Over the Holidays I had some loved ones come in from out of town. Their plane was delayed by a few hours too many, and so it got me thinking about how every day people spend hours at the airports. They are just trying to get from point A to point B as efficiently as they can, but as faith would have it, sometimes, they need to kill a few extra hours at the airport. I know of people who absolutely detest traveling for this very reason – they feel stuck in a box with no means to escape. I, on the other hand, do not mind a little wait here or there. Due to the fact that I usually travel for pleasure (vs. for business), there is no deadline I have to meet while flying. Sure, I get annoyed when flights get delayed, but I have learned how to cope with myself in a confined environment in order to pass some time.
[I will reveal what made me write this piece at the end of this post (point no.7), so keep on reading. (Or skip right to it, if you are in that much of a hurry.)]
- The first thing I always do when I have a bunch of time before my flight is I take a walk. A few gates to the right and to the left of my own departure gate. For some reason, not all gates are blessed with the same great neighboring restaurants, bars and kiosks, so I want to make sure that I know where the most interesting spots are and how they can make my stay at the airport more pleasurable.
- While taking that walk, I check my mental list for all the flying necessities, i.e. water, snacks, books, magazines, Sudoku, crossword puzzles, etc. If there is something missing off that list, I stop to get it. Kiosks with magazines and books seem to consume a lot of my time, since I can never decide if a magazine is worth buying, or which book I should choose to fill the tiny unoccupied space in my carry-on. Magazines nowadays seem to have more ads than actual content and books… well, there are just too many that I would like to read.
- Last time I had a lengthy wait before my flight, I decided to check out one of those business class lounges. Because I actually got premium seats for my international flight, I was sure that this was a perk that I could use. Research taught me that there is a lot of comfortable seating there, great computer work spaces, recliners in case I wanted to take a nap, massage tables if I felt tense, a gym, showers, a kitchen full of drinks and snacks, etc. Upon entrance, I found out that I either had to be flying different airlines with a premium ticket or my chosen airlines with a business class ticket. So you see… I was denied. It is a great way to spend your time while you wait, IF you are cool enough to get in.
- Because of the above fiasco, the nearby bar proved to be a decent second choice. All the movies taught me that most action happens at the bar. There was no action for me, but I sure enjoyed slowly sipping my whiskey neat while staring off into the abyss. Sure, one could argue that you can get the same kind of vibe at a restaurant or a coffee shop, but I somehow feel more elevated at an airport bar. You know, where all the pilots and stewardesses come to unwind before their flight (Yea, that probably is more of a movie thing now that I think about it…).
- Once I complete the above steps, I go back to my gate and choose a spot away from all the chatty people, so that I can try and read my book (or write), without people yapping into my ear. Life also taught me to stay away from those spots filled with electric sockets. Somehow, no one seems to remember to charge their phone before they get to the airport, so when they do, it is a mad rash to claim your spot. Elbows fly, knees are spread as wide as possible, nails are sharpened, ready to attack, teeth are out to draw blood from a random victim’s neck. Of course, people do not just charge their electronics and walk away, oh no!, they use their electronics as much as possible while charging them, just to make sure nobody else gets to charge their dying phone.
- Every few pages, I put my book away to people watch. In my head, I form stories of who they are, where they are going and why. It is also fun to figure out what they are leaving behind, what they are hoping to find, and if they are coming back or not. The things people talk about in public places is astonishing; be it over the phone, or to a fellow passenger. Maybe they feel free to do it because they are surrounded by strangers they never hope to see again.
- Finally, we come to the final point, which is something I have not done in the past, but will be sure to try in the future. “What is it” you ask? Meeting new people! In the past couple of days, I stumbled upon an article (source no longer available as of September 2021) about an app called WaitList that helps you meet new people while you wait at the airport. It is still in beta testing, which means I could not find it in the app store, but you can open it in a browser by clicking on the link provided by me. (Unfortunately, as of September 2021, it looks like this app was scrapped and I am unable to find anything similar. If you are reading this and are an app developer, feel free to develop something like WaitList. I would love to collaborate on that with you.)
Now, normally, I am skeptical when it comes to these “people meeting” apps, but this one seems rather promising. It is not meant for hookups (although, it can surely be used that way), but for meeting people who have some extra time while they wait for their flight and would like to socialize. How is this better than meeting strangers through an app in the outside world? In this situation, you are both flyers – people who actually bought a ticket went through TSA security, and are meant to fly somewhere. This narrows down the potential risk, of people having malicious agendas. Next, you do not have to give them all your personal info. Just find someone with similar interests and meet them at a cafe assigned by the app, which means that if you do not want to, you do not even have to tell them where you are flying to, which gate you are waiting at, or anything else. Just type in the name of your airport and browse the people you find on the list and see if they are someone you would like talking to.
This leads us to the second part of why I think this app is a great idea. You do not need an app to talk to your fellow passengers, I am aware of that. However, this app enables you to find people who have similar interests as you do, so the chance of you two hitting it off and actually having a decent time (vs. trying and failing, to find a common subject and ending up talking about the weather) increases. If you just want a stimulating conversation, go for it – find someone who likes the same philosopher as you. If you want to talk about fashion, you can do it. If you are a working professional and looking for potential clients (or just networking), you can do that, too!
Thanks to this app, even lengthy delays will not be an issue.
- How do you like to spend your waiting time at the airport?
- Do you do what I do?
- Or are there other things you would recommend to me?
- Would you try this app?
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