I was recently stranded in an airport for the better part of two days. It happens. It doesn't help to bitch about it, or try to sue somebody, or start some kind of boycott campaign. The occasional absence of modern amenities is just the price we pay for zipping about the world in logic-defying sky missiles. Think of it like this: The trip I was stranded on was one flying from Oregon to Connecticut. Even including setbacks, I was only out about two extra days. They made an entire video game about how many people died trying to take that same journey just two hundred years ago.
Press "X" to die of starvation!
What did happen was that I missed a day of work and went two nights without brushing my teeth. What did not happen was me dying of dysentery as my wagon flipped over during a river crossing, freezing water laced with my own uncontrollable diarrhea slowly filling my lungs. That's undeniable progress, folks. We have no right to complain about sleeping outside a closed-down airport Chili's for a night or two -- but still, it's not exactly a pleasant experience. That's why I'm here to help you: With a few simple tips and a little preparation, you can make the best of your next travel delay ...
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Look, everybody knows a flight delay is inconvenient. You have places to be and people to see -- by which you mean "home" and "watching Sons of Anarchy on Netflix until that little pop-up window asks if you're really super sure that you don't have anything better to do with your life." Your time is important, at least to you, and of course any derailment of your routine is going to frustrate you. But if your flight is delayed, it's important to keep in mind that nobody responsible for that inconvenience is likely anywhere near you. That asshole pilot who doesn't have the balls to fly through one measly ice hurricane is stranded all the way over in Chicago (it's always Chicago), so taking it out on the nice Eastern European stewardess with the broken radio and the tired eyes isn't going to do any good. Cut Gergana some slack. She probably lost her foot in a civil war, and it's doubtful her country even exists anymore -- she is not going to sympathize with your "ran out of stuff to read" plight.
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When everything goes right, you don't need to do shit. You touch down, grab your bag, and stroll off your plane with a little bit of secret pride in your heart that our race has so thoroughly subjugated the world that we can jaunt across its entire surface in less time than it takes to watch all of The Lord of the Rings. But that's not what you need to plan for: You need to plan for the two days squatting in the corner of the terminal like a meth addict in an abandoned Denny's. You'll find supplies in the airport stores, but your real-world money is like arcade prize tickets at those places. You'll walk in with two fistfuls of the stuff and walk out with a little pewter ring that says "badical" across the front.
And airport stores are not for necessities. I don't care what your battery life is, your charger stays in your carry-on bag. You are bringing several days' more medication than you need, and always, always with the bear mace. They won't let you bring a can of mace through security, of course, but you're allowed liquids in virtually any mystery container as long as they're less than three ounces. And brother, three ounces of bear mace in a travel-sized shampoo bottle is more than enough to secure the prime spot next to the drinking fountain.
No matter how much it costs or how good it looks, all airport food comes out of the back of the same inexplicably wet, room-temperature delivery van. Everything is soggy. Always. Even the soup. That $20-a-plate brewpub is serving the exact same moist, vaguely food-shaped protein as the fast food joints. If you're going to eat airport food, you need to buy one of those C-shaped neck pillows and use it for the toilet seat. You might as well be comfortable, because you're going to be starting a new life there.
The first thing you need to accept is that you might be stranded here for a very long while. So while the rookies will be murdering each other for chairs like a Game of Thrones episode, don't make that same mistake. You can't lie down or stretch out on an airport chair, but you can put plenty of padding down on a floor. While the suckers are lining up to become slaves for Big Recliner, you go ahead and stake out a prime section of filthy airport carpet and start laying your pants out end to end -- yes, even the ones you're wearing. When society's rules are no longer applicable, comfort becomes king. Just make sure that your space is by a power outlet -- those airport-designing bastards are cruel, and they always put the outlets far away from the chairs. The power outlet is power. In every sense of the word. When those iPads start dying, the people will come to you. First you get the power, then you get the women, then you get ... like two women? I'm not sure where else you want to go with this.
People will be upset by your phone-charging monopoly at first. Sure, they could just use the "complimentary charging stations" the airport provides, but those things are always situated awkwardly in the center of the terminal and usually super crowded. Plus, some jerkwad crammed soggy pizza into all the battery compartments and now they're out of order. Don't let this discontent get out of hand. You need to find a common enemy to rally your people against, and once that anger is externalized, your citizens will accept virtually any hardship happily. Again, this is not the time to turn on the stewardesses, no matter how tempting a target they are. Stewardesses are powerful, and better swayed to your cause. No, this is not the flight crew's fault: This is Steve's fault.
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"Hello, I'm Steven Franklin, and I'll be your scapegoat today!"
That's right: Steve. That smiley bastard from Duluth who proudly announced that he was returning from Africa after doing some "charity tourism." That smug motherfucker thinks he's better than you -- better than all of you. But you'll show him. Your people are strong and will not be crushed by the oppressive condescension of the Steves of the world. The road to destroying Steve will be long and rough, but if everybody just buckles down and deals with the new energy rations, history will remember us all as heroes.
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"What did Steve ever do?" they'll say. "What does Steve have to do with a snowstorm or a goat on the runway or whatever the fuck Chicago's problem is?" they'll say. "He's just a dude," they'll say. Make sure it's the last thing they say.
Steve lovers are race traitors, and race traitors will not be tolerated.
Look, accidents happen. Sometimes those archaic, humid "horsey sauce" packets from the airport Arby's just find their way into some arrogant Steve apologist's coffee. Sometimes furious tapeworm infestations just kind of happen.
Make it official. A king is a king only so long as the people believe he is, so cement that symbolism in your followers early. A king is not a man. A king is a throne. A king is a crown. A throne made out of the carry-on baggage of his followers. A crown made out of the seized iPhone chargers of the betrayers.
Death is an inevitability. No man is immortal, no matter what deals he may strike with the great and powerful Newsstand Witches of Terminal 4. A life is a fleeting thing, but a legacy? A legacy may extend for thousands of years. But for a legacy, you need an heir, and for an heir, you need a queen. Your fellow passengers will beg for admittance to your impenetrable baggage fort. They will fall over themselves for the chance to sow your seed, to bathe in the fantastic waters of your luxuriant drinking fountain pools. They will do anything -- everything -- to ensure that their children and their children's children will never go without battery life. You will have your pick of mates.
But do not be swayed by mere beauty and grace. Your legacy will not be secured by lust, but by intelligent maneuvering and the fortification of power. Sure, she looks like the ass end of Yugoslavia boned Herman Munster and somebody hit the baby with a shovel, but that stewardess is your smartest choice for queen. She is always privy to the holy flight information. She is the avatar of the Airport's whims on Earth. Securing her hand will make your rule not just politically sound, but divinely blessed.
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So your flight has finally arrived and started boarding, and you're struggling with the concept of giving up your mighty Gate Kingdom to rejoin the common world as a peon. It can be heartbreaking, I know, but resist the urge to wage violent and bloody war against the rest of the airport. You cannot hold your empire against the modern world. There is a life waiting for you out there. You need to suck it up, put what's left of your pants back on, pull your carry-on from the battlements, tell Gergana it was all pillow talk, and wash Steve's blood off of your face before they start calling for Zone 3. You've probably got about 20 minutes left. But hey, do you know what that's plenty of time for? A slice of wet pizza and a quick "Yugo blitz" behind the people mover -- you know, for old time's sake.
Buy Robert's stunning, transcendental, orgasmic science fiction novel, Rx: A Tale of Electronegativity, right here. Or buy Robert's other (pretty OK) book, Everything Is Going to Kill Everybody: The Terrifyingly Real Ways the World Wants You Dead. Follow him on Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook.