Travel Post - It Is Only an Airport - CALM DOWN!!!!!

Many of you may have have been disappointed that I wasn't living up to my claim of being a nationally touring freelancer over the past few months. Honestly, I needed a break from the chaos of sitting amongst my fellow homo sapiens at airport gates from city to sparkling city, among other reasons. Yes, I traveled by bus to New York City a handful of times over the past 6 months (and luckily took the Bolt Bus instead of the train the night of the Amtrak crash), but I haven't existed amongst the rank and file economy class of aerial travelers for some time. It has been glorious to say the least. But, I'm back at it. In fact, I began writing this blog on my phone waiting in the security line at Philadelphia International Airport and continued while flying from Philadelphia to Phoenix. Now, during my layover in Phoenix on my way back to Anchorage, I am beginning to transcribe it from a random table at a random coffee stand with this beautiful image burning color into my eyes.

Looking out the window at the airport in Phoenix
With that said, I'm actually quite inspired by reentering the regular travel schedule of a freelance dancer and choreographer. I am heading back to Alaska to kick off my inaugural intensive training experience, AK-BK Contemporary Ballet Workshop. And, as I was attempting to check in for my flight with the ticket attendant waving me to the counter, not one of the three people blocking my path moved (or even turned their heads) when I kindly, but audibly spoke, "Excuse me." There is just something about airports that make most people lose their sensibilities and act like animals sitting around a watering hole, a la Mean Girls.

So, this time around, I've decided to have an interlude list blog between all of these "Create Your Own Project" series postings. With that said, I am here to offer you all of the advice you could ever need on how to CALM DOWN and act with civility when you are at an airport. Cheers!

- Keep this in mind at all times. It's just an airport. It is no different than the rest of life. In fact, the rules are almost exactly the same as they were in elementary school. Stand in line. Be nice to and aware of the people around you. Listen to the people in charge. And you will have few problems. Simple.

- If you are all like, "OMG!!! I get nervous before I fly...and sometimes it...umm...affects my stomach...but I need privacy...to...umm..." too much information, DON'T FRET! There usually are bathrooms located on the floor where you collect your ticket and drop your baggage off. These lavatories are usually completely empty and absolutely spotless. Aside from the occasional employee who goes in there to take a whiz, nobody goes in there or seems to know they exist.

(Note: at this point, my flight is probably already boarding...and I'm still sitting here in the cafe typing my blog. See how calm I am?)

- If you have a question or concern, ask an employee or TSA agent. They may seem to rudely ignore you, cut you off, or be short with you. They have a lot to tend to. Just wait patiently until they can find a moment to answer you. If you stand there and wait for them to assess the many situations in front of them, they will eventually give you a competent, attentive answer...even if they don't smile and say "Have a nice day!" They are more interested in maintaining all of the crazies running around than giving you their full attention and offering a smile. And, more often than not, when they realize that you get how it works, they will be nicer and more willing to help you out.

- Oh no! You raised your voice at or approached an airline worker or security agent with an angry tone. Be prepared for them to have no interest in assisting you in any way, shape, or form. It, honestly, is never ever acceptable to treat airport employees this way. No matter how in the right you are, they are in control and can make your trip miserable from start to finish.

In no rush...
(OK...I finally left the cafe at this point. I was one of the last people to board my plane. And I even had time to take a picture!)

- I have flown hundreds of times and my luggage has always shown up at my location...eventually. If your luggage doesn't show up with your person, unless you are carrying an organ for transplant or the hope diamond, calm down, take a breathe, and stop somewhere inexpensive like Target (and price-match) for a cheap new outfit and some toiletries. Chances are you'll have a good memory/story every time you wear it again. I always find that my best experiences come from working through adversity.

- Employees and TSA agents want you to make your flight. You aren't the only person that has somewhere to go. You honestly don't need to be at your gate until about 10 minutes before departure, when they close the door to your plane. If you are cutting it close, talk to an airport employee. Just understand that everybody's goal is to get you to your destination. If you miss your flight, not only are you a hassle to the airline, you are lost revenue.

- With the above said, you don't need to be at your gate an hour before your flight (if I haven't driven that point home yet). I usually show up about 5-10 minutes after boarding begins. What's the rush? And who really wants to be the first passenger on the plane to stake their claim and feel pride in their victory of knowing they made it on the flight. I'd rather be the last person on the plane and shorten the length of time I'm strapped into those damn uncomfortable economy seats. Everybody on that flight is going to get to their destination, whether you are first or last.

