Since April, I’ve traveled on airplanes with javelins a total of 15 times, and 7 of those times have been internationally. A conservative estimate of what I’ve spent to put them on the plane with me is $600 total. That’s pretty cheap, considering my pole-vaulter friends spend FAR more, but I’d like to share a little bit about the experience!
When I travel in Europe, I have my javelin bag, a big suitcase, and a rolling Eagle Creek convertible backpack, as well as a purse. I need to take a picture of myself carrying all that stuff sometime, because I’m sure I deserve the looks I get. I left Cologne for London yesterday morning (competing today!), and it was the first time this summer that I’ve had to get myself to or from the airport without any help from my dear boyfriend, adventurous parents or various meet transportation. I consider that fact to be a triumph! Our apartment this year was on the fourth floor of a super cool (in both senses of the word) building in a very convenient location. When I say convenient, I mean it was close to training and grocery shopping (which were the only places Sean and I went for the last week!). Going to the airport, however, was a different story. It’s not too bad of a trip, but last year we only took one train to the airport, while this year, we had to change trains once from home to the Flughafen. Add to that construction going on along the normal route, and I was a little nervous about my solo trip! Not to mention, I totally forgot which platform I was supposed to go to once I got off the first train, and I wasn’t even sure where to get off at. I’m a disaster sometimes.
I’ve gotten used to the Cologne train system enough to know where to look for information and understand enough German to listen to announcements and find my way, so getting on the right trains and arriving at the airport was no problem: It might’ve even gone faster than it ever has before! That doesn’t mean that I’m not stressed about it and/or sweating profusely because of all the stuff I’m carrying though. So when I show up at the check-in counter, perspiring visibly and toting one oddly-shaped and another overweight bag, maybe the man/woman behind the counter isn’t too happy to see me. In all my travel with javelins, I’ve never once thought that maybe I’m ruining their day a little bit by showing up with something they don’t normally see!
On my way to Pre this year, I stood at the United check-in counter in San Diego for literally 40 minutes. I wasn’t in line for that long, I was waiting for the man behind the counter to call the actual plane I would be flying on from San Francisco to Eugene to make sure that my 8-foot-long tube would fit on board. IT’S A PLANE. I CAN FIT THEM IN MY CAR, WITHOUT STICKING THEM THROUGH THE TRUNK. I flew Delta to New York and had to pay $175 each way for them. When that’s the only bag I check (which was the case for Rome, Pre AND New York), I feel like I should get a little bit of a break. On the way home from New York, the ladies at the check-in counter wanted to MAKE SURE I knew that my bag was oversize. They said, “Ma’am, this is over 80 inches long,” and I said, “Yes, I know,” and they said, “But, that’s oversize,” and I said, “Yes, I know,” and they said, “MA’AM, this is an oversize bag! It’s longer than 80 inches!” and I said, “YES, I KNOW! HOW MUCH DO I OWE YOU?!” I learned about inches and feet in elementary school. I bet they didn’t know how many meters long the javelins are. I know that, too.
I understand why an oversize bag costs more money, and I also understand why airline employees are concerned about putting an oversize bag on a small plane. I’m fully aware that I’m not the only person flying on each plane I board, and I think that the other people on that plane have also probably checked luggage. All that said, I’ve just begun to realize why I’m met with such hostility sometimes when I attempt to check in my javelins. People don’t like change or things that are unfamiliar to them. In the same way that I’m uncomfortable if I don’t know exactly which train I’m supposed to get on or precisely where the check-in counter is at each airport, every new airline employee that I meet during check-in doesn’t know what I have in my bag, or whether or not their boss will be upset with them if they put it on the plane. Before I started traveling to track meets at the end of high school, I didn’t know it was possible, either. I look at people funny if they travel with cardboard boxes (I’ve seen it!), and other people look at me funny because I have a bag that’s taller than me. I think that maybe it’s more common for dogs to travel in the cargo hold than javelins, now that I’m thinking about it. I’ve seen multiple dog crates come out of the oversize luggage area when my javelins do, and I ALWAYS want to pet them.
I do my very, very best to educate the public (what little of it that I encounter in airports) about what’s in my crazy bag. The VAST majority of people who actually talk to me (instead of just stare curiously) think I’m a pole vaulter, which most of the time just angers me, but is a huge opportunity to teach them a little bit about the sport of track and field. If you know me, you know that when I think I’m being mean and snooty, I’m probably being nicer than most other people. Sometimes I try to have an attitude, but it just doesn’t work because A) I have no practice and B) I chicken out and say something nice after something that might, maybe, possibly be considered harsh.
Basically, traveling with javelins is inconvenient, somewhat embarrassing, slow (because you have to talk to people and explain yourself most of the time), expensive, awkward, and really not that bad. I do my best to greet check-in counter people with a smile every time I get to the airport, and perpetually work on my positive and understanding attitude and communication skills when people are SURE they know what’s inside my bag. I’m thinking about having “JAVELINS” embroidered on my next case, but I’m sure the same happenings will still occur.
Any ideas for colors/patterns/designs for a new case, by the way?