How to Insist Leaving for the Airport Super Early

Tomorrow at 10:51am is the big moment. Gordon and Sheila are leaving on their week-long vacation to Toronto! The couple has a full itinerary, with plans ranging from a hockey game to history museums to wineries to visiting long-lost friends. With so much money invested in event tickets, lodging, and of course airfare, it’s imperative there are no hitches in their travel plans.

The night before their scheduled travel, Gordon checks everything off his list. His suitcase and carry-on bag are packed and sitting right by the door. The dog has been dropped off at boarding. The neighbors have been instructed to collect mail and put his trash cans out on trash day. He’s triple-verified the air schedule, has downloaded the airline’s app, and printed two paper copies of each ticket. He has a folder in his carry-on bag with print-outs of rental car and hotel reservations and his Maple Leafs tickets. He even called the hotel to confirm his reservation. His passport and drivers licenses are out near his keys, and multiple paper and digital copies have been made of each. His car is fully inspected to make sure it’s good to go to the airport, even though it’s just a short 25-minute drive; the tires are aired up, the tank is full of gas, the oil is changed, and the wiper fluid is full. He’s verified the weather forecast for Austin, Toronto, and the connecting flight city of Charlotte. And, yes, he’s set his alarm for 4:30am on his phone, his alarm clock radio, and even has two different free online wakeup services scheduled to call two different phone numbers at 4:35 and 4:40, just in case.

Gordon has crossed every single T and dotted every I, but he’s still extremely anxious about the travel. And that’s because Sheila, his beloved wife, couldn’t be more polar opposite when it comes to traveling. Not only has she not even started packing, she is very against arriving to the airport any earlier than absolutely necessary.

“You’re setting our alarms for when?!!” Sheila asked in disbelief. “You do know our flight leaves at 11, right? Why the fuck would we wake up at 4:30? It takes a half hour to drive to the airport. We’ll be sitting there for hours!”

Gordon can’t believe his ears. “Uh, it leaves at 10:51, not 11, for starters. We wake up at 4:30, shower, get dressed, finish packing, load up the car, and then drive to the airport around 6. If traffic is good and we have no car troubles, we arrive at 6:30, find a parking spot, take the shuttle to the terminal, check our baggage, go through security, and we’re at our gate around 8, which is barely two hours before boarding. That gives us time to eat breakfast, use the bathroom, and leisurely wait at the gate. And if we do heaven forbid have car problems or there’s a road closure, then we’re able to overcome those obstacles and still make our flight. We have too much money invested in this trip to risk anything.”

“Absolutely not,” Sheila says. “That’s insanity. We will wake up at 7:30, leave for the airport at 8:30, and be to our gate by 10:00. That still gives us almost a whole hour before it’s scheduled to depart.”

“Yes, before the plane leaves the ground,” Gordon stammers back. “The doors probably close at 10:20. If security lines are long, we’ll never make it. And this is an international flight, so it’s going to take even longer. Why wouldn’t you just want to get there on-time and not worry about anything?”

The sick thing is, Gordon actually thought suggesting 4:30 was meeting Sheila halfway. If it were just him traveling alone, he would be up at 3:00 or earlier. The whole thing has Gordon’s anxiety through the roof. He’s sick to his stomach just thinking about being rushed. Gordon regroups himself and takes on his case with Sheila from a different angle.

“Honey, you know I have anxiety when it comes to stuff like this,” Gordon explains. “If we don’t leave early like I suggest, I’ll be a nervous wreck and on-edge the whole morning. So your choices are to either go along with my admittedly extremely anal travel schedule, or deal with me being a psychopath all morning. It’s your call. I know which option I’d pick.”

Sheila still won’t bite. “We aren’t waking up at fricking 4:30am. We’ll be zombies the whole day and will wind up sleeping for three hours after arriving and then there goes our whole first day in Toronto.”

“But at least we’ll be there, right? If we go by your asinine schedule we’ll still be in Austin praying they can find us seats on the next flight,” Gordon argues. “This is supposed to be a vacation, a time of rest and relaxation. Let’s just leisurely give ourselves time to get to the airport so we can do just that—rest and relax!”

Gordon turns in early, and Sheila vows to stay up and finish packing. A compromise was not reached prior to bedtime, but Gordon isn’t deviating from his plans at all. In fact, he wakes up on his own at 3:15 and springs out of bed and into the shower. He gets dressed, brews a pot of coffee, and loads his suitcases into the car, and returns to the house to wait. He glances up at the clock. It’s now 3:50. He’s really starting to feel uncomfortable about this, but decides to give Sheila until the original 4:30 wakeup call. He paces about the house, giving everything a final once-over.

4:30 comes and the alarms blare. Sheila pulls the blankets over her head. Gordon gives her another ten minutes before gently shaking her. “Honey… honey… it’s 4:40. We need to get moving.” Sheila doesn’t budge. That’s when Gordon notices her open suitcase sitting on the floor with only a few clothing items crumpled into a ball lying in it. This is so much worse than Gordon ever imagined. She still essentially needs to do all of her packing.

At 4:50, Gordon has had enough. “Sheila, baby, it’s time. You need to wake up and get packed.” Sheila angrily gets out of bed and pushes Gordon out of the way as she makes her way to the shower. Gordon turns on the lights and puts her suitcase on the bed and nervously stands outside the shower, counting the minutes. He checks the airline app on his phone, ensuring there are no changes to his flight. Oh shit. That’s when it hits him. He pokes his head into the shower.

