Travel Games and Human Herds

The only way that I can do a series of big international flights anymore is to break the succession of soul crushing indecencies into a series of games. Preparation for these games is key and it simply will not do these days to have a big night before the flight and just try to sleep on the plane.

What your going to need:
2x Ear plugs and perhaps spares if your prone, as I am, to losing things.
1x Noise Cancelling Headphones
6x wooden, blunt(ish) toothpicks
1x Packet of baby wipes
A kindle. Never, ever leave without one.

The first alarm starts ringing in my head when I arrive at a reasonably EMPTY airport and watch 1-2 people before me traverse what appears to be either an obstacle course or maze. On the Barsec website they are referred to as belt barriers under the queue management system dropdown bar. This generally occurs after check in and before the first set of bag x-ray machines. I often wonder what Stanley Milgram would think about the mindless lemming like tortuous shuffle through these people herding belts. If I find myself in an airport where security are walking around with sub machine guns (south/central america, some asian countries) I will follow the crowd through. If it is an airport without any security at all (also some asian countries) I brazenly march up to the seatbelt clip, avoiding the chickens, that is secured to its adjacent pole and flick one off after another creating a clear path for the poor obedient souls in my wake. In the sub machine gun countries I still try to do this if I can however much more discretely. Even if it means just one less aisle to negotiate for the people behind me.

The problem that often occurs in an airport that is FULL is personal space. Different cultures idea of personal space and the ‘queue’ led to an invention. Of mine. I poked maybe half a dozen toothpicks through my backpack. On the inside of the backpack they were hard up against a magazine or something with little ‘give.’ The idea being that when people walked STRAIGHT into my back in a queue they would receive just a very slight jab making them perhaps less likely to do so again. B.F.Skinner?

In some Airports now there are x-ray machines. For people. I mustn’t be the only person aware that these machines obviously cause cancer as people are informed on approach that if cancer isn’t something that the individual would like then an alternative is provided, the alternative is of course being subjected to a fondling by a member of the same sex. These choices presented with a straight face. After receiving my dose of X-Ray I am asked to move on.

Perhaps the worst is when, particularly in Doha, people are herded into a holding pen located inside, but security gated off from the rest of, the terminal. And its amenities. Often 30 minutes before the bus arrives to start ferrying people to the plane. There is never food available and only sometimes toilet facilities. You win this game if you are the last person into the holding pen that still makes the flight.
I stated earlier that being prepared is key and it is on the plane where this really comes to the fore. With experience you will find what isle is best for you, obviously not the middle one. Seat allocation should impact on consumption of diuretics preflight with the aisle seat being a green light. The air hostess wants everyone to listen to her talk. I don’t want to sound like a dick but I could probably give one of those talks by now. The best thing here are earplugs because of their discreetness and as soon as the talk is finished (as it would be rude to sooner) remove ear plugs and don the Noise Cancelling Headphones (with batteries you purchased at the airport.) You don’t want to put headphones on over the top of earplugs as music will be played at volumes that may annoy the nearby passengers and this article if nothing promotes social awareness. And pull out the kindle. Some gentle background music is good at this juncture, might I suggest classical, instrumental or something like sounds of the rain forrest? Unknown music is best as if you find yourself singing or nodding in unconscious acknowledgement of a song you will become distracted from the distraction of reading. It is here, now, when the crying babies, snorers and perfunctory conversations are drowned out and maybe some well timed caffeine kicks in that I begin to feel invincible. Like I’ve eaten a star.

The Baggage claim game. Instead of everyone standing back in an ellipse surrounding the carousel in an orderly fashion allowing room enough for someone who’s bag is actually approaching a clear path to grab the bag off the moving carousel, a real dog eat dog atmosphere descends on the previously friendly occupants of the given flight. The loose affiliation of proximity that has built over one perhaps even two international flights is shattered at the carousel. One person stands in front of the next until all are crowded and the elderly must chase their bag yelling incoherent descriptions of their luggage in the vain hope someone nimble enough of mind and body will remove the escaping bag for them. The winner here spots incoming luggage, picks an appropriate gap and removes from carousel without touching anyone. At all. You lose if you or your bag circumnavigates.

If you enjoyed reading about circumnavigating bags you might like to head to my website where you will find more articles and where you will also learn about how my girlfriend and I are fairing on our circumnavigation of planet earth on La Vagabonde, a 43ft monohull sailing vessel… Interesting no?

Nota Bene.
The Noise Cancelling Headphones should be utilised whenever deemed necessary. Same goes for the Baby Wipes.

Riley Whitelum.

Comments 12

  1. My wife and I love this big beautiful world, and traveling around it. One year we flew 50 flights – half international. One suggestion that I learned was to travel with a companion. We found sharing the awe and wonder of our experiences enrichened them, turning the tedium and hectic times into something we could endure…We now spend our travel time on our sailing vessel “Bird of Paradise” – thank you for the inspiration in that regard!

  2. ” soul crushing indecencies”

    The indecencies are worse your a pilot yourself,but are reduced to having to take a airline because it’s just to expensive to fly yourself.

  3. And the real Irony? After being treated like an animal, having your personal items searched, being X-Rayed and having to remove most articles of clothing, security relieves you of your nail clippers and file. ( due to the fact that you may fashion a weapon ) Now after all that, you are supposedly on the “secure or sterile” side of the airport. Now stop by any one of the overpriced restaurants and what do see on the tables sitting atop a folded napkin? Yup, stainless steel knives. I hate flying and I am an airline pilot. The entire system of “airport security” is an illusion and a money making scam.

  4. I believe I may have given this same rant to my patient and loving partner during on or more of our long trips.

    Brilliant stuff lol

  5. I always win at The Baggage claim game. But then again I cheat, because I use a neon-green flight bag around our bags. That’s cheating because I can spot my bag on the belt from 25m away through the maze of legs while I sit down and relax while everybody is trying to get as close as possible, because they have a hard time recognising their inconspicuous suitcase.

  6. Thanks for the inspirational words. Keep up the great work and sharing your adventures!

  7. The credit card razor blade is plastic, it’s never been found or removed from me yet.. Security is a myth.. I carry my myth in my wallet. And it cuts leather if you forget to put it between two other cards. And if I’m mugged it’s easy to pull out.

  8. Security is important, and like all important things left to governments, it’s almost always done wrong. Bureaucrats are just smart enough to have figured out how to herd people. But have no idea what to do with them once gathered together, so it’s best to avoid being herded when ever possible.

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