Today I’m flying to Chicago. Flying is not an unusual thing for me – I’ve been flying since I was 6 months old (not by myself, but you get it). I’ve got the airport routine down: check in for your flight 24 hours early to get the best boarding group, wear comfortable clothes that you don’t mind sitting in for 4-8 hours and don’t require dis- and re-assembly during security, show up to security with your laptop and tiny bag of liquids (if any) already out and ready to dump in the bin, board the plane ready to stow my overhead bag (if any) asap and get out of the aisle so others can go by, etc. But if you’ve ever travelled, you know that most people are not this prepared for flying (and you know that you might be one of them).
People watching in the airport (because security only took 10 minutes and you’re now 2 hours early for your flight – hi, that’s me today) can reveal all sorts of interesting characters. Where are these people going? What’s their purpose in flying? Why today not tomorrow? But no matter where these people are going or why, it’s easy to distinguish a few different types of people that you really will only come across in the airport.
1. The College Kid
While all the flyers that fall into this category are probably in fact not in college, it is easy to assume that these trawling travelers might still spend their nights cramming for exams. Usually clad in yoga pants or chubbies and often sporting a college sweatshirt (or any sweatshirt), these flyers are the kings of comfort. They don’t give two shits what they might actually look like (some of them have literally rolled straight out of bed) but they are going to be the most comfortable people on the plane. No stiff jeans or fancy shirts to confine these travelers – they can practically do yoga while they’re squished into their tiny coach seats. And by yoga, I mean finding the most odd (but oddly comfortable) sleeping position to pass out in once the flight starts its ascent. With their no-shits attitude, these travelers tend to be nonchalant in their traveling, not rude but not always kind either (sometime they roll out on the wrong side of the bed) and ultimately easy to exist around during the uncomfortable situation that is airports. Maybe that’s cause they are built for comfort.
Special features: Neck pillows, expensive headphones (not uncommonly of the Dr. Dre variety), and exotic printed leggings/shorts.
2. The Business Man
We all know this one: the men and women clad in full business suits, complete with tie and bluetooth ear piece. Most often seen at night during the odd flying hour known as the redeye flights, these travelers live lives unbeknownst to the common man. How can they be comfortable in a suit and tie, we plebeians ask, and still not get their shirt creased after hours sitting still. They are a mystery amongst us. Depending on where you’re flying from or to, these flyers can range from obnoxiously loud as they complete business deals via their bluetooths to uncharacteristically stoic, entranced by the New York Times and the Economist. No matter who they are, you know they’ll be the one with infinite-battery laptop, working on Excel spreadsheets more complicated than quantum physics on the plane.
Special features: Amazingly tiny roller bags (how do they fit it all??), foreign newspapers, and waist-clip name badges (so you can identify what crazy company makes their employees travel in a four-piece suit).
3. The Over-Eager Vacationer
Usually composed of a family of four, including two small children and a father dressed in some sort of loud hawaiian shirt, this traveler is the vacationer on steroids. Equipped with god-knows how many suitcases, matching T-shirts, and travel guides up the wazoo, they are so excited to go to (insert beach-y vacation spot) that you’d think they had just found out they had won the lottery. Although not outwardly rude, they can lose track of their airport surrounding while fantasizing about fancy drinks with little umbrellas in them that they can become a slight roadblock to other travelers. Ultimately harmless, the over-eager vacationer has one goal in mind and any length of flight won’t stand in their way.
Special features: Leash children, hawaiian lais, and multiple pairs of sunglasses.
4. The Retired Vacationer
Unlike the Over-Eager Vacationer, the Retired Vacationer has a more casual approach to their traveling experience. Generally in the upper age range, this flyer doesn’t care about hawaiian shirts or fruity drinks on beaches, they’re just going someplace to go someplace. With nothing better to do, they board flights to wherever they can kick back and continue doing nothing. They are living the retired life the right way. And if they’re really doing it right, they’re also playing the wheelchair card to get a free ride all around the airport. I mean, what’s not to love?
Special features: Canes with ornate handles, old fashioned cloth baggage, and sunglasses that resemble the shades your optometrist gives you after you get your eyes dilated.
5. The Average Joe
You could have literally picked this flyer straight off the street. They camouflage themselves easily into the heard of travelers wearing a mismatch of odd clothing, constantly looking a little lost, just like any other person in a city they don’t know – except they’re in an airport. Who knows where they’re going or why, these travelers seem to have no clear purpose and thus remain the average joe of the traveling tribe. Often with very little baggage and a slow rambling gait, the average joe fades into the background of air travel, acting as the filler persons between the Vacationers and Business Men of the airport.
Special features: Shirt, shoes, and cell service.
6. The Group
Like a herd of wild animals, the group travelers are possibly the most comical of all travelers. Between sports teams and school groups, the group travelers are easily identified by matching something, be it backpacks, lanyards, jerseys, or obnoxious baseball caps. Together they traverse the airport as a human amoeba, usually with at least one chaperone snapping at the stragglers and guiding the individuals to “stay with the group”. Due to their large size, the Group is impossible to ignore, not only because of their uniformity but because of their innate ability to constantly be in the way. But fret not, their matching attire is enough to make even the most frustrated traveler laugh a bit before shoving their way through.
Special features: Tour guide with portable microphone and literally matching everything.
7. Special Sighting Today: The Musician
This was a new one that I spotted today: the traveling musician. Lugging around a giant instrument in what looks like an industrial strength case, this traveler seemed to find issue with every possible thing that happened in the airport, especially when it concerned their instrument. To the everyday person, their instrument was an instrument, but to these musicians, their instrument was worth more than their first born and they made sure everyone in the airport knew it. Eclectically dressed as if they had just come a performance with the symphony but had slept in their clothes, these travelers expected people to bow in their wake as they complained of lugging their enormous instruments across the airport. But fret not, as a traveler, they won’t bother you if you don’t bother them. Music to your ears.
Special features: Bowtie, conductor’s baton, and long locks like Rapunzel.
Now to hit the skies. Tell me about any airport characters you’ve encountered in the comments! Happy flying!