Monday, March 20, 2006

Get Me to My Flight on Time

When it comes to arriving at airports, there are two types of people: those who relish cutting it close and those who like to arrive nice and early. I'm emphatically the latter, married to the former.

One could say that airport arrival strategy reflects one's entire philosophy of life. Since I'm a worrier (as anyone who reads my blog regularly will know), I always plan for the worst. So, naturally, a trip to the airport must take into account the possibility of a dire traffic jam, long check-in lines, and still-longer security lines, followed by random selection for a special search (resulting in complete pat-down and removal of every last item in my meticulously-packed carry-on bag).

My husband, Eric, suffers from none of these concerns. Though he devotes considerable energy to worrying about the likelihood of catastrophic events (asteroids, pandemics, earthquakes), he never sweats the small stuff. He assumes traffic will be moderate and we'll breeze through check-in. Should security lines be long, he reasons, they'll move us to the head of the line if our flight is about to depart.

Eric wouldn't necessarily agree with my characterization of him as a risk-preferring, last-minute arriver. Instead, he sees himself as an eminently sane traveler, able to rationally gauge how long it will take to get to the airport and make his way through security. As he sees it, he leaves enough time, but not too much. To him, more than half an hour at the gate is
way too much.

I, on the other hand, regard myself as the sane one. Airports are pretty pleasant places these days--no smoking, more places to eat and shop once you get past security, even wi-fi. How delightful to arrive and make it through security with an hour to spare and plenty of seats available at the gate, where I can settle down with a Starbucks decaf mocha and a good book. Even our dog, Cosmo, a frequent traveler, seems to like the airport ambiance and is content to sit on my lap and take in the scene.

Eric had hoped that the new automated check-in systems would speed things up so he could convince me we didn't need to arrive quite so early. But Cosmo put the kibosh on that pipe dream. Automated check-in isn't permitted when you bring a pet along. This means we have to wait in the regular check-in line, the one that's always the longest. No more curbside check-in for us, let alone the automated kind.

Recently, Eric made a valiant gesture, a peace offering in our ongoing airport-arrival struggle. For my birthday, he presented me with a certificate (laminated and indestructible) declaring that he'll leave for the airport as early as I want. Fabulous, as far as it goes. The certificate guarantees acquiesence, but doesn't promise the acquiesence will be entirely gracious. Eric still can't quite hide his disbelief when I suggest a good time to leave for the airport, generally an hour before he'd like to leave. Still, he's lived up to his end of the bargain and my travel bliss is almost complete. Now, if only I could get him not to go off in search of a magazine just as the plane is about to board.


Anonymous said...

What a delightful piece.This writer knows how to make worry a virtue and petty annoyances amusing. How to resolve different needs with others is always a problem.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I relate to the time issues, as so well expressed. It does pervade our current lives. Oh, to be free of time constraints and to have one's own private jet.