This is my second head cold in a month, so I’ve dipped into our hard-to-acquire stash of Sudafed, which I know from Breaking Bad is the item purchased by “smurfs” to make crystal meth. Thank you, AMC, for expanding my culture reference set. Based on when my left tonsil puffed up like a blowfish, I figure I was exposed to whatever virus this is on one of the three plane rides over to the East Coast. It could have been the 3-year-old two rows behind me who practiced his raspberries for 45 minutes. Or the lanky guy who slept next to me for 4 hours and insisted on sticking his feet under the seat in front of me (I thought I was the fat space hog). Maybe a flight attendant passed it to me along with my half-ounce of cracker party mix, who knows? But if I could relive the experience that day, I would do the following, and I’ll note right here that I did know these things before May 17, 2012.
1. Bring hand sanitizer with you. You may not have time to wash up in the airport rest room between flights, and you’ll probably need it more frequently than every three hours, especially if it’s during flu season. You may even be tempted to splash some on your neck, like cologne. This is not necessarily a bad idea.
2. Bring a real book. I honestly don’t believe that with all of the billions of dollars spent researching, designing, and building airplanes one little $100 cell phone is a threat and could cause a crash. But the FCC is a superstitious agency, even if it’s currently reviewing the “no electronic devices on takeoff or landing” rules. What I can believe is how many people try to eke in another ten seconds of phone conversation, ebook reading, or game app time (I’m looking at you, Alec Baldwin). What do you people think you’re achieving, a government coup? Just bring a book made of paper so you can read without getting the evil eye from the flight attendant or looking like a douche to the six people seated near you.
3. Consider how heavy your carry on item is without your roller bag. I’d shoved my laptop (7 pounds), iPad (1.5 pounds), chargers (1 pound), three books (2 pounds), and boat load of spare change, pens, and business cards (1 pound), along with my wallet and iPhone into my briefcase (approx. 13 pounds) and snapped it shut without thinking about its weight. This was no big deal when it was resting on my roller bag, but with three flights and four airports to navigate, I checked the suitcase. Now I was left dashing through O’Hare—if such a thing is possible—with an extra dozen pounds slung over my back. It’s hard for me to check my laptop or leave it at home, because I always presume I’ll be writing late at night when I’m traveling, and yet, it’s time for me to recalculate this math. I’m not the night owl I once pretended to be.
4. Don’t eat anything whackadoodle before or between plane rides. If you haven’t ventured into a plane lavatory in the last 15 years, let me just say that the only improvement implemented since then is the addition of foaming hand wash. Unless we’re talking about a 20-hour flight to Malaysia, minimize your need for the in-flight rest room. This includes passing up the suspicious sushi counter, the reuben at Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant, and the dubiously warm mayo-based sandwiches at Starbucks. Nobody should have to experience gastrointestinal distress at 36,000 feet.
5. Don’t scream during flight. There are many planes in the sky at once. More than 2,000 of them are in flight over the United States right now. Occasionally they can be seen from the plane one is on, but rest assured, the air flight controllers are pretty good at keeping planes away from each other. There is no need to scream just because an aircraft is 10,000 feet away from us, especially if it’s headed away from our location. Please do not wake the slumbering people all around you because you haven’t figured out that what you can see is still miles away. Perhaps on your next vacation you should stand on the shoreline and holler that the horizon is about to attack.
Sure, I like the convenience of air travel, if convenience means that it doesn’t take me three days to go 3,000 miles. But at least on this last trip I did not get stuck on the tarmac, I did not have to wait at my destination for my checked bag to show up, I did not thump my baby’s head into the overhead compartment, and I did not get stranded in a strange city overnight. I just had to avoid all of the other dangers of travel, and I have a lovely ear infection to show for my trouble. And I’ll do it all again soon.