After my not-so-fun previous post on flying, allow me to lighten the mood somewhat and offer some advice on how to make air travel bearable if not fun (that smoothie helped a lot!):
1) Buy a pair of Bose headphones, but get the kind that fit around your ears. Together with an mp3 player you'll block out most of what makes flying annoying: other people.
Be careful, though. If a flight attendant sees the little red light on during takeoff and landing, they'll ask you to turn them off, likely in an annoying, passive-aggressive way, such as "We DO ask that all passengers turn off their electronic devices." Oh yeah, well I DO know that my FAA-approved device poses no serious danger to your plane. If it did, you would have confiscated it before I planed. And yes, I said "planed," as in the opposite of "deplaned."
To avoid this conversation, just put a small square of black electrical tape over the light. No red light, no hassle.
2) Try this: when the plane pulls up to the gate and the fasten seatbelt sign goes off, just sit there. Just sit and stare straight ahead (this works best with headphones and an ipod). Breathe slowly, think about something relaxing or otherwise stressless. It does absolute wonders for your state of mind and your blood pressure. Besides, what are all those people standing and rooting through the overhead bins accomplishing? You can't move until the people in front of you move, so what's so great about having to hold onto your carry-ons while you wait?
3) Small airports like Charlotte and Burbank have comfortable, relatively quiet waiting areas. Big, busy airports like LAX have cramped, crowded, dirty and LOUD waiting areas. If you're like me, you can only handle admonitions to "maintain control of your luggage" about a dozen times before it starts seriously messing with your head. Here's a solution: go find the customer service room. These are usually between gates and contained in glassed-in areas full of open seats. You'll find a comfortable place to sit, check your email, write a blog post, all free of security warnings reminding you that we're at threat level 3.7 or whatever the hell it is these days.
4) Starbucks isn't the only place that sells coffee! Shocking, I know, but it's true. So while all the suckers from your flight wait in a 20-deep line to get their lattes, stroll down on down to the sandwich shop that is likely "Proud to Feature Gavina Gourmet" (as if they'd feature the coffee in a more sheepish manner). Grab a sammich while you're at it, you'll have plenty of time left over from not waiting in line!
5) When searching for a wireless network, ignore the one called "Free Public WiFi."
No, the FAA didn't start offering a useful service to airport denizens. It's actually what is known as a "zombie network." Sound cool? Well, it is pretty cool, but not as cool as actual zombies using wireless. From NPR:
When a computer running an older version of XP can't find any of its "favorite" wireless networks, it will automatically create an ad hoc network with the same name as the last one it connected to -- in this case, "Free Public WiFi." Other computers within range of that new ad hoc network can see it, luring other users to connect. [...] Computers with the XP bug that try to connect to the Internet will remember the name, create their own ad hoc networks and entice other users wherever they go.You can read more here.
6) Remember that you're sitting in a chair, in the sky!
Do you have any travel tips? Please share!