Gay Guru Tackles Holiday Travel

How I came to find myself at the airport at 6:25 p.m. the day before Thanksgiving, the busiest travel day of the year (some 20 minutes past when I should have boarded the plane, but we’ll get to that) is something of a math equation.  You see my darlings, I was to have stayed in Connecticut for Thanksgiving this year, foregoing my yearly “Turkey and Neon Lights Tour” to Fabulous Las Vegas for Thanksgiving with my mom, instead to attend my 10 year High School Reunion…. because nary am I the type to skip out on a shit-show like that. However, as Thanksgiving, and the deadline to buy the cheaper reunion tickets grew closer and closer and airline tickets grew exponentially more expensive, I began to think I was making a mistake.

I started to do the math: Stay at home with family and go to the reunion which I might have a good time at or high-tail it to Vegas where I will definitely have a good time….for four days. When I found out my brother was going to Vegas for Thanksgiving in lieu of coming to CT for Christmas, it sealed the deal. I rushed to get my disgustingly over-priced tickets booked.

I made it to the airport about 2 hours early. Throughout the day I periodically monitored several local news sites to keep track of the wait times at security. What with the endless news reports of privacy-violating x-ray screenings, the media saturation detailing the horrors of the new TSA pat-down procedures, who wouldn’t feel a bit concerned? Well, in all honesty I was excited about the pat-down part. I even perfected my excuse for refusing a body scan. I figured when the time came, being a man of some size, I would refuse on the basis that I weighed 160 pounds prior to the last time I was scanned.

Avoid this outfit durring air-travel

Upon arrival at the airport, I found no line at security. I sauntered up to the TSA agent, handed the lady my ticket and passport* and casually quipped, “I’ll have the pat-down, extra invasive please.”  I was met with a cold stare as the TSA Agent sternly muttered, “That’s not funny sir.”  I said please, I thought to myself.  I passed security and convinced myself that I had another opportunity for a pat down leaving Vegas, and if need be I would deploy my new trendy terroristy** looking scarf to get one.

As I waited for the plane, which had yet to arrive, my guruly voice of wisdom sounded in my head… “The Atlanta flight is leaving, your plane is late, you should see if you can re-route through Hot-lanta.” But, being a natural advice-giver, I am of course doomed to never listen to myself. Instead, I watched the flight information flicker over the airport monitor, when suddenly it appeared the non-stop Delta flight to Minneapolis-St. Paul where I was to pick up my connecting flight to Vegas, was now taking a little detour to Saginaw, Michigan.

A frazzled gate agent announced, “We’re taking a little diversion to Saginaw to pick up some fuel, but don’t worry. Minneapolis is getting snow and everything is delayed at least an hour. We’ll only be on the ground in Saginaw for twenty minutes….you’ll have plenty of time to make your connections.”

The announcement was slightly reassuring, but being a loyal Delta traveler, I had seen this gate agent before. Reassuring words from her are about as comforting as a hug from the fourth horseman of the apocalypse. So when my little voice of wisdom reared up again and said, “Well, you missed the Atlanta flight, you had better buy the first-class upgrade” I bolted for the gate agent, credit card in hand as the flight began to board.  Fifteen minutes later, I relaxed in my big comfy seat and promptly passed out.

I awoke from an amazingly deep sleep an hour and ten minutes into the hour and forty minute flight to Saginaw.  As my left eye opened slowly and I familiarized myself with the surroundings I noticed a wrap sandwich on my neighbor’s tray table.  FOOD!!!! Oh my god, I was sitting in first class and they serve FOOD!! I was starving. I sat up in my seat, straightened myself out and attempted to flag down the flight attendant and order something to eat, doing my best to avoid looking over excited and desperately hungry.

Some thirty minutes later, suffering indigestion from my chicken salad wrap we landed in Saginaw.  The fuel truck pulled over to the wing of the aircraft and began to fill ‘er up.  “We’ll only be on the ground for twenty minutes” repeated over and over in my head.

Saginaw, Michigan's exciting airport terminal

At around the thirty-five minute mark the captain addressed the plane over the PA. “Well,” he said, inspiring a collective grumble, “it took a little longer to get here than it should have. There was quite a strong head wind that slowed us up and it took a little longer to refuel than we had expected…I’m over my legal flight hours and I can’t continue the flight on to Minneapolis. But, there is a flight coming up from Detroit with a crew that will take the plane on to Minneapolis. They’ll be here in about 2 hours. Until then, we’ll let you de-plane and you’re free to explore the terminal. We ask that you don’t leave the sterile terminal area, because the TSA has gone home for the night.”

Yes we were allowed to get off the plane….and quickly I set out to explore the vast expanses of Saginaw’s airport. At this point I was stressed out and badly wanted a cigarette. I quickly found there was no smoking lounge. There was barely a freaking airport terminal for that matter.  So, absent a lounge, or the ability to go outside, I did the next logical thing and proceeded to the men’s room to check for foot-tapping, glory holes, or the faint smell of cigarette smoke. I decided, if it was happening in the bathroom I was sucking it, stroking it or smoking it… again, I was quickly disappointed.

