now that I have some experience in matters of flight.

1) Make sure you have your shit in order. I’m talking viable forms of ID, any online reservation codes, who is going to pick you up and drop you off your respective destinations or if you need to get a rental car. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be better off starting to gather stuff and people about a month in advance, minimum, and even then you will feel only slightly relieved. Take a page out of Santa’s playbook: make a list and check it twice.

2) Dress as metal-less as possible. If you absolutely have to wear a belt, make sure that you can get the damn thing off as quickly as possible, just in case. Same for shoes; you’re going to be sitting for awhile anyway, might as well put on something comfortable and, more importantly, easily slipped into. Maybe a pair of loafers or sneakers that have been well broken into? If you’re concerned about looking like a slob, you can always carry an extra pair of shoes, I guess. I just wear my leather dress shoes/work shoes; they look nice and, because I’ve run around in them quite a bit, they’re comfortable. As for earrings and piercings, there’s two ways that I can see going about it: either a) take them out and stow them safely in your checked baggage or b) make sure that they’re clearly visible so that the security folks won’t have such a hard time seeing why you’re making a noise when you pass through. On that note…

3) Don’t be an asshole to the TSA. This one is just common sense, folks. Pay attention to their prompts to move and show your ID. Follow their rules regarding liquids. Don’t be afraid to request a private session if you feel unsafe passing through an X-ray machine (not that there’s much to fear, but that’s for another post). They’re doing their job and you can make the going a lot smoother if you do yours and not be a dick about it. Do me a favor: when you’re in line to get through your gate, take a moment to look around. Are you the only one waiting? No. Does the world revolve around you? Obviously no, it doesn’t. Are the TSA folks human? Yes, why wouldn’t they be? Just keep in mind that they’re people too and calm down. You will get to your flight eventually. And, should you just happen to miss your flight…

4) Read the fine print on your boarding pass or wherever else the airline spells out the consequences of tardiness. Personally, I’ve never missed my flight and that’s mostly due to my tendency to want to get there early enough to snag a seat in front of my gate before the various five-member families take up twice the amount of chairs they need. I’ve got to admit, though, that just being aware of the veritable maze of things you have to do should you miss your flight is also reason enough to get to the gate fifteen minutes before boarding. What usually ends up happening is that I arrive at the airport at least three hours in advance, spend maybe twenty minutes in line to get through security, and then take my time browsing the shops for snacks to bring on board (because airline food is expensive, probably because it’s specifically designed to be consumed in a pressurized cabin or something). A certain saying comes to mind when I have to be somewhere by a certain time: hurry up and wait. It was drummed into me when I was in marching band and, like my penchant to wake up early, it’s stuck with me after high school.

That’s all of the advice I can give to those that have never ridden a plane before, not that I imagine that particular niche to be particularly big or anything. Just relax; I’m sure the pilot knows what they’re doing. But, if you really need to chill and you are of age, I guess you can always take a bit of liquid courage and go to sleep until you land or whatever.

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Filed under Summer 2012

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