A Visitor’s Guide to International Flights

Living overseas means that international travel becomes a big part of your life.  But lately, I have noticed that my relationship with international travel has faced some challenges…okay, fine  it has taken a turn for the worse, good grief people, you see right through me – I loathe all fellow passengers and hate myself even more.  I can’t be alone in this.  I have heard that the first step towards reconciliation is acknowledging all the things that have gone wrong. Healing will begin if this happens. I’m ready. The lament begins.

Short domestic flights are vile enough, I guess, but in those long international flights, things get weird, really weird. Ordinary people turn into monsters, and monsters turn into paranoid sociopaths. Let’s discuss what exactly happens during this precarious journey:

Pre-Boarding.

I don’t care if you’re visiting granny in Minneapolis, everyone and I do mean everyone, acts like they are on their way to close a critical business deal with top executives in Hong Kong. “My power suit is in my carry-on luggage” LIES! It’s all sweatpants and snacks.

We all try to look fabulously calm, important, composed, stylish, popular, non-bothered, and like it didn’t take us 138 minutes to pick out our travel outfit.  We want a perfect, Pinterest blend of comfort and style, but with pants just baggy enough not to cause a future UTI.  There, ladies, I said it…and you know it’s true.

There are always “those people” who rush and shove to get onto the plane…when we are all leaving at the exact same time. Alternatively, there are “those people” who are making a point that they are well-traveled, at-ease, and in complete judgment of those who are indulging in the panicked race to assigned seats. There are only two types of people in this world of pre-boarding.  There is no middle ground. Which one are you?

Boarding.

There are always those people who need to have a private conference with a cornered flight attendant. They make it very secretive and extremely important-sounding, but we all know that it’s just privately tattling on someone for sitting in their seat or getting an extra roll with their meal.

The walk of shame past first-class makes us question every decision we have made up until this moment of our simple little lives. There is a grand, unspoken divide in the air between them and us. This divide is thicker than the velvet curtain, which divides our provincial seats and their kingdom. As far as I’m concerned, there are only three types of 1st class passengers and we equally envy them all while clunking past their seats thrones:

–    Those who are already deep into level 2 of their REM cycle before zone – peasant seat: z47 was even permitted to place our dirty, little feet on board.

–    Those who make eye contact. You know the kind, the eyes we make when we pass homeless people on our way into a sporting event.  We give sad, side-eyes at them, while also a kinda wondering if poor life choices may have gotten them where they are.

–    Those who are too preoccupied and pompous with being important to even acknowledge our existence. We, the economy class, are mere drafts of wind past their floating executive lounge.

It’s not their fault that they are better than us. To be fair, what do we want them to do? Thanks for asking. No one asks. Just off the top of my head:

  1. They could give a tip of the hat to the economy peasants who are sheepishly passing by, whispering, “you’re enough.”
  2. It would really bring some camaraderie among us patrons if they waited until we boarded to put up their footrests.
  3. I, for one, could be consoled by a goodie bag as we pass by and bravely descend into the strange dark world of poor people’s economy.

Finding Our Seats.

Everyone is stressed about the same thing, but no one wants to admit the following:

-Sitting next to a baby.  We cannot act disappointed because we have to be good humans, and “we were all babies once,” so we act like we are blessed to be placed next to the tiny, diapered, bundle of imminent screams. Inside we are dying.

-Please, oh please, not a chatty neighbor. But if chatty, at least willing to share the armrest in an unspoken, but well-intentioned exchange, at least 50% of the time.

In-Flight Entertainment.

If a bad scene comes on the movie that I’m watching, will people think I’m a pervert?

We pack a book every single time, no matter what our past record of failure is in this area. We have the best intentions of expanding our knowledge, but in the end, we only ever watch movies.

We hide the cover of that well-intended book, so people don’t realize that we are reading about “forbidden Amish romance.”

Mile High Survival.

If you snore next to me, it’s too intimate, and you’re making me feel transgressed.  This is not a pajama party, but since you’re treating it like one, I have plotted your death via my in-flight pillow several times. Pillow fight just took on an entirely new meaning at our little forced sleep-over.

When the inevitable fart cloud hits, everyone acts like they haven’t been letting out a tiny million ones the entire flight…especially during that short time of scary turbulence. “The audacity of someone doing that in such a tight space. (pooofff)”

Bathrooms.

Come on, admit it, we are all a little afraid to flush the toilets.

Every time we go into the bathroom, we have aged a decade since our last mirror check.  All we have done is sit and read a book watched two movies, but it looks like we survived a war, developed teenage acne, and turned geriatric all within the last two hours of high altitude.

In-Flight Food Service.

We act like we are surprised when the flight attendant asks if we want beef or chicken as if we weren’t watching them from 10 aisles up, preparing our tray tables, while getting that little tingle in our hearts that comes right before our dinner and a movie. We aren’t hungry, but eating seems fun, and it’s also completely terrifying not being in control of when our next meal will come.  It’s all survival instincts kicking in at this point.

When the flight attendant does arrive at our seat, there’s an elongated window of time before we can remove our headphones so that we don’t look overly excited for the impending snack cart. And God forbid we reach prematurely for the tray when it’s intended for our neighbor. Ultimate travel humiliation.

Even though we’ve had nothing better to do than watch the flight attendants serve drinks for the last hour, once it’s our turn, we act as if the drink decision is one of our most vital life choices.  If we choose poorly, they will push the “eject button” (that we all know exists) shooting us out into oblivion.

The Landing.

Overall, we are all just that little boy from Hook, throwing his baseball against the window saying, “you’re afraid you’re going to get sucked out.”  We turn into our worst versions of ourselves while maintaining just enough social graces to hold back from pushing everyone out of the way upon landing and screaming, “I have to get out of here.” I saw a lady do that once.  No one even got mad.  We all understood, and by that point, we had been through something incredibly grueling and toilsome together and have become one big family; except our rich cousins up in front of the iron curtain. Because we are family now, we all also instinctively know that while we are equally thrilled to have landed safely on solid ground again, we simply will not, we cannot, we won’t even consider…a slow clap.


*Thanks to Shan and Britt for being the best in-flight companions and for helping me with this, what’s sure to be, world-changing guide for travelers.  

We would love to hear from all of you well-traveled jet setters! What needs to be added to the Visitor’s Guide to International Flights?

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