“Honey, did you make sure to check-in for the flight last night? We booked our itineraries separately for the miles and I checked into mine the second it was an option. Did you?”

“No, I’ll do it at the airport.”

“Wha… what?! No, no, give me your phone, you need to do that now or you may not get the seat you reserved! We can’t risk the airline thinking you aren’t coming or they may give your seat away.”

“Jesus Christ, at least let me finish showering!”

The shower takes almost fifteen minutes. Sheila then begins the arduous process of putting on makeup, doing her hair, and finding something to wear. It’s 5:25 before she’s readied herself and checks-in to the flight. The sun is beginning to rise. Not a good sign. Now to start packing.

Gordon goes outside and starts the car, just to be sure it will run as expected. It all checks out. He checks the air pressure on each tire and verifies all blinkers and headlights work. Since they’re leaving so much later than expected, Gordon can’t risk being pulled over for a broken taillight or something. He returns to the bedroom to find Sheila lying on the bed playing a game on her phone.

“What the–what the hell are you doing?! You still haven’t finished packing!” Gordon grabs a fistful of Sheila’s clothes and throws them in the suitcase. “Come on, babe, this is ridiculous!” Sheila, now fuming with rage, finished packing. Gordon zips up her suitcase, dashes down the stairs, heaves it into the car, buckles himself in, starts the car, backs it out onto the street, and waits for Sheila to emerge from the house. Minutes pass. What could she be doing?! Gordon turns off the car and bolts inside to find Sheila looking through some magazines.

“What are you doing? It’s damn near 6:30! I thought you were all ready!”

“I’m packing my carry-on. I have to find something to read on the plane.”

“We can buy something new at the airport. Whatever you want. We’ll get a bunch of books and magazines, come on!”

By the time Sheila is packed and seated in the car, it’s 6:45, just four short hours before the flight is scheduled to depart, and Gordon quickly realizes he’s going to get stuck in rush hour traffic. Normally a defensive driver, Gordon flies around traffic when he’s able, swearing at motorists, blowing through hard yellow lights. The pair arrive to the airport at 7:25 and park the car and unload by 7:35. Gordon grabs all the luggage himself and hustles to the shuttle station, only to look back and find an annoyed Sheila lagging far behind.

It takes ten minutes for a shuttle to arrive. When they get inside Austin Bergstrom International Airport, Gordon can’t believe what he sees—a queue of dozens of travelers at his airline’s terminal. The wait is agonizing. “I knew I should have just FedEx’d our luggage to our hotel in advance… I knew it! We could have skipped all this nonsense,” Gordon says aloud to himself, hoping many will overhear and commiserate with him. By the time they reach the front and scan their luggage, it’s 8:10. Gordon is SOAKED with sweat from head to toe. His t-shirt is literally drenched. “Why is it so FRICKING hot in this airport?!” he screams to a crowd of dry, if not outright chilly fellow travelers.

It’s off to security, but Sheila unbelievably suggests stopping to use the bathroom first. “Are you out of your DAMN mind?! We’ll use the bathroom after, baby! We’re short on time!” Sheila ignores his cries and uses the bathroom anyway. When they finally get to the security line, Gordon is prompt and ready to go, but is randomly chosen by the TSA to receive a full bag inspection, possibly due to his extreme nervousness and sweating. When all is complete, the clock reads 8:43.

Sheila suggests stopping on the way to their gate for a coffee and to browse a book shop, but Gordon isn’t comfortable with the idea. “Baby, let’s please just go find our gate first, verify we’re at the right spot, and then we can go get stuff.” Sheila, now of the belief that Gordon in fact could benefit from seeing mental health professionals, gives in. The two arrive at Gate 3 to verify the monitor reads Charlotte. It does. Sheila is about to ask if now is finally OK to go get a coffee, but Gordon has already jolted for the counter to speak with the gate attendant and verify all seat assignments and carry-on information.

The clock now reads 9:00. The boarding process is to begin at 10:13. Now, and only now, is it acceptable to breathe a sigh of relief. Gordon feels a calming sensation come over him, and he feels silly for his earlier actions. The pair grab a couple breakfast tacos, Gordon changes into a dry shirt, and they sit down at the gate with twenty minutes to spare before boarding.

Just when it looked like all Gordon’s anxiety-driven behavior was about to be forgotten and forgiven and the relaxing vacation could truly begin, Gordon still found it necessary to remind Sheila that if they had gone by her schedule, they’d still be looking for a parking spot right now.

“Just sayin’,” Gordon says. Great job.

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My Hot Take:
Gee, whoever could have guessed that Gordon is me! Most everyone I’ve ever flown with is embodied by Sheila, from wife to co-workers to friends. Realistically, I would very happily arrive at the airport up to six hours early for a flight. Not only does it calm my nerves, but I really like spending time in airports before a trip! There are interesting people to meet and fun places to eat. (The fun times do turn sour very quickly, however, if there is even the slightest of delay.) I just won’t budge on this at all, no matter the purpose of the flight.

Being an annoying asshat in the eyes of your travel partner can be accomplished by demanding to arrive at the airport super early.


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