Saginaw Airport's "food court."

At about my third or fourth lap around the entire 900 square feet that constituted the Saginaw Airport terminal, I noticed a frantic and excited airport services employee roll out a cart full of drinks, cookies, pretzels and M&M’s.  A fellow traveler said, “Oh, look, they have a ‘Sorry you’re stuck in Saginaw cart’.” I laughed tremendously as I corrected her…I said, no, that’s the “You’re fucked cart.”  The near giddy airport service employee said, “We just got it last week, it’s the first chance we’ve had to use it!” Apparently they don’t see much action in Saginaw.  I grabbed a drink and a few packages of cookies and hurried back on the plane. The terminal lacked free internet.

Aboard the plane and settled into my seat I tethered my phone to my computer and hopped on the interwebs.  The Anti-Couric was on-line so I vented to her about the situation.  Rarely the optimist, she informed me it wasn’t all bad. Apparently there’s a “gay vacation hot-spot” in Michigan. Clearly she’s mistaken because I have it on good (completely unreliable) authority that only lesbians go inland for vacations. Gay men typically stick to the shorelines and [Fire] islands.

An hour or so later the relief crew arrived. The plane loaded up with the now tired, but oddly high-spirited passengers and we were off for our hour and twenty minute flight to Minneapolis. Upon arriving in Minneapolis around midnight I was off the plane as soon as they opened the door. I was on a mission for a cigarette…

A Delta Representative met me as I walked off the jet-way. As I think about it now, she caught me mid-stride and I don’t think I actually ever stopped walking.  She asked me my name, grabbed a voucher off the counter, and hurried to catch up with me. She handed me the voucher and seemed very pleased with herself as she stated Delta was providing me a hotel room for the night.

The airport shuttle was a cool mile from the terminal. I met the hotel shuttle where I learned it would be a half-hour drive to the hotel…and I did not have time for a cigarette. As I sat on the packed shuttle, I did the math in my head: Arrive at the hotel at 1 a.m. I need to be back on the shuttle by 5 a.m. for a 7 a.m. flight after unpacking my spare outfit***, packing up my old clothes and settling in, I would have roughly three hours to sleep. I set two alarms, ordered a wake-up call then lay in bed in fear of being ravaged by bed-bugs, and over-sleeping — which would make me a stand-by passenger which is the airline equivalent of a refugee.

The next morning, back at Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport, I met a delightfully cynical woman who reminded me of the Anti-Couric… but our friendship only lasted to the security line where it was every man for himself. I was again passed up for a coveted TSA pat-down. However, I did get to witness a handsome gentleman who had been randomly selected for extra screening lose his shit as a TSA agent rifled through his things.  He was sweating like he had a kilo of coke strapped to his ass.  The TSA agent was relatively calm as the traveler muttered insults under his breath. It did reach a breaking point though, when the TSA agent screamed at the guy, “Listen buddy, stop with the comments. You want to make this more difficult? I can do that for you.”  It was at that moment I decided to move along as a pepper-spraying seemed imminent.

I was delighted to find my plane to Vegas was at the gate and departing on-time, something of an obstacle for Delta these days. Though the gate was an ungodly far walk from security. I also sprung for another $100 first-class upgrade, because I knew I was ripe for the sleeping and it was a three hour flight….worth every penny my loves.

Fun Fact: Included with my hotel voucher and ticket confirmation was a “breakfast” voucher from Delta. It was worth a very generous $6.50, or roughly $.50 short of Delta’s own breakfast for sale on the plane. That First-Class ticket I sprung for, saved me the mid-flight tantrum I would have pitched in coach had I learned that lesson the hard way.

Leaving Vegas was largely uneventful. Again, I was passed up for the TSA pat-down. My plane left late, but arrived in Detriot for my connection 15 minutes early. Though, the 15 minutes was lost because it took about that long to get the jet-way unjammed. During the time I spent waiting for delayed flights, relief flight crews and airport shuttles I did make it a point to speak with people about the “TSA pat-down procedures”, and people’s views were surprisingly in line with mine. Scan me, feel me up, pat me down, do whatever it is you have to do, just let me get on my plane.

Darlings, my advice, If you find yourself flying out of Hartford, make sure to book yourself on an early flight out, so, when your late flight finally gets you to your connecting airport you have other flight options to eventually get you to your destination.  If at all possible, (and heading out of Hartford, the possibilities ARE limited) try to book a direct flight.

*Gay Guru Travel Tip #1: ALWAYS travel with your passport, even for domestic travel. It looks worldly and you never know when you’re gonna meet a man or lady who wants to whisk you away to a tropical foreign destination!

**Gay Guru Travel Tip #2: Do not wear your trendy terroristy looking scarf to the airport…..seriously.

***Gay Guru Travel Tip #3: Your carry-on luggage is the most important piece of luggage. Always pack a change of clothes, a couple pairs of undies, socks, condoms and lube….and a bathing suit. You know, just essentials for a couple days of survival if you get stuck somewhere or the airline loses your luggage.