In John Hughes’ 1983 hit comedy, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Ellen Griswold (played by Beverly D’Angelo) tried without success to convince her naive but determined husband, Clark (played by Chevy Chase), that it would be easier if they fly to Wally World in Southern California than to make a 2,000 mile trip in the car. Clark fired back by saying “nothing worthwhile is easy” which is good advice unless of course you are planning to drive cross country with a car full of kids. Although I do not have any actual experience in this front, flying as a family has to be on the of the more stressful things to do. If only more families took Clark’s advice and opted to take their trips on the road instead of by air, we wouldn’t have the always entertaining and often irritating group of passengers now and forever known as…the Griswolds!
Griswolds are a group that you cannot escape. They can be heard, seen, experienced, and sometimes smelled everywhere in an airport…from the parking lot, to the gate, and especially on the plane. Whether they come from the upper echelon of Santa Monica and suburban Connecticut or from the hollers of Appalachia and West Texas, Griswolds all share certain characteristics that make them a unique group within the airport population. They’re actually quite fascinating which makes this even more fun to write!
The first characteristic is chaos. Pure, unadulterated, CHAOS! They don’t try to be this way…it just comes with the territory. Imagine attempting to wrangle a herd of wild boars into a straight line on a lake of thin ice, all while trying not to fall through. This would just be just a nugget of what families have to go through in the airport. Not only do they have to get through the normal hassle of the airport routine, they also have to constantly be on the lookout for a wandering child, somehow navigate the troop through security, get to the gate all in one piece and keep the kids entertained enough to avoid a meltdown. Recently actor Ryan Reynolds stated on a Good Morning American interview, “I would rather drink a piping hot bowl of liquid rabies than get on a plane with my two children.” This probably sums up the sentiment of many parents although most will keep their frustrations to themselves and silently die a little bit inside with every trip.
Another characteristic of the Griswolds is volume. Let’s not beat around the bush, I mean high levels of volume which seems to be a necessary part of their everyday existence. Griswolds are loud in every area of an airport. Yelling to each other in the security lines is a common sight but it does not stop there. Yelling happens in the restrooms, at the dining areas, and even during the boarding procedures while others are trying to hear the flight attendant’s instructions. The parents yell at the kids, the kids in turn yell back, it’s an exhausting pattern. Of course, they’re also loud on the plane. Everybody on a plane cringes at the site of a pack of Griswolds heading their direction. It brings forth imagines of a baby crying non-stop or a projectile vomiting toddler who for some reason always feels the need to kick the seat in front of them. Without knowing it, the poor Griswolds are the most feared and hated people on a plane. Even when they are cool, calm, collected and not bothering a soul.
The newest generation of Griswolds have introduced the characteristic of documentation. For some reason, they feel it necessary to document, via photographs, every part for the precious child’s flying experience. I’m writing this while watching a couple take an endless amount of photos of their son on the parking shuttle. It’s 5:30am, cold, dark and everybody else generally has a murderous look on their face, yet these parents feel it’s a Kodak moment. I could only imagine the photo album of this trip: Here is little Johnny riding face first on the moving walk way; oh, there’s dad spilling his coffee on himself while chasing a three-year-old down the terminal; hey look, here’s mom flirting with the pilot while dad stuffs fifteen carry-ons in the overhead bin. It’s all priceless and deserves to be shared with the rest of the world. I don’t see an end to this practice so we might as well get used to it or get better at photo-bombing…either way, it’s here to stay.
Griswolds have a certain look that is unique and makes the fashionistas (a group I’ll discuss later) want to cry in agony. The male members are usually equipped with some sort of duffle bag, slung over their oversized (and usually stained) clothing and rounded out with a pair of unnecessarily large and dirty tennis shoes. The females come with whatever outfit Pinterest suggested would be best for flying that week. Most of the time this consist of black tights and a fleece jacket or the always popular mom jeans, a solid button down top and loosely threaded polyester scarf. Throw on some pleather boots and we’re ready go! The children surprisingly are usually the most fashionable of the groups. Dressing up your kids as American Girl Dolls has become a new obsession which doesn’t end in the terminal. The kids also come wearing (insert any cartoon character) backpacks filled most likely with their mom’s underwear or the dirty laundry. The still popular sneakers with wheels on the bottom are still around (I can’t believe a class action lawsuit hasn’t put an end to that yet). Nothing beats waiting to board while playing airport Frogger with a dozen children zipping from one side of the gate to the other.
Not everything about Griswolds is negative and in no way am I suggesting they’re a bad group. In many ways, they can be very entertaining which breaks up the monotony of the airport routine. If you ever catch yourself in a game of peek-a-boo with a kid a few rows ahead of you, it really makes you stop and think about the simplicity of life and that sometimes it’s fun to just stop and be silly for a while. The Griswolds are also exposing their children to a now normal part of our society. As I stated in my introductory post, airports are made up of a diverse population of virtually every racial, social, occupational, and socio-economical group. I believe this is an important thing to expose children to early on in order for them to better adapt to the world we now occupy.
Also, nine out of ten times, the Griswolds are the model passengers. I guess as a way to socialize their children, the Griswolds display a great amount of discipline. They rarely make a big fuss and mostly keep to themselves throughout the entire process. Of course, no parent can regulate or even contain the occasional temper tantrum, but that’s to be expected from anyone who enters a public domain such as an airport. For those of us who are mere observes, it’s best to just keep calm, let them handle their own, and go about our business. I’ve seen too many people get upset because of a crying baby or squirmy toddler. This only adds to the stress the parents are already experiencing so if you are one of those people…get over it. Take the advice of the ancient Persians who wrote of human suffering by offering up a simple yet powerful statement, “This Too Shall Pass!”
So there you go Griswolds! Turn down the metallic pea wagon queen family truckster and head to the airport for some good old fashion family air traveling fun. Ignore the rolling eyes and avoid the business folks cursing on their phones because the airport is your oyster too. Just sit back, relax, and…“Hey we’re missing someone” “Dad where’s the charger?” “I need to go to the bathroom!” “Have you seen my shoes?”…enjoy the flight?