Surviving a Long Layover
If you’ve ever had a really, really, really long layover waiting for a connecting flight, chances are you’ll connect with this bizarre tale of woe. On my way to Colombia, where I am writing this introduction to you now (from a beach, in my boardshorts, I might add), I had to spend 10-hours in JFK. Free booze and a nap pod made what I expected to be a journey into the 7th ring of Dante’s Inferno a tolerable experience. I wrote the bulk of this delirious, as the events transpired, just to have something to do. With that said, please enjoy.
Welcome to JFK
I exit the plane, and walk the length of JFK’s terminal 5 to stretch my legs, a bleary-eyed, jet-lagged lab rat familiarizing myself to a new cage. My next flight leaves in 10 hours. Not long enough to explore NYC, but enough to thoroughly despise everything.
Free whiskey samples? Is this real life? Who is this adult Trader Joe with slicked back hair and gold hoop earring, this Duke of Duty Free, this benevolent philanthropist of fancy booze I cannot afford? I show the man my passport, jigging for joy. Yes, of course, I’m over 21, good sir. He pours me a shot of something smoky. I toss it back. I hold out my glass for a refill, but he shakes his head like I’m wearing cargo shorts and Birkenstocks and he’s the bouncer of a swanky nightclub.
“One per traveler,” he says, “I’m sorry.”
Oh, the Injustice! “Will you take pity on a poor soul with a 10-hour layover?” I ask, showing my boarding pass. I am shameless Oliver Twist, begging for another.
“Damn, that sucks,” he says, dropping the act. He looks around for his manager, then pours me more than a splash. I take it, salute this Samaritan of good scotch, and stroll on with fire in my belly.
The rat has been conditioned. His whiskers are wet. Whiskey wet. He debates and rationalizes. Screw it. He’ll have a drink. He considers the airport bars of terminal 5.
There is a sports bar.
There is a spaceship lounge with blue glowing lights reminiscent of Ibiza, except instead of impossibly hot European partiers with dilated pupils, there are two depressed-looking businessmen slumped over pint glasses in the corner. If the DOW has not crashed, perhaps their plane has.
There is an I-don’t-know-what bar with rows of iPads for each lonely drinker. The patrons’ jaded eyes are dulled diamonds in the luminescence. The lines of iPads make the rat think of more rats—and he walks on to find another bar.
Salvation. Not in the form of an adequate watering hole, but an empty nap pod. All thoughts of booze evaporate. What is a nap pod, you ask? One of those odd, orb-shaped relaxation chambers that you expect to find in Google’s game room. I pounce on it—these are rare and even more rarely empty.
A middle-aged lady walks by and makes a sad face at me.
“You’re in my orb,” she says with her eyes.
“I don’t care,” I say with my shoeless feet.
“I’m older than you. Have you no respect?” she says with her hunched back.
“This is bigger than you and me.” I say with my whiskey breath. “This is survival, woman. I am the Bear Grylls of Gate 16. I am the Lord of the Layover. I have the conch, Piggy. I’m sorry. It’s not personal. But this is my throne for the next 10 hours. Now move along.”
I pray that I don’t have to pee. Weakness is not tolerated in terminal 5. To leave my perch would be to welcome a coup d’état. My new nemesis, the aforementioned middle-aged woman, has curled up nearby, and though her eyes are shut, I’m sure she dreams of bridging the moat, overtaking my pod, and impaling my head on a spike.
After much contemplation, I take off my socks. I stretch and crack my long second toes. I proceed to watch Netflix.
Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long” comes on in the airport sound system. God is laughing at me.
Sure that all those around me are asleep, including my middle-aged rival, I stealthily vacate the nap pod and jog to the bathroom. I jet out of the bathroom before all of my piss hits urinal porcelain, ready to return to my nap pod and defend my castle from all travelers, foreign and domestic.
Sleep is fruitless. I open my nap pod to reveal chaos. A flight to Chile is boarding in the gate next to me. A once empty airport is now a thriving metropolis of carry-ons, unnaturally high-spirited toddlers, and grumpy Chileans gripping paper cups of coffee.
Someone bumps my nap pod, just as I’m dozing off again. A Chilean earthquake. I despise everything.
My girlfriend, who I haven’t seen in nearly 2 months, knocks on my nap pod. I do my best not to tackle her in the now crowded airport.
I despise nothing. Aside from the fact that the nap pod isn’t sound proof, and doesn’t exactly fit two people.
Off to Colombia. Hasta luego, USA!