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J-Pow’s Journal: The way of the Airport Ninja

  • By Jeremy Powers
  • Published Oct. 2, 2009
  • Updated Nov. 17, 2009 at 3:05 PM EDT

How does a guy with a bike get through here unscathed … and with wallet intact? Ask the Airport Ninja.

Photo:

Editor’s Note: Jeremy Powers is a pro road racer with the Jelly Belly team, and races cyclocross for the Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com team. Powers provided VeloNews.com readers with an inside look at the cyclocross scene last fall and winter, and now, after a summer on the road, he’s back back in the mud … and long lines at the airport.

We could start this year’s first cross’ diary by talking about racing, personalities and new cross’ bikes (which we eventually will), but for the moment we’re gonna talk about flyin’.

There are millions of people who rack up the miles on airlines all year long. Dubbed frequent flyers, I probably fall into this category. Come December I’ll be just shy of 100k on United and over the years I’ve learned the art of being an “Airport Ninja.”

What’s an Airport Ninja, you might be wondering. Well, it’s a secret society of creative story tellers really.

I’ll tell you that your typical businessman probably lacks the skills to pay the bills in this arena. I’m talking about people like ourselves who have to fly with huge bags of luggage, tons of shoes, rain gear, coffee paraphernalia, and probably food since it seems like we all have some kind of -elated issue. Let’s not beat around the bush folks, most of us are like a traveling Whole Foods.

Invariably, we’ll roll up to the check-in like lookin’ like Beyoncé and JLo at the airport with a humungous bag full of clothes, habits and of course a big ol’ carry-on of some kind in tote. So, how do you ball on budget? Obviously, we might look like a celeb’ with all our crap, but we’re all cyclists at the end of the day and we’re tryin’ to keep as much lettuce in our pockets as we can. So here we go:

The biggest tip I can throw your way is to read the counter agent.

I’d say it would behoove you to stalk around in line for a little bit and see which teller you want to roll the dice with. Sometimes I’ll pick the one that’s the most agitated just to roll up with a big ol’ smile and tell them I am compassionate, empathize with their situation and that I’m sorry some people can be such dill-weeds. (That part is true! People can be rude for reasons outside of the agent’s control and most of the time I feel embarrassed for the person havin’ a freaker). So that’s one way to rip it. Plus it’ll feel good to make someone else feel good, try that too!

This brings us into our next phase of “what’s in that big bag?” Alright, this is important. Get sarcastic and funny on them right now! Flash the teeth; pull out all the stops for this one.

With a grin, wink of the eye and a raise of the brow, say something like “It’s an easel for this big presentation I’m doing” (Smile now!) Okay, if you’re young, what we do is blame it on school or college. This excuse is the ‘smash it out of the park, bases-loaded, home run line.

“Ohhh that’s just my Fill in Blank for college….”

Make something up, hockey equipment, life size skeleton for science class, pretty much anythingthat doesn’t have to do with cycling and they don’t charge for is how can get you outta there scot-free!

Do understand that just about everyone has a boss. So you tell the agent it’s a bike, then they let you off the hook out of the kindness of their heart and then their boss gives them the business for letting you go. That will be the last time that happens and you’ll ruin it for all your friends after you. So if you politely joke about what might be in the bag, it can be taken as a miscommunication and might keep a car payment in your wallet!

My final piece of advice on being a ninja is related to getting in and out fast. If you’re like me then you never leave yourself enough time to get checked in properly anyways. If you wait patiently your plane is gonna take off to Turkey without you.

A true Airport Ninja would never go down without a fight. Obviously, if you’re a frequent flyer or a premier card-carrier of any kind, this will help cut lines. But, if you don’t have any status at all, ask for a Gold sleeve from the teller agent with your tickets and of course that same smile and wink of the eye will find you one of those.

If you’re flying international at any point in the foreseeable future, drop that “man this is gonna be a longgggg trip I’m headin to Fill in Blank.” The second you get to the “premier” line if they happen to question that, quickly tell them your re-checking your baggage and changing airlines once you get to “Fill in Blank.”

“Ohhh this trip never ends!” If you pull the sympathy card to dash a line, make sure you got a little story to go along with it, you don’t want to be up the creek without a paddle if you know what I mean.

A true Airport Ninja would never go down without a fight.

Photo: Michael Cody

So now I send you out into the crazy life of being a frequent or even worse, non-frequent flyer and wish you the best of luck and smoothness at the teller counter. I also want to say, I never lie, I may bend the reality of what’s going on, but I have guidelines. I’m not gonna pull the funeral card if you know what I’m sayin’.

Good luck fellow Ninjas!

If you’ve read this, well you’re now part of our new super gang, we’ve made up EXCLUSIVE Airport Ninja T-Shirts! It’s goin’ down, if you want one of these, we’ve got a limited batch and anyone that has one of these shirts will possess the super powers to dodge any charges, challenges or wrenches thrown at them in airport settings! Go get one: www.tinyurl.com/AirportNinja

For racin sake, you can find my Cannondale/CyclCrossWorld.Com teammates and me in Gloucester, Massachusetts, this weekend at round 3&4 of the NACT trophy. If you’re within 500 miles of this race and you’re not planning on coming, you’re messin’ up. It’s going to be an amazing race with a beer garden, north shore views and foliage like only New England can provide.

For anyone that comes out, we’ll have plenty of autographs, Jelly Belly sport beans and probably cider doughnuts!

Let’s go, have fun, drive safe and see you there!

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