The Heap Presents: The Top 10 Ways to Know You Are On a Flight To/From Latin America

I have just returned from my lovely across the state trek to the Orlando airport to pick up my grandfather who was flying in from Puerto Rico. This list came to mind when we first dropped him off a few days ago, when we had to check him in and watch him ride off into the security line on his wheelchair. It has been a long time since I have gone to PR myself, and I have not been able to adequately enjoy these traits of Latin flights. So, here it is, the top 10 clues that you are on a flight from a Latin country.

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10. The parking lot is full at “off-peak” hours. This also includes making the “Arrivals” waiting/pick up area a parking lot. We all know we don’t follow directions to well- especially if it has to do with driving. Most flights going to or coming from destinations of Latin nature are either very, very early, or very, very late. So if you are wondering why the airport is full at that time, it’s because a caravan of people came to see off / pick up a loved one. This is explained in great detail at #2.

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9. There are no formal lines, just hoards of people waiting to be called on. If you arrive at the counter/ security area and all you see is a disorganized mob, chances are you are going to/leaving a Latin destination. We are practical people. Lines limit space. The Heap’s advice is to keep pressing forward and shuffle your feet. Don’t be alarmed if you bump into someone or you are bumped into. This is part of the process.

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8. All you hear is Spanish. Duh. What use is English? Chances are even the employees are going to be native speakers and will have just basic English skills. Plus, we like to speak Spanish in English speaking places, because we can!

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7. People are either overdressed or under dressed. This is quite noticeable. Most people of Latin decent tend to overdress for flights, treating it as some semi formal occasion. The amount of preparation that goes into traveling day is unprecedented. So if you notice people heading back to their country, there’s a good chance they will be dressed nicely. Then of course you have the other extreme, which include (but not limited to): sleeveless T-shirts, Underarmor, ridiculously thuggish clothes, curve accentuating tops and bottoms, lots of bling

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6. You see card board boxes being checked or retrieved from baggage claim. I feel that this is perhaps the second most telling clue that you are flying to/from Latin America. It is a familial duty to bring back all sorts of goodies from the Motherland. And since we love to over pack our suitcases, there is no room to bring them back, though some of the more advanced/considerate travelers set aside a suitcase specific to this purpose. Goods in the boxes include (but again, not limited to): Native pastries, native plants, gifts, something that has to be frozen/refrigerated, fresh cuts of meat/fish, livestock. (Honorable Mention: Pretty much every suitcase is over the allotted weight limit!)

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5. Greenery and exotic fruits are carried on. The subconscious planter in the depths of the Latin “id” comes to life when one returns to the Motherland. Thus, plants and fruits not available back home MUST be brought back home in order to attempt to grow them in your back yard, or to give them as gifts to someone who can. I can hear it now: “Please be careful when opening overhead compartments because bags and plant stems may have shifted.”

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4. It is really, really loud. Oh, you can’t escape it. In the aforementioned “line” people will be babbling in what may seem to the English speaker as tongues. Think your red-eye flight will be a nice time to catch some Z’s while the plane crosses the Caribbean? Guess again. There is a strong possibility that people will talk LOUDLY. If you are lucky enough to have your fellow passengers calm it down, then there will most certainly be a crying infant. And if you manage to avoid that, then there will be loud, obnoxious snoring from somewhere. Latin men and women are sound sleepers and loud snorers. Investment in Bose headphones is a must.

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3. Your flight is running late. Due to weather? Probably not. Forecast calls for clear skies and a strong contingent of stragglers. Possible reasons: Diaper changes and rounding up the family, having a three course meal, buying stuff at the duty free shop, leaving the house just 15 minutes before (and then packing), drinking at the bar, having to recover from the security strip search because of not following directions and/or putting back on all that bling. And lastly, if your pilots are Latin, they will be fashionably late too.

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2. The whole family is there to pick people up. Back before life was heavily Americanized, thus increasing the amount people fly for vacations, business, or for no reason at all, there was a time where traveling was almost a ritualistic rite of passage (which explains the need to dress up). The entire family comes to welcome back the loved one, and if you’re lucky, there might be a band of tribal drums there! (True Story: At TIA, Airside F is where the American Airlines San Juan flight comes in. Coincidently, it’s the only airside that has a roped off section with signs that tell the waiting parties to stay behind the barrier…)

1. Passengers clap and cheer when the plane lands. This is the most distinguished clue that you are on a Latin flight. As the plane makes its final approach, one can feel a unique tension build. This might be the only time that you experience quiet. The runway comes into view, the rear wheels touch, the front wheel touches, and a nice deceleration ensues. And then, at the first moment of assured safety, applause emerges from the silence, even some cheers and songs. Try this on your next flight on the US mainland. It doesn’t work quite as well…

So there you have it. Make sure to be looking for this the next time you fly! And feel free to leave comments with your favorite traits!

smallheap.jpg image by jmooser

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De temps en temps, tu as crie’, sans raison parfois… parfois avec raison… oui, avec raison parfois

paris je t'aime

I love foreign movies. Just because our business here at the heap. is trash, doesn’t mean we aren’t refined and cultured… In fact, we LOVE the Italian, French, and Spanish cinema (and other art forms!), language, and culture! (See: il mucchio, la tas, la pila). In addition to foreign movies, we LOVE anything romantic and funny… so if they happen to combine and materialize into a romantic comedy, even better. French film Paris Je T’aime is a beautiful, mosaic-like collection of films which explore the nature of love and its many forms, and particularly, how love occurs and is maintained by the various couples of the 18 villes of Paris. One of my favorite pieces is the one from Faubourg St. Denis starring Natalie Portman as the audible object of affection of a blind man. The cinematography is dazzling, as the audience can see the symbolic status of the relationship through relative body positioning, the use of a disjointed (interrupted) stream of scenes, as well as other effects (like the timeless effect of the couple in the midst of the rapidly moving crowd… and their absence towards the end…) Check it out for yourself! Most importantly, think about blindness, distance, the setting up of “walls” (les examens) to not get hurt. Also, the music! Listen to how the memory sequence becomes trance-like and automatic, causing him to “lose sight” of her until the end.

Chaz and I have finished our own version of the top 30 sci-fi movies of all time, and we will be releasing them about 5 movies at a time every few days or so beginning later today (or tonight). Make sure to check that out! Also I know that I’ve promised a life update for all of you guys in different parts of the country (or world). That will be coming soon, perhaps today or tomorrow, as part of my life update segment, The Trashman Chronicles. Look for it so you know what’s goin on with me!

In case you guys have been wondering, we are all fine here in the Tampa Bay area, we maybe had a combined 10 minutes of rain the past two days, and the wind picked up a little last night, but nothing to worry about. Thank you for your concern! Keep reading and commenting heapsters! (We had an unprecedented 199 views yesterday… thanks to an OCD heapster. who searched for slipknot 142 times?)

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