The Key To Surviving A Flight Delay

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This is the tale of my experience surviving a recent flight delay.  If staring at a clock were considered an Olympic sport – there’s a decent chance you’d be referring to me as Gold medal winner, Bill Clevlen.  As a bored student, I often stared at the clock from the time the yellow bus arrived at school until the time it picked me up at 2pm. There were the after school jobs that couldn’t keep my attention either. I stared at the clock as a shoe department salesman, a toy store employee and as a cashier at a supermarket. Staring at a clock in a grocery store truly is the equivalent of an Olympic sport if you’ve ever tried to locate the current time while inside one.

Well, it’s a Monday evening at Lambert International Airport in Saint Louis and I’ve dusted off my old clock staring skills once again. My flight to Grand Rapids, Michigan has been delayed by more than 2 hours. Of course, I just had to follow FAA guidelines and arrive here 2 hours early. I’ve never been great at math but the grumbling from other passengers at gate E22 also seem to conclude that we will be sitting here for at least 4 hours.

The airport is the last place anyone wants to spend 4 hours. It’s like a black hole of everything you hate about Earth tucked under one roof. Screaming children, weirdos from every country and more germs than all the dirty toilets in America combined. And when was the last time someone dropped five bucks on a bottle of Fabreeze for that body scanning contraption the TSA uses? I mean, the scent of Rosie O’Donnell’s socks after a 100 mile walkathon would be a welcome fragrance as you step into that giant cancer causing tunnel.

If it weren’t for the threat of being on a no fly list going forward I’d take this extra time to hop on the public address system and remind travelers that talking loudly into your cell phone doesn’t really improve how you sound to the person you’re calling. However, now representatives from all around the world are thankfully aware that the man at the Burger King counter is taking a cab home later tonight.

As I sit here waiting for time to magically fly by – I just can’t help but observe the way other humans seem to keep busy. For starters – myself included, what did we do before smart phones came along? Every single person has one. Did we have to talk to each other before? Did we have to make eye contact? Did we manage without games, texts or plug ins all over the place?

I do feel bad for people traveling with small kids. That’s no picnic. I’m also guessing many alcoholics can point to an an extended stay at an airport as their launching pad to a life of bad choices. Another 20 minutes of Grandpa’s factory equipped Sprint ringtone going off next to me and I might as well wire a down payment to a rehab facility.

Which I could do if I were at an airport with wi-fi access. Sure, for $8.00 I could get it here at Lambert but I’m going to need to put those 8 dollars toward a shrink when I’m finished with this trip.

After escaping to an otherwise quiet section of the terminal – a woman decides she wants to play Sheryl Crow’s greatest hit on her computer for all to hear. Not only that, there’s now a middle age man quietly sitting across from me raising his hands in the air and mouthing words I can’t understand. It’s as though he’s just entered the REM cycle of sleep and is attempting to conduct a symphony at the same time. Of course, the guy that needs to ask everyone why they are here and what they do for a living is nearby. Every airport comes with one – they’re as sure a bet as the dude checking your SAMs club card.

Let’s talk attire. It’s hard to believe that at one time, people considered boarding a plane an event worthy of your Sunday best. Somehow the airport dress code can now be described as Walmart meets cast of Hee Haw. Just making my way through security I saw a guy who certainly just bought his outfit at a yard sale near the airport. He stood next to a girl, mid 20’s that wasn’t wearing underwear. (Or so I was told after she bent over to take her shoes off. I didn’t look because that would be completely inappropriate.) Another girl, sipping on her $40 Starbucks beverage just waltzed by showing travelers her entire stomach. What’s the deal? Am I really flying the friendly skies or did my Dad drop me off at a flea market?

Either way, the time is 8:25 which means I’ve managed to pass 3 hours observing and complaining. That gives me an hour to find an airport tattoo parlor to sketch the words “I hate flying” on my arm.

Or I could just sit here and wait – enjoying the sounds of Michael Jackson’s Thriller playing on a loop four seats down. Which seems appropriate since much like Jackson’s life, I couldn’t possibly make any of this stuff up.

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Bill is a travel journalist, broadcaster and freelance writer based in Saint Louis, Missouri. Bill travels all across the country doing positive stories, highlighting people and places making America great. He's the host of the weekly Rediscover America podcast and author of the new book 100 Things To Do In America Before You Die! Bill enjoys parks, talking to strangers, eating medium-rare steaks, playing Pickleball and telling good jokes.