- Do you really want to drag your carry-on around that airport during your layover? And how often do you truly get up to pull something out of it during the flight? In fact, I don't think I've ever seen somebody pull their rolling luggage down into the aisle mid-flight, unzip it, pull something out, and put it back up in the overhead compartment. I always pack my heaviest items in my carry-on to save on baggage fees, then walk straight to the counter at the gate and offer my carry-on to be checked to my destination. It's free. It helps. It's not a hassle. The gate agents love you for it. And a majority of the time, I only needed that extra thing from my carry-on before I got onto the flight.

- You are not the most important person in the airport (unless, perhaps, you're an A-list celebrity). Just like driving or walking down the street, your time is not more important than everybody else's. Calm down and act with a sense of humanity.

- You've traveled more than once in your lifetime? Congratulations...you've been delayed. Now calm down, grab a beer, charge your devices, and do something practical. Write a blog ;-) or play a game. Or explore your terminal. Or find a quiet place in a corner of the airport and take that nap you need because you were too nervous about your travels to sleep.

- You've lost your ID or passport. Calm down. Think about the places you might have left it or put it down. Is it in your car? On the seat of the train? At the magazine shop's counter? Can't find it? PANIC!!!!! Honestly, this would be the only time I would really lose my cool.

- AHHHH!!!! I have to get scanned by an X-ray machine. Is it gonna give me cancer? How invasive! Chill! The shadowy silhouette of your penis or breasts are nothing the TSA agents are writing home about (or taking pictures of). Again, you are one of thousands of penises and breasts being scanned each and every day. Again, you are not the most important person walking through the airport.

- Rolling luggage rolls behind you. Turn your head around and look behind yourself every once in awhile. Also, don't walk into my rolling luggage. I just walked by you and you clearly saw it. But you lack enough common sense to slow down (or have lost it in your airport panic). And if you trip yourself over my luggage, don't give me a dirty look because I'm already flashing one back at you.

- If somebody says "Excuse me," look at them and determine what they are seeking. "Excuse me" does not mean "STAND YOUR GROUND" and ignore everybody around you."

- Not all security lines are created equal. Maybe you can go to a security line that is located a bit further away in distance, but has a much shorter queue. Most terminals are connected once you get past those pesky TSA procedures, anyway.

- If you have to suffer through a flight of loud talkers and crying babies, it is probably your fault for not making a playlist to block out the noises echoing back and forth in that happy tube we call a fuselage.

- I've mentioned this before, while you are waiting to go through security you should be emptying
your pockets into your bag, pulling out your ID and boarding pass, and prepping to remove your laptop from your carry-on. There is no excuse for being unprepared and imploding once you walk up to the conveyor belt. Maybe, mentally preparing in line will occupy your panicked thoughts about missing your flight or losing your luggage.

- Nearly everything you travel with can be replaced. If it can't, leave it at home or keep it on your person at all times. Though, if my phone or ID go missing you might see some frantic actions.

- Need to waste time in a terminal? If it is a big enough airport, treat the shops like the mall. Don't buy anything because it's likely overpriced, but go window shopping. Or, even better, download the game Ingress on your phone and run around the airport stealing portals for good or evil (just make sure to leave enough time to recharge your phone).

- If you don't plan on watching your kids or teaching them appropriate airport etiquette, don't conceive them in the first place.

- If you plan on having a bad attitude on the plane (reasonably or not), whether with a fellow passenger or a flight attendant, prepare to be shamed. A few years ago, I got snappy with an elderly man sitting in the seat behind me in the middle of Nutcracker season. He probably pulled on the back of my seat about 20 times throughout the flight. I was burnt out on traveling and exhausted from all of my gigs. Whether I was in the right or not, the death stares and shameful looks I got from those around me took away any gratification I got from having my seat stay in one position for the last 2 hours of the flight.

It's JUST AN AIRPORT!!!! and not worth the stress
Remember...airports and airplanes are not unique or uncommon experiences. While it may be that for you, at any given time thousands of people are flying miles above your very head. There is no reason to treat an airport experience like you are standing in a depleted food ration line after a natural disaster. As I like to say, CTFD (which isn't only an acronym for Career Transitions for Dancers...and may begin with the word calm and end with the word down).

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