I Will Never Be Good at Airports

Last week, I flew to Eastern Canada to see friends, visit my former residence and pull off a stunningly mediocre performance in the national intercollegiate debate championships. All in all, the journey really highlighted the fact that I haven't changed whatsoever since leaving the wine-drenched, cinderblock zoo of my old university dorm. But what really highlighted my woeful inability to function as an adult on this trip wasn't my travel planning, my social skills, or even my debate performance. Oh, no. It was the airports themselves.

This is usually a place where adult behaviour is required.

But it's not just one aspect of airports I'm bad at, or even travelling as a whole. Oh, no. I manage to fuck up several distinct aspects of the airport experience, all of which I've lovingly detailed for you here:

Checking In

Checking in is supposed to be easy. You can do it from the comfort of your own home. I mean, you can do it on your phone, for God's sake, and if there's anything the 21st century has taught us, it's that tasks you can achieve on your phone are simplistic and idiot-proof.

Thanks, 21st century!

Now, I'm generally an impatient and impulsive person, which means the moment I get the "you can check into your flight now" email, I fish out whichever mobile device has the most battery power left and blaze right on through the online check-in service. This is for two reasons. 

Reason #1: Despite choosing to fly with Air "I'm sorry ma'am, we seem to have mistaken this domestic passenger jet for an aircraft carrier and sold 2,832 tickets, so you don't have a seat right now" Canada, I am still laboring under the delusion that checking in sooner will get me a better choice of seat.

Reason #2: I must have a window seat when I fly. Sure, the view of the cities down below is neat and all, but the real advantage of this is that if I end up with a screaming baby behind me at 32,000 feet, I can smash out the window and watch that little fucker get sucked right out of the airplane.

Next time you're flying in the cargo hold, you little bastard.

So I dash through the check in process like a coke fiend holding an iPhone for the first time. And that's all well and fine, except the check-in screens normally take the time to ask you some basic screening questions about the contents of your luggage. I'm not in the habit of smuggling firearms or live animals in my luggage, but the problem is, no two airlines ask these sorts of questions the same way. Some of them are looking for you to answer "no", as in, "No, I most certainly do not have the GDP of a small country in heroin in my checked bag". Others expect you to answer "yes", as in, "yes, I promise that my luggage is completely free of snarling rabid badgers and/or human lungs. So in my mad dash to check in, I often click the wrong one.

The contents of my luggage, according to my check-in.

Of course, when you do inevitably fuck up and hit the wrong thing, there's no option to go back and fix it, which means that airlines apparently simulataneously believe that:
1) people bring bombs onto airplanes and
2) no one ever makes mistakes.

Cognitive dissonance aside, where does that leave me? Now when I get into the airport, I'm going to be waved over to the special bagging screening so I can check in the surfboard and rack of moose antlers I accidentally told them I was bringing with me, and I'll have to sheepishly explain to the security people that I'm an impulsive idiot who can't sit still long enough to follow directions. And speaking of security...


Airport security is a pain in the ass, and I'm saying that as a resident of a city that lets people with pipe bombs in their luggage get on international flights. As a passenger going through security, your entire existence boils down to one goal: do everything in your power to convince the surly-faced police academy dropouts that you aren't smuggling an incendiary device in your butt. For most people, this means quietly and gracefully performing the various tasks that airport security ask of you, nimbly leaping through scanners and extracting suspicious items from luggage.

I am not most people.

For instance, I always fail the Macarena portion of the screening process.

 For starters, I can't handle the "pulling your laptop out of your bag" thing. At all. Every laptop I own is large enough that I could use it to fend off a charging buffalo, and my main strategy for ensuring it doesn't get damaged on the flight is to cram it down into the soft layers of various debris at the bottom of my backpack. So when the security people order me to whip it out of my backpack at a moment's notice, they're not just getting the laptop. They're getting the laptop, four and a half gum wrappers, a three-year-old condom someone handed me during Health Week, nineteen receipts, an old movie ticket, a long-forgotten syllabus, four calling birds, three french hens, two turtle doves, and the anguished ghost of my teenage dreams of super-stardom. None of that shit fits in the pre-approved airline trays, leaving me scrambling to collect the remnants of my life while the woman behind me argues with security about whether or not she needs to take out her nipple rings before going through the metal detector. 

And don't even get me started on the hassles of flying with live animals stowed away in your luggage.

Hey, speaking of metal detectors, did you know that you can set them off by tripping and crashing into the sides of them? I do. I know this very well, and I suggest you take my word for it, as replicating it isn't very much fun. All you have to do to get through a metal detector is take off your metal jewelry, set down your brass knuckles and walk in a straight line through the little arch. Hundreds of thousands of years of evolution for bipedalism has gone into preparing you for this task. It should be easy. But every single time I attempt it, I invariably end up making a fool of myself  by stumbling or falling or accidentally wearing my most zipper-tastic outfit to the airport, disrupting the otherwise smooth security operation. Without fail, this earns me an exasperated eye roll from the nearest agent and a dismissive hand wave, inviting me to wrestle my knee-length boots back on and go pick up my bag of grimy receipts. After all, if I'm not competent enough to get my shoes off without pulling a hamstring, there's no way I could ever pose a real threat to security.

