Thursday, April 15, 2010

Travel advice that I'm going to scream into your ear

Dear readers, I want to thank the three of you who are still with me after my last blog, for which I will not apologize. Glenn Schwarz, who was the best sports editor in the country and made me the writer I am, for better or worse, always told me to take chances. Better to fly too close to the sun and get your wings burned than stare up safely and longingly; and anyway, my high school buddy Mike liked it, so there.

Today, I would like to write a travel advice blog as we near the summer vacation season, which we road warriors sometimes call "amateur season" and always call it, "Gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhh!!

I often see columns such as this in Dear Abby or the travel section or what not, but nobody pays attention to those because the authors are too nice. We know better, don't we. In these days of self-absorption and Tea Party-ism, you really have to yell at people and insult them to grab their interest, like the woman who rolled down her window this morning and hollered at me to "stop combing your hair while you Tweet and stay in your goddman lane!" I appreciated her candor and said, "You're right, Sister Anne, and I'm sorry my check to the orphanage bounced."

On to the advice:

1. When they say get to the airport 1 1/2 hours before your flight, they mean it. No, you don't have time to stop at 7-Eleven to buy Cheetos for the plane. The $6 bag you can buy inside the airport is just as tasty. If you ever try to rush to the front of the TSA line with the argument that "I didn't know I was supposed to be here this early," I will spray you with whatever 3-ounce liquid thing I am about to run through the X-ray machine.

2. I say this one in all seriousness: The security lines that you hate will go much faster if you stuff everything metal inside your carry-on before you queue up and make sure your laptop and your quart bag of liquids and gels are easily accessible. I really don't think I can reach those people who have lived in Ted Kazynski's cabin the last 10 years and don't realize that yes, you have to remove your laptop; yes, you have to remove your shoes; and yes, that little round thing of lip gel has to go inside your quart bag.

3. I assume the people who stand in line at the counter for 20 minutes and then fish for their drivers licenses are the same folks who wait until the checker scans all of their groceries then look for their ATM cards, which should have been swiped when the first can of split-pea soup went across the scanner. Remember the Boy Scout motto (no, not that one, Chester the Molester): "Be prepared."

4. Always assume there will be long delays. They are inevitable. I once endured a 10-hour delay at LaGuardia first because of weather and then because the plane broke, and I watched a woman berate the flight attendant because the woman had not brought enough food for her little girl who had some sort of sugar deficiency and needed to eat every hour or whatever. Had I been the flight attendant I would have said, "You're absolutely right, ma'am. I'll tell the pilot we really should take off and we really don't need that li'l ol' rudder."

5. For parents (yes, this is going to be a long one):

a: United and a few other airlines do not preboard kids anymore. Those that do usually allow it for parents with SMALL children, not your 12-year-old soccer champ. I was ready to board a flight in Newark last year when a father with his wife and kids (I'd say 12 and 10) bolted to the front of the line and said, "I've got kids here!" I wish I could have blocked his path and truthfully said, "I've got Nunchucks here." Why, yes, he did have a New York accent. How did you know?

b: It's not for me to tell parents where to go and how to get there. But one thing sticks in my craw: tiny infants howling during the descent because their ears are exploding. Babies often get congested. Congestion worsens the pressure on your ears during a change in altitude. As a grown man I have had blood vessels burst in my ear during a landing. So why would parents put their children with their teensy ear canals through that excruciating pain? Wait till the kids are a little bigger to stick them on an airplane for a trip to grandma's.

c: You'll see no screed about howling infants here. Not their fault. But I do believe that some parents take their babies to fancy restaurants and have them scream just to get them in training for the airplane. I also believe there is a baby boot camp, too, where former Marine drill sergeants stand in front of a class of crying babies yelling, "I can't HEEEAR you. I can't HEEEAR you. What're you doing, ya little girl, looking at the clouds out the window? Howl it! Howl it! Howl it!"

d: Parents, I highly recommend Baby Valium. I've seen it next to the Huggies at Walgreens.

e: To those parents who attempt to hold their babies on their laps for a transcontinental flight when they can afford to buy an extra seat, remember the Nunchucks from 5 (a)? You just can't do that to fellow travelers, and while we're talking, why would you refuse to back out of your driveway at 5 mph unless your child was strapped into his baby seat yet hold the same child while the aluminum tube you're riding in is plunging from the sky and hitting a runway at 120 mph upon landing?

6. When you board an aircraft, and you carry a bag over your shoulder, and you turn to tell the person behind you that Jay-Z's newest album isn't all that good, and you nearly decapitate the person sitting in the aisle seat below you, you deserve the Nunchucks, too. Stop it.

7. Finally, more of a question. If you leave your car in long-term parking, then ride to the terminal on a big, long bus that says "Long-term parking lot" on the side, WHY WOULD YOU TAKE 10 MINUTES TO BOARD YOUR FAMILY'S 15 BAGS ON A SMALL SHUTTLE THAT SAYS "SKYPARK" ON THE SIDE AND THEN SAY, "THIS BUS GOES TO THE LONG-TERM PARKING LOT, RIGHT?"

You know the drill. Nunchucks, and this time with studs on them.


  1. Thanks for sharing a good information on travel. Can you share a good information on airline ticket booking.

  2. To quote Ron White, "you can't fix stupid."

  3. Item #3

    It's the same people that stand in line with their kids at McDonald's. When it's their turn to place an order, they finally decide to look at the menu to figure out what they want.

  4. I seriously doubt you're allowed Nunchuks in your carry-on. Need a better threat. But spot on and very funny. Keep it up.

  5. Thank you for numbers 2, 3, 5e, and 6. Those people KILL ME!

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  7. You can't get mad at parents who bring babies on board. That's just not cool. I mean, I do, like anyone else, but then I remind myself that the parents are also suffering from the screams, along with their frustration at their inability to fix the problem, as well as the silent enmity of everyone on board.

    Anyone who flies often should go to Walgreens and buy the industrial strength size bottle of orange earplugs. It's about five bucks, has I think 50 pairs so it'll last you forever and you don't need to worry about losing a pair or giving some away to equally annoyed seatmates. Three pairs fit into an old 35mm film canister (does anyone have these anymore?). Keep 'em inside your carryon and you'll never be caught short when Junior starts screaming his head off on takeoff, letting you know you have four more hours of misery ahead.