At age 28 I finally took my first plane ride. As I sit here contending with leftover lethargy from said flight, I want to reflect on the journey to and from St. Louis.
I learned in my class in STL that I’m a thinker, which totally explains why I prepared for this flight like it was a school exam. I read so many blogs about things to expect when in the air and special concerns first-time fliers would have. Noises. Sudden movements. Navigating security.
One piece of advice I read was to get to the airport two hours early. After doing this twice I’ve concluded this must depend on the airport. I probably could have arrived at 2:12 for my 3:12 flight out of GSP and still had a few minutes to chill before boarding.
When I approached the security area I verified my carry-on would fit in that metal crate thing. The TSA agent said I was one of the few people who did that. I made it through security with one hiccup…my headband.
So there I was in a nearly empty concourse two hours before my flight. Two hours to think about all the things I read about flight. Two hours to reflect on the $10 club wrap I bought at the snack bar.
A gate agent later appeared. The flight is booked to the brim and they didn’t anticipate having enough carry-on space. Does anyone want to volunteer to check his or her bag free of charge?
I pulled my word puzzles out of my bag and volunteered my bag. As a new flyer, this would be my biggest concern for the next four hours.
My main source of entertainment was the preppy fellow across the aisle. When we reached cruising altitude that dude pulled out a footlong sub. Seemed like a kind of hardcore food to whip out on a plane. But what did I know? I was new at this.
A piece of advice I found to be very true: Drink lots of water. My throat did feel dry up there; I ran through a 20 oz. bottle in the 30 minutes between Greenville and Atlanta.
I braced myself for chaos when I landed at ATL. Turned out to be quite easy to navigate from my arrival gate to my departure gate. I went to the bookstore and found exactly what I wanted on a table at the entrance: Orange Is the New Black. I was 15th on the list of requests for the book from the library. So it was obvious the free route just wasn’t happening. And now I had a book to read on the plane.
Landing in STL is when it “got real”. I’m a gal traveling alone. I’m in an unfamiliar city. I checked a bag that may or may not be here. And I have to get a taxi. I mean, it was thrilling but still kind of a weird reality.
Baggage claim was a little anxiety-inducing. I saw a string of bags with my flight number pass…then nothing for a few minutes. I went back to flight advice I read a week earlier: Chances are everyone around you is a seasoned traveler. If they’re not freaking out, you shouldn’t either.
I finally saw my zebra-print bag rise from the great unknown under the conveyor belt. Victory!
I had considered taking the rail to the hotel, but it was dark and I didn’t know much about the relative safety of that mode of transportation. So I opted for the $45(!) taxi ride.
The hotel was a weird experience. I checked in on Wednesday. When I returned to my room after class Thursday, I noticed the housekeeping staff moved a lot of things–and not really into an arrangement that looked like when I arrived. The decorative pillows were either in the corner or on the bench near the bathroom. The lotion and face cream were on the counter instead of on the sink where they started. The TV remote was randomly thrown in front of the TV…not even in a straight position.
Forget this. I’m putting my “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door for the rest of my time here…
After chatting with the hotel concierge at checkout about the safety of the rail line, I decided to use it to go to the airport. The ride was $2.25. A welcome change.
I ran into another too-early-to-the-airport situation. In fact, the flight using my gate before my flight used it had not started boarding when I arrived.
When I boarded my final flight, I was so eager to be home. This grew even more intense as we sat near the takeoff point and waited for four planes ahead of us to takeoff.
Overall I really enjoyed flying. The best things I read and heard were to
*chew gum, though it seemed even more helpful to swallow water to keep my ears clear.
*pay attention to the way other people are reacting to things. Falling a bit unexpectedly and changing noises are totally normal.
Now that I know what to expect when flying, I want to travel more often. Ignoring the post-flight haze I’m in, of course.