Christmas and air travel. They go together like peppermint bark and stretch pants. Many of us can't enjoy the former without having to resort to the latter. But unlike stretch pants, air travel can be uncomfortable. Strangers are packed together in cramped quarters, then tortured with things like tight deadlines, unexpected delays, bad customer service and overpriced "food." It's enough to make you forget your good will toward man.
But don't despair. I've developed some travel rules to help ensure that all is calm for air travelers this holiday season. The key to a positive travel experience is to be both considerate and sensible -- and to accomplish this, it helps to think in terms of the five senses: sight, sound, smell, touch and taste. Here's what to keep in mind:
No matter what Jimmy Johns says, everyone pays for those smells.
Don't order a spicy/sloppy, hot dog/cheese burger/burrito/pizza/panini on your layover, unless you have time to polish it off before boarding the plane for the next leg of your trip. The seats next to you are definitely within the splash zone of your lunch, and chances are those passengers weren't able to get their hazmat suits through security. Plus, the smell from your lunch is free to move about the cabin, and once that happens, your fellow passengers' collective Christmas wish will be for the oxygen masks to deploy so they can escape the fumes. Spare everyone the pain and finish your lunch before you hop your next flight. Then feel fee to enjoy a candy cane once you're onboard. They make excellent breath mints.
Shower the people you love with basic hygiene.
In case you're thinking you'll save time on your travel day by skipping your shower, think again. Sprinting from gate to gate, or sweating over delayed flights can jet you from Freshville to Funkytown in no time flat. Fresh sweat layered on top of old sweat does not make for friendly skies.
Looks may not kill, but they can definitely inflict pain.
I get it. You want to be as comfortable as possible on your trip. But there are limits to what's acceptable in the name of comfort. My pajamas may be super comfy, but it would not be okay for me to wear them to the airport. Why? Because there is a point at which your comfort and mine intersect. Your wardrobe choice should not violate that boundary, and start hurting other people's eyes. Your "clothes" should actually be clothes, and they should cover all expanses of flesh that common decency require you to cover. No one wants to see your muffin top, or your tramp stamp (or worse yet, what's immediately below your tramp stamp). You may be really proud of all of these things, but there's a time and place to show them off, and the airport isn't one of them. Air travel involves a lot of reaching, stretching and bending. If you are showing extra skin when you're sitting still, consider what else might pop out when you're struggling to put your carry-on in the overhead bin. No one will be excited to witness that big reveal.
Keep your feelings to yourself.
And by feelings, I'm talking about the tactile kind. You know those armrests on either side of you? Think of them as you would an international border. Even if you aren't actually elbowing the guy sitting next to you, if your limbs jut out past your armrest you are invading his airspace. Also, occupying both armrests for the entire flight is tantamount to having heavy troop presence along the border. This type of aggressive move isn't consistent with good diplomatic relations.
Can you hear me now?
There are unavoidable noises, and then there are noises we shouldn't have to hear. In the former category are things like the roar of an engine and official announcements. In the latter are things like shrieking children, loud electronics and a painstakingly detailed description of the power point presentation on workplace safety that you're giving tomorrow at regional headquarters.
I understand you might need to speak a little louder so the person sitting next to you can hear what you're saying. But you don't need to speak so loud that everyone can hear you. And this should go without saying, but you should never hold a conversation with someone who is not seated next to you, unless the person seated between the two of you is a member of your same party.
When it comes to little Junior, I truly appreciate your efforts to keep him occupied, and therefore relatively still and quiet. But if you do that with an electronic game that makes loud noises nonstop, we haven't really gained anything. How about some quieter pursuits, like drawing, writing or reading (either Junior reading to himself, or your reading to Junior at a non-ear-splitting volume)? If Junior is going to play an electronic game, maybe you could consider turning the volume down (or off) or maybe even getting Junior some ear buds as an early Christmas present -- for me (I promise to send a thank you note).
Common ground on common sense.
We've covered sight, sound, smell and touch, and that means we just have one sense left. I understand that taste is subjective (how else can you explain the Crocs store at the mall?) While I would never be so presumptuous as to lecture you on your personal style, I am not too proud to beg you to use common sense when you are choosing your travel day attire. I know how much you love your "Suck it," t-shirt, but airports feature a mixed generation crowd. So rather than wearing it on your travel day, save it for beer pong night with your best bros back home.
And while we're on the topic of common sense, use a little to stay one step ahead. If you're standing in line, think about what's going to happen when it's your turn. Will you be asked to show your driver license? Will you need to have your shoes off? Does your laptop need to be out of your bag? Doing these things ahead of time will make everything run more smoothly -- for you, your fellow passengers and the airport security personnel. Not gumming up the system is the perfect Christmas present for everyone.
Holiday air travel will never be as much fun as riding in a one horse open sleigh. But following the rules above will go a long way toward safeguarding against everyone's holly jolly crash landing at the airport. Merry Christmas!