Terminally Chill

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Surviving airport purgatory

Formerly published in The Other Press. May 8 2013

By Elliot Chan, Staff Writer

No matter how well you prepare for traveling, delays and cancellations are bound to happen. You can huff and puff all you want, but it won’t get that plane in the air any faster. I have suffered through many days and nights at airports far from home, sometimes due to finicky air traffic control, other times caused by my own stupidity. I know exactly how Tom Hanks’ character felt in The Terminal, wandering around an empty airport, with nobody but custodians and airport security eyeing you. They know how harmless you are, but their pitiful reproaches are pinpricks to the ego.

When faced with a long airport stay, you have two options: you can choose to leave the airport, get a hotel room, and pass the time in the world outside. But if you’re like me and didn’t budget for inconvenience, you might rather just hunker down at the airport and wait for the tides to turn. If that’s the case, I’ve supplied some tips that will help you not only pass the time, but make the best of it.

Move around: Don’t be bound to the little comfy corner you found for yourself. An airport is a big place; there are many places to roam around. By staying active, you can avoid the monotony of airport cabin fever. And if you do have a corner you like, odds are few people are going to compete for that little secluded spot. Most people are coming and going; few linger like we do.

Be productive: Music, books, movies, and even companions can all be rendered useless at an airport. There is only so much you can do before boredom kicks in and you lose the will to focus on meaningless enjoyments. Stay productive instead. Start researching activities you want to do when you reach your destination or catch up on work. Grab a piece of paper and make a list of the chores you would like to accomplish when you get home. Turn the dreary hours of waiting into constructive and creative time well spent. Don’t resist getting work done just because you are on a trip. There is a satisfying feeling when you accomplish something out of the blue.

Eat, rest, and get better: After you get over the initial disappointment and frustration, it is time to regroup. Grab some food and rest. People-watching is a great way to forget about your own troubles. See them hustle down the concourse toward baggage claim, know that for the moment you can just chill. People will generally be friendly when you try to strike up a conversation—for most people, travel is an exciting thing. Simply ask where they are from and where they are going, and you can tell by their tone whether or not they are eager to continue with the conversation. If not, move on. They probably aren’t going anywhere interesting anyways.

Whether you missed a connecting flight or other unforeseen circumstances kept you from flying, know that waiting is not the worst thing that can happen abroad. No matter how restless you get, remember that traveling is a privilege. So what if you lose an hour, a day, even a week of traveling; safety is the most important thing. Keep track of your belongings and take care of yourself. The airport might never be heaven, but it definitely doesn’t have to be hell.

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