Ah, Christmas. Thanks to a misplaced curling iron, abnormally heavy traffic on I-95 and a three-car pile-up on the Van Wyck Expressway, you’re late for your flight. Your heart pounds as your ride careens toward the JFK departures curb, which your feet hit in a Hail Mary sprint to get to the gate on time. You’ve considered buying winter boots but have never been able to justify doing so, because you
only visit winter once a year have a deep-seated issue with deserving (which you’re working on in therapy). So you’re wearing the only boots you own, carrying bags that weigh more than you do, and sweating profusely under your multiple layers of clothing, even though your fingers and toes have somehow managed to remain numb. You’d dreamt of a White Christmas but instead got bitter cold rain – rain that now coats the soles of your weather-inappropriate boots. Hallelujah! An airport employee! No? Wrong line? Oh, right line. But need a boarding pass first. Thanks for your help. Grinch. Way to spread the holiday cheer. You spot a kiosk in the distance. The clock ticks forward, and the loudspeaker blasts It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, which is as ironic as your encroaching pangs of agoraphobia are alarming. Just focus on the kiosk. Get to the kiosk and get back to the line.
It’s a slapstick fall. The kind where you fly up into the air and hang there for an awkward moment before crashing down onto your tailbone in the manner of a cartoon coyote. (The heavy bags fall on top of you.) It is so egregious that even the apathetic onlookers rise out of their travel weary slumps and stand to help you. “Thanks, I’m fine!” you muster with a smile (you also have an issue receiving help; you’re also working on it in therapy). You’re not fine. Your body throbs with pain and your face burns red with shame. Pull it together. Don’t cry. You start to cry a little.
What seems like lifetimes later, the interminably long check-in line deposits you in front of a desk attendant, to whom you profess, breathlessly, “I think I may be too late.” Failing to notice your frayed nerves or the tears welling up in your eyes, she says, robotically, “Nope. As of six minutes ago, the flight’s been delayed three hours due to snow.” You look outside. It’s snowing. And just like that a White Christmas has slipped through your fingers.
’Tis the season of holly and ivy, of comfort and joy, of sugary lattes in red cups and cloying commercials brought to you by mid-range diamond retailers. ’Tis also the season of holiday travel – and not always the heartwarming Love, Actually kind. And so, for those who maintain that there is, in fact, no place like home for the holidays, here are some suggestions that may ease your journey.
- Slow down. If you don’t, you may end up with a bruised tailbone, remember your iPad but forget your wallet, or find yourself stress-eating airport McDonald’s (a decision you’ll later regret). Worst case scenario? Catch the next flight.
- Plan ahead, and then relinquish control. Prepare. Make sure you have a photo I.D. and are wearing socks. If you’re feeling ambitious, check in online, print your boarding pass and load up your Kindle. But if your flight’s late? There’s nothing you can do. If you end up stranded at the Cincinnati airport for seven hours? Relax. Maybe use that time to call an old friend or start that book you’ve been meaning to read. Resisting what happens will only make you miserable. Try practicing acceptance, even if it means enjoying your Subway sandwich on the industrial carpet outside gate 32A because all the waiting area seats are taken (and, apparently, chivalry is dead).
- Regard others with compassion, even when they’re behaving horribly. The woman at the Boar’s Head counter who yells, “That guy’s cheating! He’s cutting the line!” about some nice man who’s been waiting patiently with you and the rest of the people for 15 minutes. The headphone guy in row 21 who elbows his way past the family-with-young-kids, who are trying to exit row 18. Resist the urge to put these people in their place. Maybe angry lady is having the worst day of her life and needs to release some of that fire. Maybe headphone guy is desperate to use the bathroom. You don’t know what’s going on with them, so try your best to dilute their etiquette injustices with love.
- Remember that you are one of many. You’re special. Seriously. You are. There’s nothing like travel, however, to remind you that you’re also a social animal (with the possible exceptions of jury duty and the DMV). To function properly in a group situation, we must abide by certain rules. I’m all for breaking rules, but highways and airports may not be the best forums for your renegade genius. So don’t be like the guy in row 21. Let the rows before you exit before you. Makes sense, no?
- Dress comfortably… and appropriately. You’re traveling across the country to meet your girlfriend’s parents for the first time. You choose to wear the taupe velour Juicy Couture tracksuit you bought as a half-joke but later discovered to be quite comfortable. You look a little ridiculous and may be revealing too much about your lower half. And then: your luggage gets lost. In the three days it takes for your bags to make their way to your girlfriend’s childhood home, you become known as Juicy Couture tracksuit guy. There’s nowhere to hide in those pants. Just saying. Think about it.
Safe travels and happy holidays!
Image via Shutterstock