Monday, December 19, 2005

My day job puts me on the road every few months or so. By the road, I mean "in the air." I am a frequent business traveler, which requires me to regularly wade into the semi-anarchy of our nation's air travel system.

For those of you who don't travel often, business travel isn't glamorous at all. Delayed flights, crowded flights, missed flights and odd people all conspire to make me despise the travel portion of my work.

Now, most of the time, the bulk of the other people I'm flying with are business travelers as well. They know the drill, for the most part. Yes, you can only bring two carry-on bags, and yes, if it is too big, you will have to gate check it. No, you don't get fed on most flights unless you're in first class. Yes, there are certain other little points of etiquette that, when followed, make travel just a bit more pleasant for everyone else.

Then there are the amateurs. The pleasure travelers. There are always a few of them on every flight. They're pretty easy to pick out -- the shopping bag overflowing with whatever sundries these folks require; the kids in tow; t-shirts, shorts and sandals on a trip to Philadelphia in November.

This year, though, I have the distinct pleasure of traveling for a one-day customer site visit within a week of Christmas. The plane is FULL of amateur, ill-equipped, unpleasant holiday travelers. I'm polite, so I won't ask these folks the following questions. Hell, I do my best to avoid conversation whenever I travel. But I do wonder about a few things:

1. Is it too much to ask for a little hygiene? You know, a shower and some deodorant before you step out the door. You're about to spend several hours in close proximity with your fellow human beings. Please, don't torture us with your b.o.

2. Can we talk about attire? Can we get something maybe a *little* more appropriate. A t-shirt, jeans and tennis shoes are fine. But please, no sleeveless t-shirts, especially if you are pushing 300 pounds. No one wants to see your fat, hairy, fish-belly-white armpits.

3. When you're boarding the flight and you can't figure out where to stuff that overpacked shopping bag of yours, can you at least step into your seat and let the rest of us get to our seats? Please.

4. Once we're in route, can you make an effort not to press your ass into my face when you're walking up and down the aisle? Oh, and if you need to get out from your window or middle seat, ask me nicely and I'll get up to let you out. You don't have to crawl across my legs.

5. If you've got kids with you, is it too much to ask that you encourage them to use their "inside voices"?

6. Please don't point your overhead air vent at me. I've got mine turned to a very low flow. If yours is blowing to hard on you, the thing to do is twist it until the flow lessens, not push it to the side so that it blows in my face.

7. If my arm is already on the armrest, don't shove yours on there too. And if it's not, please keep your elbows out of my space, m'kay?

8. Yes, I know you're hungry. So am I. But please, if you must eat something laden with onions, garlic or other aromatic herbs and spices, can you please do it *before* you board? Better yet, why not wait until we land. You're a pretty hefty person -- you'll survive another hour and a half without eating.

9. I'm sure you lead a wonderfully interesting life. But if I'm not real responsive to your conversational leads, can you take the hint that I'm not up for talking much right now?

10. Stop with the farting. There are lavatories fore and aft. Use them.