Whether flying for work or pleasure, the airport experience always proves stressful. Checking a bag, TSA, and boarding the plane rank among the things I’d prefer to avoid forever. Between stumbling around people who wait in line for 20 minutes before the desk agent calls their boarding group, or waiting (impatiently) for the man with the endless pockets full of metal to successfully make it through the x-ray machine, I would almost prefer to drive. But a few individuals, like the kind flight attendant and the energetic TSA agent (shout out to the CLT Airport TSA agents!), make flying worth the while.
Having flown round-trip from the Charlotte Airport (whilst enjoying Einstein Bagels and Chick-fil-A) twice in the past week, I’m inspired to share the best and worst types of passengers I’ve encountered during my travels:
The Baggage Carousel Blocker
Upon close observation, I’ve come to realize that unless you stand directly on top of the baggage carousel when the horn sounds, you will not receive your luggage. The Baggage Carousel Blocker knows that if you do not position your body as close to the moving conveyor as humanly possible, your suitcase will inevitably pass by at hyper-speed, and you will not reach it before it’s lost in the depths of the abyss at the end of the belt. Gone forever, never to return.
According to the display, the flight will board at 8:45 p.m., and the desk agent just called Group One to board. This full flight will result in forced checked bags due to limited overhead space. The Early-Liner, whose ticket says Group Nine, refuses to lose their carry-on bag and knows that by lining up when the very first group is called, there will be enough room for their oversized suitcase, neck pillow, and duffel bag. By blocking Groups 2-8 from boarding on time, they’ve inevitably secured a spot for their suitcase, right?
The TSA Impeder
You’re dangerously close to missing your flight because you forgot to account for rush hour traffic, and you finally made it to the TSA line, with electronics already in hand and shoes untied. Unfortunately for you, The TSA Impeder stands a few people ahead, waiting to crush your dreams of boarding with your group. Despite the queue signs and repeated instructions from the TSA agents, The TSA Impeder did not realize they needed to remove their belt. Or their shoes. And yes, a laptop and an iPad BOTH count as an “electronic larger than a cell phone.” You listen as the security x-ray beeps, because – to no one’s surprise – the TSA Impeder forgot to remove their keys. CHECK YOUR POCKETS, PLEASE.
The Sudden Stopper
You left the late-to-leave airplane with hopes of making your connection, but your arch nemesis – The Sudden Stopper – thwarts your plans. You’re sprinting, and you trip over their bag, because the incoming text appears more important than moving forward in a crowd of suitcase-clad individuals. The Sudden Stopper takes many forms, including The Moving Walkway Stander, because everyone knows that this innovative tool presents an opportunity for a relaxing ride to the terminal vs. a faster form of transportation for those looking to make a tight connection.
The Arm Rest Thief
As you settle into your seat, you silently thank the airport gods for not placing you next to Sneezy Sam or Coughing Cathy. Instead, the nice gentleman who settles next to you pops in his headphones and cracks open a book. But little did you know, this serene gentleman bears the title of The Arm Rest Thief. Even though you’re in the (already squishy) middle seat, The Arm Rest Thief claims the arm rest with his overly-muscular arm, invading your last bit of comfort. You reluctantly squeeze your arms together to avoid awkwardly brushing against him, and hope that he leaves to use the restroom so you can claim your arm rest back.
The Snack Savior
Even though you’re seated next to The Arm Rest Thief after maneuvering through a throng of Early-Liners, The Snack Savior saves the day with a simple question: “Would you like two packs of cookies?” She read the way your face lit up when she offered you the first package of delightful Biscoff treats, and now she’s rescued you from two hours of misery simply by offering an extra sweet surprise. Thank you, Snack Savior. You’re the real MVP.
The Seat Switcher
Poor planning and a late booking finds you and your friend on opposite ends of the airplane (which could be less dramatically described as “a few rows apart”). You stare longingly a few rows back with “All By Myself” playing in your head, wishing you remembered to book the flight sooner to guarantee side-by-side seats. Lucky for you, The Seat Switcher notices your despair, and offers to give your friend her place beside you. You thank her, and mentally remind yourself to pay it forward during your next flight.
The Luggage Lifter
Somehow packing for your four-day trip warranted 15 outfits, but if it all fits, what’s the harm? Turns out your 50-pound carry-on bag doesn’t pair well with your 5’1” frame. In comes The Luggage Lifter to the rescue. He takes one look at you, a vertically challenged individual, lugging an over-packed bag up the aisle, and decides to do a good deed. He swiftly lifts the bag into the overhead space and nods at your “thank you.” Many thanks, Luggage Lifter, for saving this tiny individual from a back injury.
The Charger Lender
Your flight is delayed, yet, as a millennial, the most stressful part of your evening is the little red bar indicating 7 percent battery on your phone. Where’s your charger? Likely underneath 17 articles of clothing in your suitcase, which threatens to explode all over the dirty airport floor should you open it before arriving safely at the hotel. How will you watch videos of puppies and screenshot first-class memes for your friends back home with only 7 percent battery? Lucky for you, you’re sitting next to the rare Charger Lender. She’s just finished charging her phone, and offers to let you use hers. What would the world be without kind strangers?
The Lively TSA Agent
Am I the only individual who gets nervous trudging through security? I’ve triple checked my bag for anything that may set off the x-ray machine, yet I always feel as though I’ve forgotten something, and that my bag will end up in the special time-out corner where things will be unpacked and swabbed. While I TRULY do appreciate the extra care the TSA agents take to ensure safety when flying (thank you!), I always feel as though I’m in trouble when I accidentally forget to remove my little shampoo bottle or packed food that appears shady in the x-ray area.
Here’s a shout-out to the lively TSA agent, who sees my red cheeks and sweaty demeanor and asks questions in a kind, non-incriminating manner. This same agent asks people to remove their shoes and belts hundreds of times per day, but does so with an air of humor, cracking jokes at a crabby post-work crowd. The Lively TSA Agent deserves a smile, even if you’re frustrated with The TSA Impeder (or if you are the TSA Impeder). Because they probably are, too.
Have I personally been the Sudden Stopper or the TSA Impeder? Yep. But there’s just no excuse for blocking the baggage claim (we shorties can’t see luggage from behind the Tall People), and if you take anything away from this piece, it’s that the TSA agents and flight attendants deserve a smile. Because they deal with the worst (and the best) every day.
Who do you deem the best and worst passengers when flying?
Photo by David T. Foster III/Charlotte Observer