Airport Shopping

Airport shops serve a legitimate purpose. However, unless they sell Skittles and magazines, you aren't meant to actually buy things from them. Most airport shops exist purely so that the airport can tack it onto its list of stores, so that the public can continue to pretend that it's incredibly convenient to have an Apple store next to their gate. You know, for those times you thought it might be nice to drop $800 on an iPad so you can play 14 hours of Angry Birds on your flight. Better yet, every airport I have ever been to has a high-end luggage store, just in case you brought an armload of loose items to the airport without thinking to place them in a bag.

"This is a useful thing to have near me as I try to board my flight." - Nobody

Airports maintain tiny strip malls of popular stores for the same reason that West Edmonton Mall insists on maintaining a grubby indoor lake filled with defunct pennies and sea turtles - it looks good in a pamphlet. You're not meant to take it seriously. 

You know what a prairie-bound mega-mall really needs? A gigantic body of coin-flavoured water. Fucking perfect.

But I do take those shops seriously. I really do. Instead of wandering through with a disinterested sneer as I make a beeline for the Pringles and Pepto, I make a point of purchasing all the wonderfully tacky shit I find in airports. The things I've brought home from airport shops are strange, thoroughly useless and clearly intended to be permanent window displays. I've bought postcards in cities I've never seen beyond the airport. I've got a fuzzy, bobble-headed lobster and a magnificent cartoonish lion-head hat with attached mittens. I come home with books I'll never read, magazines I don't even like and tacky souvenirs that no self-respecting person would even dare to display inside their sock drawers. It's a real problem.

This hat is my most prized possession.

Anyone who has ever picked me up at an airport has learned to anticipate the bizarre things I'm toting when I step out of the arrivals terminal. Well, if I make it that far. You see, I've got another problem...

Boarding Planes

Boarding is supposed to be fairly straightforward. You get up, you show your boarding pass, you walk down the little enclosed ramp because you live much farther north than humans have any business living and it's cold out there, you find your seat, and you sit down. Done. That's all you have to do. Problem is, everyone else has to do it too. And everyone else is a fucking idiot.

Pictured: the least productive hour of your travel time.

They start by boarding all the people who can afford to fork over $1000 for extra leg room and flirtier flight attendants, which means it's the back of the line for you, peon. The airline then allows people with disabilities and families with young children to get a head start on boarding, giving new parents much-needed time to get all the necessary threatening, bribing and sobbing out of the way. During pre-boarding, you and all the other able-bodied passengers can stand around and roll your eyes together at the man with the sore ankle and case of the sniffles demanding the same amount of extra time and attention as a wheelchair-bound child. 

I can store this in the overhead compartments, right?

Then comes the general boarding call. Now, most airlines try to maintain some semblance of order by calling up the back rows first. That way, people won't have to passive-aggressively elbow the passengers at the front of the plane to get to their seats, and everyone can arrive at their destination with minimal bruising. The problem with this approach is that the general public hates reading and following directions almost as much as they hate waiting. Without fail, everyone crushes forward in a mass of limbs, bags and outstretched boarding passes. The flight attendant in charge of overseeing boarding has no intention to put a stop to this, either, because she just got off a transatlantic flight, she can't remember if she's in Denver or Toronto, and she's barely making enough money to keep herself in dog food. She's out of fucks to give, which means you're out of luck, because your route to your seat at the back of the plane just became a labyrinth of people, baggage, and strangers' butts.

Fun fact: the vast majority of butts do not look like this one.

But the asscrack nightmare doesn't end when you find your seat - you still have to deal with your carry-on luggage. I subscribe to the "shove it all in where it fits, your flight leaves in an hour, you swore you wouldn't leave it this late again" method of packing, which means that while I may have packed a great number of things to amuse myself on the flight, I don't actually know where any of those things are. Which means that if I want to be sure of having all my things at my disposal during the flight, I need to bring everything with me to my seat. Depending on the airline, that might mean I'm crushed up against the window, languishing under the weight of two carry-on bags (one of which contains my industrial, buffalo-smashing laptop), my mandatory Canadian tundra coat, and the encroaching belly roll of the passenger next to me. 

And so every airport experience I've ever had has resulted in my becoming flustered, broke, scrutinized, suspicious and crushed. And that's before the plane even leaves the ground. Bon voyage. 

What was your worst airport experience? Let me know in the comments. And while you're pining for my devastating wit during the week, check out my boyfriend's new blog - Obviously, Waffles!


  1. This is hysterically funny.

    Now I carry a pocket knife (in varying sizes, but mostly large) in my purse for extremely useful reasons. I could never use it in defense though since it's at the bottom of my purse. Somehow I forgot about this, flew from San Diego to Denver no problem. It got through security. I'm convinced the guy wasn't looking and it was next to my metal makeup brush.

    Now this did not happen at the Denver airport when I tried to fly back home. Needless to say I lost that particular item in great sadness, and was detained until they realized I was just an idiot.

    1. Thanks so much!

      Slipping a knife past the TSA is a real accomplishment. The one time my father flew in and out of the USA for a business trip, he was stopped at security for additional screening because they were suspicious of a glass work-related award statuette in his baggage... back in Canada, the security didn't even look twice at it.


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