Airports can be places of great stress. I know this because I passed through a couple a few weeks ago in order to go to Melbourne to watch my glorious Eagles be utterly humiliated in the Grand Final. Don’t I know how to have a good time? For some reason, travelling, and airports in particular can bring out the worst in us. We get cranky. We lose our ability to function effectively. We buy books that we’ll never read. We pay too much for very average toasted sandwiches. In all, airports, and planes for that matter, can be confusing, confounding and immensely irritating. Which is why, as a service to you, my fellow travellers, I’ve compiled this list of guidelines to help ease this stress. For you, my friends, I present:
How to Be an Agreeable Flyer in Eleven Easy Steps
- Turn up early. When you’re running late, you get stressed, and when you get stressed, you’re really disagreeable and difficult to deal with. If you’re early, you don’t need to push in, you don’t need to get shouty and you get the added bonus of being able to go to the bar and pay extortionate prices for a refreshing beverage. Also, it means that you’re not in the way of people who are legitimately late because their connection got held up. And ultimately, it improves the odds of your flight leaving on time. Which means I get to my destination quicker, and so do you.
- Anticipate what’s required of you. Make the most of the time spent in the check-in queue by getting your passport and paperwork out. Don’t wait until you’re standing in front of the pleasant check-in lady to realise that you don’t have a name tag on your bag. It shouldn’t be a surprise that you need to hand your passport over when you’re checking into an international flight, so feel free to have it in your hand before you approach the counter. Don’t wait until you get right up to the security scanner to get your laptop out or take your belt off or put your toiletries into a plastic bag. These are all excellent things to do while you’re waiting.
- Respect the queue. We’re a civilised society. We should act like one. A queue means that everyone is waiting in an orderly fashion and will get their turn to board or go to the toilet or go through security in the same order as they arrived. Because we’re not savages. Don’t push in.
- Don’t be obnoxious. For those who aren’t sure, swearing loudly when, in front of you, there’s a delightful little girl with pigtails sitting on a pink ladybug suitcase is NOT cool. Similarly, going into an in-depth analysis of the ping-pong performance that you saw in Phuket while three little old ladies wait next to you, is also not cool.
- Don’t hog the seats. Once you make it to the departure gate, don’t plonk all your hand luggage and duty free booze on seats when there are other passengers standing. Their butts are more important than your booze. Maybe not to you, but in general.
- When you’re boarding, don’t block the aisle while you sort out every single item in your hand luggage. If you want your book or your glasses or your organic hand moisturiser, have them ready to go. Standing behind someone who takes five minutes to actually sit down is mildly frustrating. To put it politely.
- If you’re sitting on the aisle on a long haul flight, warn the guy in the window seat if you’re about to knock yourself out with a sleeping pill and two bloody marys, thereby blocking his access to the toilet for the next eleven hours. He shouldn’t have to be a contortionist in order to relieve his bladder.
- Don’t recline your seat during meal service, or the person behind you is fully justified in accidentally squirting salad dressing all over your shoulder. I’m not saying they should, I’m just saying they’re justified.
- No whistling. On my way home from the Grand Final, I was trying to read a Tim Winton novel on a plane when a guy near me started whistling. It’s singularly the most annoying noise that can be made on an aeroplane. The fact that he was whistling the Hawthorn team song made it a particularly heinous crime and my inability to concentrate on the Tim Winton novel meant that I had to call a friend to try to figure out what the hell happened at the end and whether the main character actually had a brain tumour. I’m still not sure. Thanks whistling guy. Thanks very much.
- Don’t be the last person onto the plane. I will bore holes in your head with my laser eyes if you have made an entire plane full of people wait while you had an extra gin and tonic in the fancy pants lounge. Although if that’s the case, you’re probably flying business class and I can’t actually see you. But know that I hate you. I still fondly remember the flight attendant who once told the girl trying to board the plane with three bags, a cowboy hat, a mexican wall hanging and three dozen Krispy Kremes that some of her hand luggage would have to be sent later. “The last straw,” the flight attendant explained “was that you were late to check in and then still stopped to buy doughnuts while the entire plane was waiting for you.” Don’t be that girl, because she sat next to me and sobbed all the way home from Sydney.
- When you’re waiting for your luggage at the carousel, the system works dramatically better if everyone steps back from the belt. Jamming a trolley right up against it blocks the access for everyone. Also, if you miss your bag the first time, it will come around again. Or ask a burly fellow on the other side to lift it off for you. Given the chance, it can be a very congenial environment, but not if you’re absent-mindedly smacking your trolley into my achilles tendon. Even less so if you’re whistling the Hawthorn team song at the same time.
Enjoy your trip. And if anyone knows how to get that infernal Hawthorn song out of my head, please let me know.
This piece was originally written (by me) for STM (the colour supplement in The Sunday Times) and subsequently appeared on PerthNow. This is the unedited version.