As a seasoned flyer (32 flights since being accepted to UCD), I would like to take this opportunity to offer some valuable insight for those who are less experienced with airline travel.
Airports can be full of exciting and fascinating people from all walks of life just waiting to share their unique experiences, stories and wisdom with you. Unfortunately, you will most likely never meet any of these people. If you do, you are extraordinarily lucky and should go out and buy a lottery ticket before your good fortune wears off.
Don’t get me wrong, you will meet many … interesting people. However, unless you’re doing observations for a psychology class, these are not the people you want to run into. The following is an abridged list of the types you’ll want to avoid the next time you find yourself at the airport.
The Gabber is a person (let’s be honest – a woman) who will simply not shut up. It doesn’t matter if you’re armed with a book or iPod, thinking you have a good excuse to keep to yourself. This woman views your auditory hell as her personal therapy session. There are only two ways to avoid a Gabber: 1) Bluntly explain to her that you are tired from finals/traveling/an incurable disease. However, this method comes with consequences. Once you jilt her, she will invariably feign deafness and not help in handing you your peanuts when the flight attendant is trying to pass them to you. 2) Pretend to be asleep. However, there is no failsafe method and overly zealous Gabbers will use the drink-cart/meal as an excuse to wake you.
The Nervous Flyer
When I say “Nervous Flyer,” I’m not talking about the person who sits over the wing and laughs uncertainly whenever there is turbulence. Heck, even I’m a little unnerved thinking of a giant, metal contraption, thousands of feet in the air. (Right now there are several engineering majors laughing at me and just as many English majors fervently agreeing with me.) No, I’m talking about that person who screams when the plane shakes and prays loudly throughout the entire flight. I once sat next to a woman who seemed completely normal – right up until we hit a tiny patch of turbulence. She started sobbing and grabbed my arm with such force that I was sore for several days. After the plane landed, she let go of me and said in the best impression of sane I’ve ever seen, “Well, it was nice talking to you, dear.” Unfortunately, there’s no way to detect Nervous Flyers beforehand, as they do such a good job of hiding their craziness.
The A-Hole is almost always a man; usually suit-and-tie, complete with briefcase, palm pilot and “pretentious” stamped on his forehead. He’s typically carrying a thick, boring-looking book with an unbroken spine and an overused sleep mask. Unlike the Gabber and the Nervous Flyer, he won’t overtly intrude in your bubble. If you’re lucky, you have a seat between you on which he immediately places his briefcase, marking his territory. If you’re not so lucky, there is no middle seat. Instead of stealing the unoccupied, neutral region, he proceeds to nonchalantly take over the armrest. He then puts his mask on, sleeping through most of the flight. When he wakes up (always right after drinks/meals are finished being served) he pushes the call button and demands to be served, insulted that he was somehow skipped over. The A-Hole isn’t much more than a nuisance, but he can test your patience (or belief in nonviolence) if you’re flying home after finals or on an unusually long flight.
Other airport personalities to avoid include the small boy with the toy plane (sure to induce flashbacks of movies you’ve seen where the plane crashes right after the kid foreshadows it with his seemingly harmless toy); the overly eager guy/girl whom you can’t reject unless you want to be stuck next to them in an awkward silence for the rest of the trip; and the infant who looks cute and smiley until the plane takes off, and you then realize it’s actually a cleverly disguised hyena with an ear infection.
DANIELLE RAMIREZ wants to hear other people’s stories of airport trauma. Because misery loves company, e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.