It's summer, one of the busiest travel seasons of the year. And the lions, tigers and bears - and a few weasels, hogs and parrots - are heading out for a vaction, too. You recognize them. Frequently, they are the fellow passengers booked on the same flight as you.
Here's a friendly guide for spotting the animals among us, courtesy of Susan Felt of Gannett News Service, as well as tips for taming (or restraining our own) primitive instincts:
A wily animal, the otherwise benign-looking rodent is most easily recognized at the Southwest Airlines gates (where seats are unassigned) where the A, B and C lines can trigger behavior often found in the wild.
A telltale sign is a piece of luggage at the head of the B line left by a weasel to mark his or her territory, since a spot near the front can mean the difference between a window and center seat.
Quick to rejoin the luggage as boarding begins, the weasel uses quick wit and evasive skills to avoid the slings and arrows being heaved from the now-irate B-liners.
Coping tip: Report the unattended bag to the gate agent, say etiquette experts Robin Craig and Norma Ory of Package You in Scottsdale, Ariz.. Otherwise, don't confront the offending party; just move on. The stress isn't worth it.
These beasts of burden insist on lugging luggage, shopping bags, purses, laptops, briefcases and gym bags on board, flouting the two-bags-per-person carry-on rules.
Coping tip: Duck. Breathe in and breathe out. And eliminate that whole will-there- be-enough-room-for-my-stuff angst by checking that extra bag.
Those cute little marsupials stand in the pre-board line with a baby in their pouch and six or seven on their back, making their way to the roomy bulkhead seats.
It is also likely each member of the brood is too old to qualify for pre-boarding, a fact possums conveniently ignore.
Coping tip: If you miss your own children or grandchildren, here's your chance. But if you find yourself fuming because the youngsters seem nearer to needing braces than diapers, remind yourself that there are plenty of aisle or window seats.
Commanding in their presence and personality, these beasts are the ones who insist right after takeoff on thrusting back their seats until their heads are almost in your lap.
Coping tip: Tap them on the shoulder, Ory suggests, and explain that you need to get out of your seat and there's no room to move because the seat is back so far. This politely conveys the message.
The king of the jungle is making do in the middle seat. Ever the regal lord, this golden- maned beast occupies all the available territory, including both armrests.
Coping tip: Surprise! Etiquette concedes armrests to those occupying the center seat. They deserve some compensation, Craig says. Chill. You have the roomier window or aisle seat.
There's no mistaking this one. Prickly. Wears a scowl and a chip on the shoulder. Very perturbed if he or she has to stand up and let others in or out of the aisle.
Coping tip: Kill them with kindness, Ory says. Smile. Remember your manners.
This isn't the farmyard variety, but the one you see in Spain running through the narrow streets of Pamplona, its eyes wild. These are the animals that push their way on and off the plane. We get it. You have a connecting flight.
Coping tip: Step aside. Civility encourages you to let most of this go, Craig says. After all, they're on their way off the plane.
The annoying odor is frequently coming from feet or from food (tuna fish) that people bring on board. Like the pungent, unforgettable skunk spray, the smell lingers and permeates.
Coping tip: Find the flight attendant and explain the problem. Let him confront the offenders and either ask them to put their shoes back on or remove the leftovers when they're done eating. If there is room on the plane, move, Craig says.
The familiar tone and intimate nature of the conversation tricks you into thinking they're talking to you, but they're not. They're on a cell phone or Bluetooth sharing details about their love life, office politics or tax status. You now know more than you ever wanted to.
Coping tip: Turn on your iPod or pull out a video game. The conversation will end when the plane takes off.
Speaking of birds, there are those chatty travelers who insist on a conversation. Your polite but brief one-word responses don't seem to telegraph the message: "I don't want to talk."
Coping tip: Explain politely that you have work to finish, a book to read or some sleep to catch up on and will have to now quit talking. You can also take the opportunity to get up and stretch your legs, thus bringing the conversation to a close, Ory says.
When you return, it's a natural transition to begin reading, napping or working.