I haven’t flown much this year, so it was with some apprehension that I booked two trips in a single week recently. My wife warned me that I was overextending myself with an East Coast trip on Monday and Tuesday, followed up with a West Coast trip on Thursday and Friday. She was correct — of course — but not due to any fault of the air traffic system. (I could have caught this cold at the grocery store.)
It is easy to find fault with air travel; lots of little things can drive you crazy if you let them. A number of years ago I decided to lower my expectations and embrace an attitude of gratitude when I am in airports. That means putting a smile on my face — no matter how disappointing my seat assignment is; no matter how long the walk is to the gate; no matter how full the plane is.
I made this decision because nothing else would work. The system is too big, too complicated to respond to one upset passenger. Putting a smile on, thanking people for doing a decent job, and avoiding the vortex of anger that sometimes develops has not eliminated my travel problems.
But it has made the experience less stressful for me, which was the primary objective, after all. Occasionally it has gotten me a few perks, too; after volunteering my seat to a particularly boisterous travel diva on a weather-delayed LAX-to-ORD flight a few years ago, the counter agent sought me out for some free drink coupons and a first-class seat on the next plane.
That was a rare reward, though. Most of the time I have to settle for taking satisfaction in knowing that I’ve done my good turn for the day and maybe putting a smile on someone else’s face.
No — not as good as free drinks, perhaps; but worth the minimal effort required.