Or don’t, if you know what’s good for you.
Not because of me, naturally. I happen to be a wonderful traveling companion, full of lively stories and, I’m not one to brag, but a pretty extreme willingness to sing every role in whole Broadway soundtracks. A few hours on a plane, train, boat, or futuristic flying car with me and you will be wondering why it’s taken you so long to quit your job and kidnap me so we can spend the rest of our lives on a road trip together. Either that, or you’ll be crying out for heavy prescription drugs.
No, the reason you’d want to avoid accompanying me on my fabulous vacation to California which commences on Friday has more to do with the fact that I live in (I might have mentioned this) New York. So in order to get to California, I have to take a plane. Yes, I’m aware that I could have walked—I’d be a few thousand bucks richer right now (airline prices are crazy!), and the exercise would do me good.
The minor downside is that I would never reach California. More likely, I’d end up in New Orleans (I hear they’re throwing a pretty decent block party in February, which is about when I’d arrive, so this wouldn’t be a total waste). I have a horrible sense of direction. Really bad. As in, if you ever want to kill me and make it look like an accident, all you have to do is drop me off with a ten-mile supply of water in a desert which has a town ten miles away, and a town a hundred miles away. I guarantee, I’ll find a way to head toward the town a hundred miles away (even if there are signs, runway lights, a yellow brick road, and a host of angels pointing in the direction of the ten-mile town), and consequently die of thirst.
So a plane to California is definitely the way to go. You may not know this, but New York is world-famous for making air travel an experience in pleasure second only to having a root canal performed without anesthetic, by Satan, as bamboo shoots are stuck under your toenails and a screen above your head is playing reruns of Full House at a volume loud enough to drown out your screams.
Half the time the planes don’t even take off. This might not seem fair, seeing as how you cashed out your 401k to pay for your ticket, but just bear in mind that it’s highly inadvisable to walk up to an airline employee and ask for an explanation, even if you are flying home to give your brother a kidney and there’s not too much time left, according to the guy holding the shiny sharp thing. The airline employees get very testy when you ask them picky questions like “Excuse me, but how much longer until our plane arrives, please?” They don’t know. What’s more, they don’t give a shit. It is certainly not their problem, the plane will show up whenever it damn well pleases and that might not be for a week but that is okay because it is—got this?—not their problem.
Yes, patience is a virtue when you’re waiting at one of NYC’s finest airports. In my particular case, that airport is Newark. Granted, that’s not quite in NYC—it’s not even in New York—but it’s considered one of the Big Three nonetheless, and in this situation, it was the only one that I could leave from without actually parting with an appendage to pay for my ticket.
But just because Newark is in New Jersey, that does not make it any less fun! No sir. As a matter of fact, I hold few memories in such warm regard as last New Year’s Eve, when I arrived in New Jersey about seven minutes before midnight. Now, I realize that New Year’s Eve is a BIG DEAL. I have never quite figured out why—the world has a birthday just like you and me and Jesus and it doesn’t really seem like such a shocking occurrence to me but every single time it happens there’s the exact same amount of pageantry and wide-eyed wonder. But I ask you, did every single person exiting that plane need to stop walking—in that little accordion thing you enter and exit the plane on, for which the correct term escapes me at the moment—to count down the seconds until the new year? I couldn’t possibly have been the only person with claustrophobia in that environment, right?
I swear, I even heard a champagne cork pop. Great idea—let’s add alcohol to the situation.
And it only got worse when we managed to burst into the terminal as one.
Personally, I think the best way to celebrate New Year’s Eve—or the Fourth of July, or Arbor Day—is by staying home, preferably with a good buddy or two, and drinking heavily. That way, nobody gets hurt, nobody has to drive, and nobody gets into a really unwise disagreement with the fat guy smooshing them at the bar who forgot to put on deodorant.
But I seem to be in the minority here. Apparently airports are where the party is AT, because at least a tenth of New York’s colorful population was there to greet the homecomers at Newark. I was one of the few solitary souls littered sadly across the landscape of happy couples, bulging suitcases, and about six thousand crying kids whose bedtimes were so far in the past that their current state of alertness could only have been achieved with amphetamines.
Here’s the best part. JFK is only about a ten-minute train ride from my apartment. For that reason, I find it the most pleasurable to have dealings with, out of the Big Three. Of course, that judgment is roughly equal to saying I’d rather watch my puppy die than lose my job right after having my first kid or experience the plague of locusts, so take it with a grain of salt. But insofar as it is closer to my apartment (by far) than La Guardia or Newark, the torture sessions do tend to be shorter.
So needless to say, I can almost never get flights in or out of JFK. When the stars align and my karma is all built up and I can get a flight from there, it’s like a big, shiny, unexpected Christmas present. It’s actually such an effective one that I beg my family to take back any actual Christmas presents they might have bought for me and give them to poor children instead, that I might experience this wonderful gift again in my lifetime.
Newark is, by contrast, the furthest airport from my apartment. I don’t mind this so much on Friday, because I’ll be leaving from work, and my office is so close to Grand Central that I could practically leap out a window and land on it (if I had any sense of direction whatsoever, which I don’t, we’ve discussed this—more likely, I’d land in Maryland). But next Saturday, when I come back, I am once again going to be arriving at midnight. Which means I won’t see my lovely apartment until the wee hours of the morning. This might not be such a bad thing, since said apartment will no doubt have been completely overtaken by roaches in my weeklong absence.
The great thing is, I never consider any of this when booking my flights. I always say to myself, “Well, it’s $838 cheaper to do it this way, I’ll find a way to make it work.” All I ever think about is money. Never do I pause to consider the plight of my poor, jet-lagged self arriving alone in New Jersey on a rainy night (well, I don’t know if it’ll be raining but it makes it sound sadder) faced with the prospect of returning home with bags in which a couple of dwarves have stowed away, judging by their weight.
And in the end, I always pay the price.