The Little Joys of Airplane Travel

With the unofficial start to summer just days away and a long holiday weekend awaiting, I decided it was the perfect time to ditch the District and visit my boyfriend in the Windy City. When you’re in a long distance relationship where being in the same place requires one (or both) of you to hop on a plane to get to where the other happens to be, four days and four nights together without having to take any vacation days is pretty much unheard of. But that rare gift was what we were facing. I didn’t even have to pay for my plane ticket – I’d swiped my credit card enough over the past year to earn a free flight and by some miracle Memorial Day weekend wasn’t blacked out! I should have known this was all falling into place too easily…

So yesterday, after a very successful and productive day of work and monitoring the Southwest website for hints of possible delays from the line of thunderstorms headed our way, I was feeling pretty good about life. Then 4:00 hit and my phone lit up with a call from the airlines saying my flight (which wasn’t until 9:30) had been delayed until 11:30. I started to curse Southwest. How on earth could they know five hours ahead of time that my flight was going to be delayed two hours when none of the flights between Chicago and DC had been delayed all day?!? Frustrated, I rushed home after work anyway to finish packing and grab Weasley for the trek to the airport in case the flight somehow left on time.

Napping the delays away

Napping the delays away

It turns out getting to the airport would be the easy part; leaving would prove more difficult. Apparently, the international airport forgot that it was a long holiday weekend so a lot of people would be leaving town after work on a Thursday night – oh, and that they scheduled several red-eye international flights – because lines to get through security where a nightmare. They only had two lines open and passengers snaked through multiple sets of elastic lane dividers. It was so bad that I was actually thankful that my flight was delayed because I would have missed it. By the time we got to security, the TSA agents were pretty harried and trying to push people through as quickly as possible, which is difficult enough when you’ve got to basically undress and unpack your suitcase before you can go through the screening machine, let alone when you have to undress, unpack and pull your dog out of his carrier, remove his collar and carry him through the metal detector, praying he doesn’t get spooked and leap from your arms only to disappear into the airport sans collar as the TSA agent swabs your hands for “residue.” Thankfully, my little Weasley is an expert traveler and was the model doggy airport passenger. He even got the TSA agent rushing people through the lines to relax and smile a little…and we relaxed and smiled a little when we found the classy airport Starbucks that was both a coffee shop and a wine bar.

After last night, I think Weasley is an even better traveler than me. He didn’t bat an eye or even whimper as the gate agent announced to the terminal that our flight [whose delay had been shortened and had an airplane “in range” to take us to Chicago] would actually now be leaving at 1:15 a.m. due to weather and a plane diversion to Cleveland. He also refused to let out a howl [happy of course] when, five minutes later, the same gate agent announced to the terminal that the plane had made it through the storm and we would actually be leaving at 11:30 after all. He slept calmly in his carrier under my seat throughout the, at times,turbulent flight and slightly rough landing. He didn’t even bark at the three other dogs in the baggage claim area as we were leaving the airport. Having Weasley be so calm when I’m stressing out about making my flight or if we’re ever going to take off or if one of those turbulent bounces might actually make us fall out of the sky, really helps calm me down and make the whole flying experience more enjoyable.

Weasley has already gotten back to his favorite city dog activity: watching all the people, dogs and cars passing below.

Weasley has already gotten back to his favorite city dog activity: watching all the people, dogs and cars passing below.

Now that our feet [and paws] are safely on the ground in Chicago, I realize that there are little joys hidden in even the most hellish flight experiences: the smile of that stressed TSA agent, that classy Starbucks, my sweet little puppy’s wet nose pressed against his mesh carrier, the honey roasted peanuts mid-flight and, of course, the smiling face and extra long hug waiting for me in the sea of strangers just outside the terminal. Now I’ve got four days and three more nights to enjoy this…


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