For the thousands of people standing in line, sleeping in rows of cots, fighting for chairs and otherwise enduring the nightmare of being stuck at the airport, here are Miss Mingle’s DOs and DON’Ts:
1) After re-arranging, re-re-arranging and re-re-re-arranging your various screwed-up business and personal affairs--and after checking for help on the Facebook group When Volcanoes Erupt: A Survival Guide for Stranded Travelers, and the hashtag #getmehome on Twitter--DO put your various iThings away and take the opportunity to meet and bond with as many strangers face-to-face as possible. Airport disasters may be Hell on Earth but they are also a god-given mingling opportunity. You never know; you might meet your next spouse, client or best friend. Adversity brings people together. And even if you never see the person again, good conversation is food for the soul.
2) DON’T engage in one-downmanship by assuming your own troubles are worse than anyone else’s. You are in this together; everyone has a right to want to get home. Commiserate. Seek compassion and company. But try not to compete.
3) After a sufficient amount of bitching about the volcano and the obduracy of the airline authorities and how this has totally messed up your life, DO move on to other subjects. Talk about the amazing and surprising power of nature. Talk about fate. Talk about sex. Ask to see pictures of the kids or the pets. Discuss your favorite vacation. Ask advice. Tell your life story. (Note: Try to stay away from subjects like politics. It’s a crowded place and tempers are short. And people may have had either too much, or not enough, alcohol.)
4) DON’T push. Or butt in line, or yell, “I was first, dammit!” Don’t scream at an airline employee unless they really, really deserve it.
5) DO offer to help others: Watch their bags while they go to the restroom (never mind what airport security tells you--this is a siege!) Play with their kids. Share your food and your Advil and your toothpaste.
6) DON’T give unwanted advice. If you see someone about to eat a cheese sandwich which you happen to know is spoiled, by all means tell him; but if he has ordered a double bacon cheeseburger with a fried egg and hollandaise on top to help with his stress, don’t say, “That’s not going to do you any good you in the long run, buddy.”
7) DO smile as much as possible, even if you don’t feel like it. Smiling in an arena filled with fear and negativity can serve as a balm and is a humanitarian act. (Warning: Do NOT smile, however, at people who are crying hysterically, screaming at the top of their lungs or using their briefcases as bludgeons. They may just re-re-re-arrange your face.)