Tuesday, January 14, 2020


The most stressful place in the entire world is the inside of every airport. I just looked it up. There are 40,000 airports on Earth. That means there is a 40,000-way tie for "Most Stressful Place." That is a crazy big tie. This should be reported on more in the news. Shame on journalism that this is the first time you guys are hearing about this. FROM A MOMMY BLOG.

I discovered this fact the first time I went to an airport and saw a man sprinting through it crying. A GROWN MAN. Sprinting. Crying. I didn't know him. I was like 7 and we had gone to the airport to say goodbye to one of my 73 cousins who was leaving for his Mormon mission that month.

This was back before security is what it is today. Back when they would hand you a rifle as you walked through the front doors just as a party favor for coming to the airport. Then security would high five you and slap your butt on your way to the gate even though you didn't even have a ticket. They would put a knife on every seat on the plane as a practical joke.

Ah, the good old days.

But even then. Even back when they didn't treat you like the only reason you could be flying somewhere was to commit a high crime and misdemeanor like they do now. Even back at that time it was still stressful enough to make some grown man sprint through the airport, openly crying.

I assume he was about to miss a flight to something important. Either that or he just really hated running. Either way: STRESSFUL.

From then on I always knew the airport was not a happy place.

This was confirmed to me over and over and over again over the next three decades.

There was the time I left my bag unattended while I went to the bathroom just two years after 9/11 and the entire FBI and KGB swarmed my gate and made me pull out every item of underwear one-by-one and shake it out in front of the entire plane of people I would be with for the next five hours.

Or the time I got to the gate in Amsterdam and they couldn't print out my ticket and said I had to go back to the opposite end of the airport, which is normally a 30 minute walk and I had to board within the next 15 minutes. I was wearing flip flops so I took them off and sprinted the entire way completely barefoot and then cut an entire line of people so someone could print off my ticket and have me sprint all the way back and dive through the doors as they were closing them like that scene from Indiana Jones.

Or the time I was supposed to take my friend Matt with me to Ukraine, a place that was absolutely not tourist friendly in 2011. We had flown to New York separately and we were going to fly to Ukraine from there together. When I got to the airport the airline had no record of me. Matt got on the flight, expecting me to show up. He ended up flying to Ukraine by himself. I had no way to communicate to him where I was or what happened to me. I ended up getting sent to Russia on a different flight where I got another flight to Ukraine and showed up 7 hours after Matt to find him just hanging out in the airport wondering if he should plan to get a job at the airport cafe and live there.

With that kind of history, I now find myself on the verge of a panic attack every time I even see an airport.

Skylar is different. He doesn't do this. Skylar is not intimidated by the likes of airport.

Back when he had a job and wasn't My Greatest Liability, he flew so much for work that he technically owns Delta now. He's basically a celebrity of the sky. When he walks into any airport in the United States someone immediately shows up to place a jeweled crown on his head and a sash over his shoulder that says "QUEEN FOR THE DAY."

Skylar literally leaves our house to go to the airport less than an hour before his flight departure time. He hates waiting inside the airport. He thinks the right way to do travel is to time your airport arrival so that you walk to your gate just as they are closing the door.

He is wrong.

That's wrong.

You're supposed to get to the airport so early that by the time your flight leaves they have built a new airport around you.

What this means is Skylar and I travel together only with great consternation. I demand we leave for the airport early. He demands we don't. We end up going just early enough to annoy him but just late enough that I'm still panicked. See, THAT WAY WE'RE BOTH UNHAPPY!


But in Taipei Taiwan last week, we were both on the same page.

We had flown out of Palau. It was a four-hour flight to Taipei. Our Taipei layover was just over an hour and since that airport is the size of a small country, we knew the connection might be tight.

My sister was seated near the front of the plane out of Palau and since we didn't yet have our physical tickets or seat assignments for our next flight, Skylar asked her to just run to the gate and not wait for us so she could try to get them to assign us to seats together on our flight to San Francisco.

The plane landed in Taipei and she took off. Skylar and I got off of the plane five or so minutes later.

And that's when we discovered that the Taipei airport is an actual labyrinth.

We checked the monitors and found a handful of flights going to San Francisco at the same time. I guess we misread the board because we somehow ended up walking for a full eternity through this airport and through multiple security checkpoints before reaching Not Our Real Gate.

We started frantically jogging in no particular direction, looking for anything that might seem like a place for information, but all we could find were tens of thousands of other people jogging in various directions looking for anything that might seem like a place for information.

Somewhere along the way we discovered that the gates didn't have ticket agents like airports in the US. Just security personnel checking documents. This meant that there was some other place where one was supposed to obtain tickets before even getting to the gate which we couldn't find anyway.

And now we had about 30 minutes until our flight left.

The more we panicked, the more we ran. We ran every square inch of the airport. We even ended up working in a control tower at some point. I sent planes to entirely the wrong places. An entire airplane of passengers who were just trying to go to Disneyland are currently sitting in a Vietnamese prison.

We ran and ran and ran. A full marathon. A full ultra-marathon.

Somewhere along the way Skylar finally stopped and yelled to me, "I'm done with this. If we're going to miss our flight, we could at least not also have to run." Which was an interesting thing to find out about my husband's logic.

We finally found the right gate and I pleaded with the documents person to help us, which she did by sending us down some stairs to the mob boss in the airport basement who apparently had the authority to cut us some tickets on the fly.

Look. This is where Eli and Skylar are truly two different people.

When I think the sky is falling and then it ends up not falling, I don't ask any questions or hope for anything better than the sky not falling. I'm perfectly satisfied with the sky not falling.

Skylar, on the other hand, upon finding out the sky is not falling, will immediately ask the person who saved the sky whether they can also give him a massage and ten million dollars.

I'm not sure if this analogy is making any sense.

The point is, I was just grateful to get any seat on any plane after the whole labyrinth fiasco. And I was already holding out my hand to get whatever pittance the mob bosses wanted to offer me. But Skylar, who was still breathing heavily, with his hands on his hips, was like, "it's our honeymoon so if you could put us together in the best possible seats that would be great."

Eye on the prize.

The mob bosses found two seats together, two middle seats, and told us this in a tone like they were excited to help us. Skylar immediately sighed, rolled his millennial eyes YES I SAID IT, and hissed "MIDDLE SEATS?" like they had just slapped his children.

I pulled out my best Cathie McCann and said "you apologize to these nice people and tell them thank you!" which he then did (he later thanked me for doing this and said he got "caught up in the moment" and felt bad that he seemed ungrateful).

The mob bosses laughed, probably because we just proved to them with that little exchange that we were actually married and not just making this whole thing up to get better seats.

We finally found my sister who was sitting calmly at the gate, ticket in hand.

We asked her if she had had as stressful of an experience as we had.

"No. Guys. The transfer desk to get our tickets was right next to where we got off the plane. I've been here for like 40 minutes."

~It Just Gets Stranger


  1. I leave for the airport 30 minutes before the flight is supposed to board. Point, Skylar. I flew roughly 46 times last year, airports get old.

  2. So you didn't get to appreciate all the fancy terminals, like the Music gate or the Hello Kitty section? Did you at least run past the three red Hello Kitty payphones and the fancy stores, like Gucci and the diamond watches, passing people dressed like they were from the 80s? Because that was my experience last week in the Taipei airport.

    1. The Taipei airport is trippy. I flew through there on my way to and from Bali last year. The entire center of the airport is a giant glitzy mall. The themed lounges are cool until you realize there aren't nearly enough seats for everyone waiting for their flight. If you like Hello Kitty you should fly EVA, they have Hello Kitty themed planes to and from Bali out of the Taipei airport. Literally everything is covered in Hello Kitty characters from the seats to the safety video to the meal containers/utensils, to the toilet paper.

    2. My husband came home from work last week with a roll of Hello Kitty TP for my daughter, that a coworker had given him for some reason. Now I know that his coworker must be a petty thief at the Taipei airport in his spare time.

    3. We rode a Hello Kitty EVA airplane from Taipei to Chicago last summer and it was amazing! The Suzzzz is right; everything is Hello-Kitty-themed! We kept our (supposedly disposable) plastic utensils because they were purple and the handles were Hello Kitty character-shaped. And they gave my toddler son an awesome gift pack of Hello Kitty games and prizes! 10/10 would recommend the EVA Hello Kitty airplane!

  3. I fly not as much as Skylar used to; I'm more like four or five flights a year. But most of my flights involve me and four children, because my husband has to work, but we still need to see grandparents, so I fly with four kids without another responsible adult.

    Basically what I'm saying is, I find airports to be stressful and layovers to be especially terrible.

    I got stressed reading your blog today.

  4. The town I live in has a miniscule airport. Only one terminal with 5 or 6 gates. I LOVE flying out of here because (even though I always have to connect somewhere) I can get to the airport 30 minutes before the flight takes off and walk right on the plane.

    1. Yes! We have the same. When my husband came out here to interview for his job, he showed up at the airport the morning he was supposed to fly home maybe 45 minutes before the flight was supposed to leave? The airport was locked. There was no one around. I think he sat on a bench and took a nap until someone showed up to unlock the place, check him in, and get him boarded. It was probably the pilot. I don't know how we have major airlines flying here, but we do. They just don't open until time to board.

