Things To Do If You're Stuck In The Airport

Holiday travel is tough on passengers as well as pilots, flight attendants and ticket agents. If you find yourself stuck in an airport, Jeff Michaels has some ideas to keep you from going crazy. Host Liane Hansen speaks with Michaels, author of a new book, Please Hug Me, I've Been Delayed.

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

This holiday season, we wish you smooth travels. May your plane leave on time and arrive on time, so your experiences in our nation's airports will be brief and pleasant. If only all wishes came true. Holiday travel is tough on passengers, as well as pilots, flight attendants and ticket agents. But even after you make it through the security line and develop a personal relationship with the TSA agent, you might still end up stuck in the terminal with every traveler's nightmare: delays.

But writer Jeff Michaels knows just what you should do if it happens to you. His new book is called "Please Hug Me, I've Been Delayed." And Michaels is in the studio of member station WBUR in Boston. Welcome to the program, Jeff.

Mr. JEFF MICHAELS (Writer, "Please Huge Me, I've Been Delayed"): Thanks for having me.

HANSEN: So, when a traveler sees that ominous word listed on a screen next to the flight - delayed - what should they do?

Mr. MICHAELS: Cry.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MICHAELS: Well, I mean, it all depends. There's obviously so much factors that go into it. When it's weather, I mean, there's nothing you can do about it. Nobody's going to fly during a snowstorm. No one should want to fly during a snowstorm or a severe thunderstorm. And those kind of delays are acceptable and you just got to kind of grin and have fun.

And I think that's the time when travelers have to take it upon themselves to not get grumpy and angry at airline personnel and ticket agents 'cause that's not their fault. Then, of course, there's a whole bunch of games you can play by yourself to try to entertain yourself if you're flying alone, which is some of the worst times to be delayed, I think.

HANSEN: In chapter four, you actually devote quite a bit to airport time wasters. And you have level one for the productive, practical type; level two for the creative type; level three for the athletic type. And for the athletic type you say use the time to set a new world record. What do you mean?

Mr. MICHAELS: Well, you know, if you're really, really bored, I think an airport is a great place to try and attempt a world record because you have hundreds of verifiable witnesses for your attempt. And a lot of this can be done, you know, without any props. The most pushups in one hour can certainly be attempted.

HANSEN: I love what you have for the creative type. Have someone untie your shoes and see how long it takes to get those knots back together using only one hand - don't laugh, it's harder than it looks.

Mr. MICHAELS: Have you tried it?

HANSEN: No, I haven't.

Mr. MICHAELS: Sometimes boredom strikes. And I think I feel like you, it's like, you know, you don't want to sit there and read the trash magazines anymore, you know, no one wants you to call them because they know you're bored and you're just going to go on and on and on until your cell phone battery dies. And it's terrible, it really is.

HANSEN: And you also give some practical advice on things that we hear every holiday, like, you know, don't wrap up your packages. You have to put them through security. Book it in advance. I mean, some pretty helpful information. But I'm interested in your multiple strategies for dealing with what you call -and I've experienced this - chronic seat kickers.

Mr. MICHAELS: Oh, the CSKs.

HANSEN: The CSKs.

Mr. MICHAELS: Yep.

HANSEN: Now, you have four categories, right, based on age?

Mr. MICHAELS: Yeah. Well, you know, the children, I don't think they can be faulted. I think it's the parents fault. And if you yell at them, you know, what's that going to do? But I do have a little rhyme that I created 'cause children learn better from song, pneumonic devices.

HANSEN: It's sung to the tune, you know, the neck bone's connected to the, you know...

Mr. MICHAELS: To the hip bone...

HANSEN: ...backbone.

Mr. MICHAELS: ...to the waist bone, yeah. So, if you just include, you know, your foot is connected to the back chair, the back chair is connected to my back - you know, they'll get it and they'll kind of understand that they shouldn't be kicking it 'cause it's obvious their parents are not telling them how unacceptable that is.

HANSEN: The tray table's connected to my seatback. My seatback's connected to the backbone. Yeah, that's...

Mr. MICHAELS: Yeah, that's the one.

HANSEN: That's not going to work with ages 12 through 17.

Mr. MICHAELS: No. And, you know, obviously, they should know a little better but I felt that you can't fault this age group either because they're going through puberty and they're sprouting limbs and, you know, they might have walked on the plane, you know, five-foot-five and walking off six feet. And they don't know what to do with their legs.

But really, the problem is when it's the adult chronic seat kicker, and there's just no excuse for that.

HANSEN: And then what do you do if there's an adult behind you?

Mr. MICHAELS: Well, my suggestion - and it's only a suggestion - would be to take matters into your own hands, stand up, get everyone's attention and say that if anybody wants to come and have your seat they're welcome to it because it comes with a private massage. And the person behind you should turn red at that point and noticing that they've been kicking your seat the entire time and hopefully stop.

HANSEN: Let me ask you: do you have kids?

Mr. MICHAELS: I do not.

HANSEN: You have never experienced the delight of traveling with two or more children under the age of six.

Mr. MICHAELS: Not my own children, no, but I've traveled with hundreds of children on red eyes. So, no, I guess it's not - I don't know the delight.

HANSEN: Really.

Mr. MICHAELS: Is it a delight?

HANSEN: I don't know.

Mr. MICHAELS: I've heard horror stories from my friends who do have children. I don't know.

HANSEN: Well, you know, I was just using delight with my tongue in my cheek. Well, given that the title of your book is "Please Hug Me, I've Been Delayed," I mean, do you think that these strangers that you see at an airport are really going to be receptive to being hugged or, should I want one, be receptive to giving me one?

Mr. MICHAELS: I tell you what, I would fly an airline if they were like, you know what, I'm sorry it's snowing but here's a big hug and a cup of coffee and a muffin, go sit in our nice cozy lounge. Yeah, I mean, I would be receptive. I don't know. But I'm a hugger kind of guy.

HANSEN: Have you ever hugged your fellow travelers?

Mr. MICHAELS: No. That being said, no.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MICHAELS: What a hypocrite.

HANSEN: I guess, I guess. You've never tried?

Mr. MICHAELS: (Unintelligible).

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MICHAELS: People might get creeped out if I try to hug them. I don't know. I'm kind of quiet.

HANSEN: Anyone come up to you and give you one?

Mr. MICHAELS: I'm saying, I would be receptive to it. I think if, you know, a big cuddly person like a Will Ferrell showed up and said, I'm sorry, you're not going anywhere today but here's a hug and a doughnut, it'd be great.

HANSEN: Jeff Michaels is a musician and author of the book "Please Hug Me, I've Been Delayed: The Only Guide You'll Ever Need to Survive the Not-So-Friendly Skies." He joined us from the studio of member station WBUR in Boston. Thank you and happy travels to you.

Mr. MICHAELS: Oh, same to you and to everyone else.

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