Last week, I flew down to St. Petersburg, Florida for a work conference.
I don’t do too much air travel, so I’m almost always nervous about it. It doesn’t help that my slightly olive complexion and full beard have made the target of many a “random” TSA pat down.
I also hate paying for parking, and traffic. Which doesn’t make me much of a fan of airports.
I woke up at 6:30am (about three hours earlier than normal—freelancing is great) so my wife could drive me out to Midway in Chicago, a two-hour drive from our house.
When we finally got to Midway, we got so confused by all of the onramps and offramps and parking shuttles that we missed our exit and kept driving through Chicago. Not a great start.
After taking a closer look at the traffic signs, we finally found the Departures. I kissed my wife, grabbed my bags, and set off purposefully toward the TSA check.
I had expected a long wait as we all discarded our belts and shoes and keys and change and were subjected to a rigorous search. Instead, I handed them my boarding pass (on my phone. Technology still amazes me), walked through a machine, and walked right through.
Well...not before realizing that I forgot about a small pocket knife in my carry-on. The TSA guy lifted it up and gave me one of these.
Twenty minutes after kissing my wife goodbye, I was already at my gate.
The flight before hadn’t even left yet. I had plenty of time to waste. I played my Nintendo Switch some, talked with some of my fellow passengers, and hopped over to the bar across the walkway from my gate.
On the flight itself, the two rows behind me were completely empty, so the flight attendant let me move. We took off within five minutes of the plane boarding.
When we landed, we were on the ground no longer than ten minutes before we disembarked.
I had four flights that week, and by and large, they were all this stress-free.
Sure, the trip wasn’t without its hiccups: I missed the escalator to the other gates my first time through Atlanta and ended up at the end of the wrong concourse. One of my trays had a banana smashed in it (they gave me a free beer though!). I even woke up an hour after my alarm when I went to leave.
But even then, I still made it to the gate with over an hour to spare.
As much as I hate traffic and airports and angry, stressed strangers, my experience was very stress-free. Everyone I talked to was in good spirits. In fact, it wasn’t stressful until I hopped on the bus from Midway back to South Bend. Seriously—every single time the guy hit the gas pedal, it was rougher than any of the takeoffs and landings I experienced.
And, if I haven’t mentioned it, it was also far cheaper than I expected. I might just join the jet-set after all.