  5. Oh, to be your sister on a day like that.

  6. I live in Omaha, Nebraska and our airport is about 6 feet long. When family comes to visit, they always want to get to the airport 2-3 hours early for their return flights and we just flatly refuse. My standard answer is you leave the house with enough time to get to baggage check 15 minutes before it closes. Even you would be hard-pressed to find any stressors in the Omaha airport!

  7. I will always go out of my way to book nonstop flights if possible, even if it means paying a bit more, just to avoid the stress of dealing with a layover. About 15 years ago I ended up having to deal with a layover in Frankfort, Germany on my way home from Dublin (because flying from Dublin to Frankfort to Philadelphia makes sooooo much sense...). I had just dealt with some kind of worker strike or something at the Dublin airport way too early in the morning after not sleeping at all because I had to catch a midnight bus from Shannon to drive across Ireland to get to Dublin (the bus that I had pull over on the side of the road at 2am so I could go to the bathroom behind a tree down a tiny side street because the bus toilet was out of order. That could have been an interesting international incident...)

    Anyway, when I got to Frankfort, there were a couple flights to Philly on the same airline leaving within minutes of each other (what the actual hell, airline people?! They did this on purpose). I wasn't paying attention to flight numbers and ended up waiting at the wrong gate for an hour or so. As they were starting the boarding process, it hit me that this was the wrong flight. Of course my actual flight was nowhere near the gate where I had been waiting. Cue me frantically running through a German airport with my backpack and carry-on suitcase (because I NEVER check bags). I swear I had to go through at least three security checkpoints where I got patted down at each checkpoint by a large German woman.

    As I was waiting in one of those security lines, I heard my flight being called for boarding several times. I was in my early 20s, alone in a foreign country, and I didn't feel like I could ask people if I could skip the line because my flight was boarding, so I just waited in that never-ending line, becoming more and more stressed at possibly missing my flight and being stuck in Germany.

    By the time I made it to my flight, sweating and near tears, the last few stragglers were boarding. For some reason I had to stop at the desk (I think I needed to print my boarding pass, which I hadn't know ahead of time or something), and the woman at the desk told me that they had given away my seat to a standby passenger since I hadn't checked in at the gate, so I didn't have a seat. I nearly burst into tears right there, but then she followed that up with, "But I can upgrade you to Business Class for this flight for free." I nearly cried again as she handed me my upgraded boarding pass.

    Despite not having slept in who knows how many hours, I was wide awake that entire 9 hour flight home. I was super giddy (no one else around me was #UpperClassNotImpressedWithClassyFlying), and I swear they fed us the most delicious food every hour on the hour. Who knew that airplane food could actually be spectacular? They also passed out hot towels several times which was something I thought they only did in movies.

    I've never gotten to fly Upper Class again (woohoo for steerage section), but I did stuff the blanket from my seat into my backpack before we got off the plane (don't arrest me!). Every time I put that blanket over my bird's cage at night, I think about my brief foray into the world of the not-impressed-by-luxury-while-flying class, and about those rare occasions where incredibly stressful situations are made better almost immediately instead of having to marinate in that stress for days/weeks/months/years.

    This turned out to be WAY longer than anticipated.

  8. Three words.....Emirates First Class. That is all.

  9. A few years ago I did a study abroad experience in Australia, for which I had my first experience flying that solidified my agreement that airports are stressful and you need to be super early for flights. Myself and 3 other students had a flight out of O'hare to LAX where we were then caught a flight to Sydney. My college booked our tickets and originally we were scheduled to leave Chicago in the morning and spend I think 8 hrs at LAX waiting for our connecting flight, because flights to Australia only go out overnight. The school later changed our tickets so we left Chicago later on and only had 1 1/2-2 hours from the expected landing time to until our next flight. Which would have been fine if it wasn't January and our flight out of Chicago wasn't delayed because our plane needed to de-ice leaving us with only about 1 hour between flights. We still might have been okay if the airport had transferred our bags for us instead of making us collect them then check them in again for the next flight (something that was not required 2 months later when we came back). Even after that we may have had a fighting chance if we didn't get directed to the wrong gate twice, with the second time taking us near one end of the airport, when our gate was actually all the way on the opposite end. So we ran the entire length of the airport, dragging our suitcases behind us, reached our gat 25 minutes before take off, and were told it was too late to check in because it was an international flight. At that point it was about 11:30 at night, and we could not get on a flight until 9pm the next day. Luckily, after 40 minutes of calling, we were able to get our school contact on the phone who agreed to cover the cost of a hotel room so we weren't stuck in the airport that whole time, but this definitely made for an interesting first flight experience.

  10. You're not wrong that airports are stressful, but at the same time, I kind of love them. I love seeing all the people and all the possibilities. Whenever I'm at an airport, it reminds me that there are lots of people in the world and that we're all trying to get through these stressful things together. It helps me get a little out of my own selfish world. I'm not explaining myself well, but I think there's something magical about airports and flying and traveling.