Curbside Thanksgiving

You finally get some well-deserved time off and what happens? You spend most of it in an airport. What could be more relaxing? “Mister Dimwit, could you please report to the ticket counter? Mister Dimwit, could you please report to the nearest ticket counter?”

What could be more romantic? “Unattended bags and parcels will be destroyed! Their owners, too!”

What could be more expensive? “Eleven dollars for a ham sandwich and a cup of coffee?”

Is that really what you want on your tombstone? “I wish I’d spent more time at O’Hare?”

Here’s the deal. We all know that if you fly, you’re going to spend most, if not all, of your Thanksgiving holiday in an overcrowded airport lounge, sitting on your luggage because of the third annual baggage-handler tag-football game on a runway in Atlanta, a tectonic shift in Chicago, or an “equipment” problem in Toronto. Thousands of people are now stranded in the terminal, there are no seats left, and, because it’s a holiday, the people who clean the restrooms are on vacation.

Or maybe you’ll get stuck in traffic and miss the flight altogether. Or maybe you’ll catch the flight, but miss the connecting flight. Or maybe the airline’s computers will go down. Or maybe you’ll get bumped for no reason at all.

Why do we put ourselves through this each year? And why do we pay for the privilege in time and money? There’s only one logical explanation -- we like it. We like spending time with absolute strangers at the airport more than we do with our families. Face it, it’s a Dr. Phil show waiting to happen.

If we accept that fact, we could all save ourselves a lot of time and money each year, and still eat like gluttons. Here’s a plan that will let all of us spend a lot of time at the airport with complete strangers and still get back home in time to watch stories about holiday-travel gridlock on the evening news.

There will be no luggage to pack, no luggage to lose, no medicine to forget, no long lines to stand in, no screaming children to sit next to, no security checkpoints to go through, no searching for an outlet to charge your laptop, no getting to the airport five hours early, no spending a fortune on parking, no cavity search before boarding, no sitting on the tarmac for eight hours waiting for clearance from the tower.

Here’s the plan. We all meet at the short-term parking lot at the nearest airport and have a turkey tailgate party. Sue and I will bring a pumpkin pie and some mashed potatoes. A couple hundred other people can bring ham, a few hundred more can bring turkey. Hundreds more can bring cranberry sauce, gravy and stuffing.

While hundreds of thousands of travelers are stuck in airport lounges trying desperately to rebook their flights, we’ll be eating, enjoying and sharing our food. While hundreds of travelers are circling LAX waiting for the pilot to dump his fuel, so he can fly back to the exact same airport from which they started, we will be savoring homemade biscuits and yams. While thousands of people are calling grandma to tell her they’ll be two days late for dinner because the computer thought they were going to Dallas, not Dulles, we’ll be finishing up the pecan pie. Then, relaxed and happy and stuffed, we will all give thanks that we didn’t have to travel very far on the biggest travel day of the year.

Many people won’t like this idea. They’ll say that having a long, miserable, mind-numbing, soul-sucking, killing-our-will-to-live travel experience is a Thanksgiving tradition and who are we to buck tradition? Whoever told you that Thanksgiving was supposed to be fun?

They forget one simple, traditional fact. The Pilgrims at the first Thanksgiving in Plymouth Plantation walked to dinner. They didn’t get on the Mayflower and sail back to England for the holiday weekend. We should learn from them.

Jim Mullen is the author of “It Takes a Village Idiot: Complicating the Simple Life” and “Baby’s First Tattoo.” You can reach him at

Copyright 2006, Newspaper Enterprise Assn.

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