Grin and Bear It

Folks, today let’s have a little pre-Thanksgiving sing along. This one is all about the wonders of holiday travel and is sung to the tune of Andy Williams’ “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”.

It’s the most stressful time of the year.
With the kids’ airplane screaming
Their seatmate’s now scheming
To get a free beer.
It’s the most stressful time of the year.

It’s the crap-crappiest time to travel.
With the roads jammed like sardines
Commitments for parties
And nerves unravel.
It’s the crap-crappiest time to travel.

There’ll be storm warnings posted
Flight attendants get toasted
When your plane gets stuck in the snow.
There’ll be scary flight stories
And tales of the glories
Of short travels long, long ago.

I’ve completely butchered that song and now you probably think I hate the holidays, but I don’t. I’m just negative about what a debacle the month from Thanksgiving through Christmas (and New Year’s, I suppose) can be. The already jam-packed season requires holiday party attendance, gift buying, and trying to cram in every activity the family wants you to attend. Holiday travel adds insult to injury. Travel — whether by car, plane, or train — induces stress on its own, and gets amplified to a fever pitch at the holidays. It’s no wonder so many people return home exhausted and run down!

This time of year requires extra amounts of patience as we play the waiting game everywhere. Between delays brought on by weather and those caused by humans, it’s a Crowds at Reagan National Airportwonder anyone ever gets to their destinations. I travel a lot, so I’ve become a bit of an expert at getting through airport security lines. I’ve mastered peeling off my jacket with one hand and using the other to throw my liquids and gels in a bin. I can remove shoes while simultaneously putting a computer on the conveyor belt. But the holidays bring a lot of people to airports who have little to no experience with such tedious, annoying procedures and they hold up the line, adding to others’ frustrations. Not to mention the TSA seems to come up with its own arbitrary, groan-inducing delays on a whim. What’s that, TSA agent? Today is a super special exception and I’m not allowed to have a computer? Plus I have to take off my shoes and my socks? Uh, OK. And go through the detector hopping on one foot? Seems unorthodox, but I guess I don’t have a choice.

Let’s not forget that both holidays fall during what I consider the worst time to take to the skies. I’m not going to dwell too long on the obvious frustrations of winter storms and Weather delays at Reagan National Airportdelays from de-icing planes. Today, dozens of us lined up to stare out the window as the pouring rain turned to snow, wondering if we’d make it out before the worst hits. More importantly, I must admit how frazzled my nerves become with the bumpier flights in cold temperatures. At times, I have been so startled by drops in elevation that I’ve instinctively grabbed the person next to me. They tend not to like that. Except my husband. He tends to encourage it.

Don’t get me wrong, I know it’s my own fault I live in a different part of the country from my homestead. It strikes me as interesting how many people now have to travel long distances instead of simply being able to go over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house. Based on data released by AAA and other travel organizations each year, millions of us now live a significant distance from where we grew up or where our families live, and the number keeps increasing. All these stressed out people crossing paths at the same time in the couple of days before Thanksgiving and Christmas makes for a chaotic scene.

Now, let me stop with the negatives. While I sit here delayed at the airport, let me tell you a few things I’m thankful for and why I endure the throngs of crazed travelers during the holidays. I’m thankful I have a loving family to visit and that they’re always as excited to see me as I am them. I’m thankful to have an amazing husband and that I get along smashingly with his family. I’m thankful to be in good health so I can travel during the holidays. I’m thankful to be able to re-connect with old friends and reminisce on our younger years while exchanging stories about the present. I’m thankful I have enough food to eat and a warm roof over my head. I’m thankful for all the love in my life and hope I’m giving back as much as I receive.

How about we make a pact, fellow stressed-out holiday travelers? I promise to give you a little leeway if you do the same for me. I’ll give you a smile and offer you an armrest if you stop being grumpy and cramming your puffy coat in the overhead bin when other people need to put their bags there. If you at least make an attempt to prevent your hyperactive toddler from kicking my chair, I won’t turn around every 30 seconds and give you a dirty look. Heck, I might even share my peanuts with the little bugger. I know you’re upset because this ridiculous storm has delayed your flight, but it did the same to mine. So let’s just stop grumbling and making other people’s day worse, because there is literally nothing we can do to change the flight status. For those on the roads, give a little extra room and maybe let someone cut in once in a while.

Travelers, we can get through this together and make the experience less painful for everyone. Keep focused on what really matters: getting to your loved ones and enjoying happy, restful moments with them. If all else fails, remember the wonders of wine.

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