We can’t always blame a volcano, but at some point, many people will need to find a place to sleep at the airport. Usually at the same time.
This, of course, leaves very little room for just about everybody, so it’s natural that some people will end up with less-than-ideal airport accommodations. The early bird gets the reclining chairs, the padded benches, and the large window ledges; the latecomers get…well, whatever’s left. Which often consists of the following.
1. Chairs with armrests
Why can’t you sleep on the plane? Neck cramps from sitting upright with your head tilted back and a line of drool trailing down your shirt. And why do you get neck cramps? Because of those darned armrests, which keep you from being able to lie down horizontally and are in use by the people sitting on either side of you, anyway.
Fortunately, you don’t even have to wait until you’re sitting on a six-hour flight to enjoy this amenity. They have chairs with armrests right inside the airport, where awake travelers can sit comfortably, and not-so-awake travelers can sit something like this:
2. Behind counters
This is a surprisingly popular location, according to most people who have made a habit of sleeping at airports, such as those on www.sleepinginairports.net, and wired.com’s “Terminal Man”. You’d think more airport personnel would mind, but while they’ll cavity-search you for bringing a nail file through security, they seem to be totally cool with you setting up camp for the night where all their computer equipment and ego-trip authorization is stored.
3. McDonald’s benches
The golden arches don’t exactly stand for “Motel 6,” but the seats at these airport fast food joints are colorful, horizontal, and well-padded—just like…well, use your imagination.
They are also, unlike what you may be imagining if you are a sick pervert, free. At least after hours.
Though you might get a nasty wake-up call from Ronald’s posse (aka, people with acne trouble and liberal arts degrees) once the place actually opens for business.
4. The floor of Charles de Gaulle Airport
Five-second rule? Try more like negative-three-second rule—anything you drop gets irreversibly contaminated before it even hits the floor. Paris’s premier airport has been ranked by travel website The Guide to Sleeping in Airports as the world’s worst for catching some Z’s. Backing this up are testimonies about dogs peeing on the carpeting and obscene homeless people being obscene homeless people. In French.
OHP: Excuse moi–avez-vous un petit enfant? (Excuse me—do you have a small child?)
So it’s not the kind of place you want to lie down, let alone close your eyes in. On second thought, maybe you’re better off not seeing what you just stepped in (“O la la! Mon chat mort!”)
5. The floor of any other airport
You’re right, it’s not fair to poke fun at the French. Nasty floors can happen to any airport.
San Francisco, for instance, is said to have carpet that, in the words of one traveler, “is so grotesque, I do believe it has its own ecosystem”. Now, I know what you’re thinking: Does that mean you need a passport to lie down on it? And my answer to you is: Why are you even asking such a question?
But it’s not always the carpeting-turned-dog-toilet that makes an airport floor difficult to sleep on. Travelers have recounted harrowing tales of being run down by carpet sweepers at London’s Heathrow Airport (http://www.sleepinginairports.net/features/LOW/2004/041003low.htm) and shouted into uprightness by irate security guards at New York’s JFK (http://gothamist.com/2009/07/21/jfk_third_worst_american_airport_to.php). What do we learn from this? That if you want clean floors and secure belongings, no sleep for you.
6. Multifaith prayer rooms
While all the other heathens are spreading themselves out on unholy surfaces in the common waiting area, you can do what one traveler did at London Heathrow Airport and head for the multi-denominational prayer room. It’s quiet, it’s secluded, and the swaying worshipers are kind of soothing.
And if you’re feeling mischievous, you can even mumble an answer to their prayers from behind the blinders.
Of course, you’ll be going straight to hell for that. Or possibly missing your flight and getting your stuff stolen, like one traveler at Brussels Charleroi Airport, who made the existential mistake of spending the night in a Catholic chapel. From the looks of it, Jesus was not amused. Until the guy came back the next night and stayed in the Protestant chapel instead. Then Jesus was probably amused.
Ever wanted to impersonate an invalid? Well, now you can, and get a good night’s sleep at the same time. Wheelchairs are often freely available at airports, at least if you just want to sit in them and not go anywhere. And they’re cushy and comfy, even if they do have armrests.
It’s kind of like using handicapped parking spaces after hours. Just make sure you get out before a real disabled person comes along and whacks you with a cane.
8. Luggage conveyor belts
We’ve all dreamed about it—going round and round on one of those baggage carousels and seeing what lies beyond those car-wash flaps your suitcases come out of. Fortunately, nobody seems to mind if you take a nap on them, at least when they’re not moving. Alternatively, you can sleep on the carpeted islands the belts go around. And if you want to make a little extra cash while you’re at it, get a job.
9. Other passengers
When it comes to airport accommodations, it’s all relative—but you don’t have to be related to rest your head on another person’s lap. Of course, knowing the other person helps, because then you’re less likely to get clubbed by a purse, souvenir mug, or jealous spouse. But it’s still perfectly acceptable to stretch out across a total stranger, because after all, what are fellow airport campers anyway but brothers and sisters in the quest for inexpensive places to sleep?
Yeah. That’s what you’ll tell the 300-lb. Swede whose chest you decided to use as a pillow. After you get the ceramic shards out of your forehead.