January 21, 2008

Fly Anxiety

I never used to be nervous about flying. But that was before 9/11.

You say the above to most people and they are going to think you’re talking about terrorism. But, of course, I’m not. I don’t imagine I’m going to be a victim of terrorism if I set foot on a plane. I think that, at least for a while, people are hyper aware of tactics that terrorist have used before and will probably be extraordinarily vigilant against those techniques.

Instead, I’m talking about security “theater” imposed on travelers. It makes me very nervous, thinking I might come afoul of the rules and be subject to delay or indignity.

That said, most of my personal travel experiences in the last 2 years have been neutral to positive, except for the anxiety of rules which are rigid and seem arbitrary at times.

I should chill out about it, but anxiety isn’t logical. I find it super ironic that someone like me who is really not afraid to fly, is anxious about flying.

Posted by James at January 21, 2008 10:41 PM
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I fly around six times a year, sometimes more, so I'm quite used to all the "security". I've not found it to be a problem. I've never had any significant delays because of it. I've once or twice been "randomly" selected for "secondary screening", which only took a few minutes and was not objectionable (apart from my knowing how stupidly useless it was).

I'm very calm when I travel, and I treat the staff politely and respectfully. And they always seem polite and respectful in return. Everyone has a job to do, and I can't blame them for having been told to do useless crap.

I've never understood why many people get so uptight when they travel, but many do. Hey, if I'm delayed, I'm delayed; there's nothing for it. So why fret? It only makes the experience that much more unpleasant.

Yes, chill out about it, if you can. It'll make it a nicer trip. And if you can't chill, well, maybe try a hot cocoa.

Posted by: Barry Leiba at January 22, 2008 12:22 AM

I promise to chill out if the people behind me in line will, too. I don't really blame the TSA folks so much, as you say, they're doing their jobs.

I find that a percentage of the more experienced fliers are less sympathetic to those who are less used to the security circus. I am aware it's a "thing" with me, but I don't like having people breathing down my neck, and it seems that this is part and parcel of flying today. Someone in front of you telling you to do somehting you forgot to do (show your id, pull out your ticket, open your bag, parade your bag 'o gels, take off your shoes or belt, etc). Meanwhile, someone is in back of you huffing at you for not knowing your belt is a lethal weapon that needs inspecting.

I could probably manage to chill if I could extend my chill radius a little farther...

Posted by: James at January 22, 2008 12:38 AM

I was pulled aside when we flew to Scotland via London with a group from WPI in the early '90s. Let's see: Red hair, Irish surname, flying in from Boston where the IRA received enormous monetary support...In retrospect, it wasn't a surprise. "Where are you going/Who are you staying with/What do you plan to do while you're there" were the types of questions they asked. Weird, but not too unsettling. It took me a bit to catch on to why I had been pulled aside. Not a time to make a joke.

As for the new rules, I don't like them, either. I think the whole "take off your shoes" thing is a bunch of crap, and at first, it wasn't enforced in all airports, which lead to delays and irritation. One airport, either SD or SF, gave out booties to wear, which was great for me because all I can think of is "gee, I wonder how long it's been since this carpet was washed and yuck, all those germs and fungus from all those pepople..."

Nevertheless, the airport screening line is not the place to wage a protest.

You will take your shoes off and you will not have more than the alotted liquids. Those are rules, and when you realize it's a) not within your control and b) the same for everyone, that's one less thing to worry about. Wearing shoes that are slip-ons (like mocs, for example) or velcro make the taking off/putting on faster and easier.

Have your license (or, if you're like me, your passport) ready in your hand or pocket, so you're not fumbling and worrying if you're going to hold up the line, if this is something that causes you concern.

As for the knuckleheads in line with you, tune them out. Bring a magazine to read while you stand in line so you can focus on something other than that you're standing in line. It's the same tactic I use at any doctor's appointment--expect delays and plan accordingly.

Make sure your socks don't have holes in them, and you'll be all set.

Posted by: Patti M. at January 22, 2008 8:32 AM

I have an opportunity to go to San Francisco this spring I think for business (unconfirmed as yet) and I plan to ship my things and only take my laptop bag. I can't stand the useless security, and I'd rather trust my checked luggage to UPS than the airport. In fact, I'd forgotten the whole security thing. That might have made me say no to the trip even though I don't mind flying.

Posted by: leslie at January 22, 2008 10:13 AM

I don't like flying because of the noise and maybe the lighting. Maybe if I flew more frequently I would get used to it, but something about the background noise and lighting in airports and airplanes makes it very difficult for me to concentrate and read (which is usually what I'm trying to do). I just can't settle. I wonder if that's what ADD people feel like all the time. It's awful.

Posted by: Maggie at January 22, 2008 10:22 AM

A helpful tip: When flying, if anxiety appears, have a cocktail. This tip is also applicable when traveling by ferry.

Posted by: Patti M. at January 22, 2008 10:29 AM

I don't get the problem people have with checked luggage. I suppose that's because I've never had a problem but people act like complete idiots about getting to the baggage claim, claiming their bags and getting out of the airport. These are the same people who just spent 5-6 hours on a plane doing nothing (which I suppose is the explaination). Relax. Take a nice leisurely stroll to the claim have a seat maybe stop at a bar or coffee stand, visit the rest room. When you get to the baggage claim you're baggage will be there and you can grab it without having to jostle with 20 other people for it. The whole process might cost you 10-15 minutes in reaching your destination.

re. shipping luggage. you might be shocked at how much it will cost to ship a 50lb bag cross country. The last time we went to the UK we looked into shipping our extra bag back (we went for 2 weeks and had tons of clothes). Our small bag was going to cost us around $100 to ship so we ended up hauling it with us.

Posted by: B.O.B. (bob) at January 22, 2008 10:31 AM

And we paid a fee to fly with an overly heavy bag, but it was cheaper than shipping it.

Posted by: Patti M. at January 22, 2008 10:40 AM

Heh. I've never been a frequent flyer - I think the most trips I ever took in one year was three, but usually it was only 1 or two per year from 1990 to 2002. I haven't flown in over five years.

Nevertheless, my bags got misdirected TWICE during those high-flying years.

I also had something "confiscated" at the airport once - a lava lamp. Supposedly, they had never seen one before, and were sure it was some kind of flammable liquid. Never mind that there's a lightbulb and you plug it into the wall.

No, this wasn't in our so-called post-9/11 world, it was in 1992 or so. The same security people who wouldn't let me on with the lava lamp that was given to me as a last-minute gift, allowed me to board the plane with a very sturdy bokken which, had I had room to swing it, could have crushed someone's skull.

I also missed a connecting flight one time due to bad weather; fortunately, the airline put us up in a hotel (something I'm guessing doesn't happen often any more). Good thing, because I had an upper respiratory infection at the time.

I've had more good travel experience than bad ones, but I've had enough bad ones to dread the whole experience. It's not the airplane itself - it's the goddamn airport. Although, even on an airplane nowadays, I'd worry that someone would see what I was reading (maybe an Aqua Teen Hunger Force picture book, LOL) and they'd have to ground the plane.

Posted by: Julie at January 22, 2008 11:35 AM

Actually, you aren't afraid to fly. Once you get on the plane, you'll be fine. You are afraid of the airport procedures. I wonder what the relevant phobia would be?

For me, the worst part is the jostling in line. And it is hard to keep the kids corralled for the length of time it usually takes.

Posted by: briwei at January 22, 2008 12:08 PM

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