More From the Other Side of Tourism

I spent almost half a year working in an airport. I was a customer service representative. I checked people in. I boarded them onto flights and checked their tickets. I communicated with the largely Quebecois flyers in my broken French. And I got yelled at by more people than I can possibly count.

So I have for you here insider tips on making your travel day go smoothly.

If the passenger’s bag was only three pounds over the weight limit, I let them go without slapping on the 50 dollar fee… but only if they had behaved pleasantly thus far. If they broke rules or spoke rudely (or in one case tried to direct me by whistling for my attention), they paid the fee. We’ve all been told that being kind gets you a long way, but that’s all the more true in an airport where you are at the mercy of the person who you might be yelling at.

Tip 2: if you don’t want the people boarding the plane to get angry and be extra tough on you and everybody else as you board, do not ever line up to get on the plane before they call you to. You block them from bringing wheelchairs forward and can even block the flow of terminal traffic. Staff won’t be nice once that starts to be happen. And don’t you want them to have a cheerful day, too? You’re probably headed for vacation, maybe even warmer climes, so just kick back and enjoy your own patience.

Tip 3: If you’re aggressively late and it’s not your fault and there’s an airline employee available, go to them before you sprint to security. They’ll vastly increase your chances of making the flight. My favorite memory of helping a passenger was a family with 10 month old twins whose car broke down on the way to the airport and they had a half dozen bags and bundles. We helped carry their bags through security, radioed to the gate agents not to close the door, and ran up the stairs with them. They made their flight. You can to if you ask for help and don’t panic.

Please feel free to ask me questions about being an airport employee!


Standing on the other side of Tourism

This month I became a museum volunteer. Every other Sunday I take the DC metro to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. I spend the day answering questions (mostly “Where’s the bathroom?”) and giving elevator speeches. It’s stunning to think that so many times in the past I was the stunned person, wandering through a museum, asking questions and soaking everything in. The tables have turned and I think I’m gaining even more satisfaction from answering the questions.

The topic of the holocaust museum may be somber, but the mission is important. I feel fulfilled when I’m there. I hope the employees and volunteers were gaining the same satisfaction in the foreign museums I visited. Everybody deserves to have a deep experience like this in their own town.

Next goal: find friends as easily in my new home city as I did in hostels!

How do you seek fulfillment when you’re not traveling?

US Holocaust Museum in Washington