Why I Get To The Airport Early

I have a lot of friends who say that if you’ve never missed a flight you’re spending too much time in airports.  One missed the flight to his own wedding*.  I get to airports stupidly early.  A little less so now that I have pre-check**, but still quite early.  One part of this is that I find the mere thought of missing my plane stressful, being stressed is unpleasant, and extra time at the airport isn’t actually that bad.  I have my laptop, I have my kindle, which is like 90% of what I was going to do at home anyway.

The other reason is that I don’t like who I am when I’m stressed.  I won’t actually cut in line at security, but I will be extremely territorial about my place in line.  I won’t mow people down, but I will be quite stark in my desire for them to stop weaving around the terminal and let me pass them.  But if I know I have lots of time, I can be generous.  I can let the poor planner ahead of me in line, because it’s only an extra two minutes out of my day, not the potential difference between making my flight and not.  I take the time to definitely not clip anything with my suitcase, even if they did leave their stuff way out in the hallway and are obviously slowing everyone down. I’m just a nicer person when I’m not worried about a sharp discontinuity in life quality in the next two hours.

I have a fair amount of savings: certainly a lot more than the average American.  You could argue I should give more away.  But much like the extra time at the airport, having that money makes me a calmer, more generous person.  If I legit need $N to smooth out emergencies, and $M to feel like I can smooth out emergencies, than you could view $(M-N) as an asset that pays dividends in the form of me being a better person.  On a micro level (taking a looser attitude towards cost sharing with friends) and macro (donating more when a sudden need arises, taking a lower paying job to work directly on poverty***).  I’m more willing to invest in my own health and trade money for time, which given the relative impact of money versus my job is almost certainly net better for the world.  And if I were ever faced with a choice between morality and leaving my job, I can walk away.

I guess I am feeling a little defensive because  obviously that money would make a more immediate difference in the life of someone else.  But this is what I am doing.


*He was flying in a day before the wedding so he missed the prep but was not actually late for the ceremony.

**I know it’s extortion but I don’t care, it’s so easy.

***To be fair this job is better than my last one in a number of ways.  For starters I have not once compared it to Azkaban.

2 thoughts on “Why I Get To The Airport Early”

  1. I missed a flight once and it was sufficiently unpleasant that I would prefer to leave an enormous safety margin rather than repeat the experience.

    1. I used to hold a similar opinion, until I had flights canceled on me. Now, I think of showing up 3 hours early “5% of flight miss” and showing up 1 hour early “15% of flight miss”. So it’s not a binary change- it’s shifting the relative odds. In practice, however, that extra 10% is painful enough that I’m still going to show up super early and just read at the gate for a few hours.

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