I have traveled a lot in the last two weeks. I went to New York and I recently returned from Los Angeles. This post is not to discuss a southerner’s view of the east coast and the west coast. No, no tysomeones I will discuss my opinions of those cities in a later post. Today I don’t want to talk about either place (the former is still giving me nightmares and the latter makes me miss the beach), but I do want to walk you through my experience getting to those places.
The Drop-off: My mom drops me off at the airport. When I say drops I mean drives about 5 mph so I can jump out while the car is still running because there is a police officer just waiting to give someone a ticket (Full disclosure: I know because I received one last year. I swear he was watching and waiting for me and me alone). The police officer is blowing his whistle so loud you would think there was a herd of kindergarteners walking through incoming traffic. No, just pleasant people trying to go on their merry way.
Check-in: I refuse to pay to check my bags. Refuse. Decline. Reject. Won’t do it. Nope. Not even for five dollars. It’s the principle of the matter. Why do I have to buy a ticket and pay for my bags too? Gone are the days of free checked baggage. That is rude. So no Delta and Air Tran I will not be checking bags. Show me to the kiosk please. If the kiosk works, one point for times changing. If there is not a kiosk then I am annoyed. The kiosk machine is probably one of like three great things that has improved traveling.
Security: Security, security, security. I feel about you the way teenagers feel about English class. I need you, but I hate you. I mostly hate you, but I know you are so very important to my life. The employees at Hartsfield Airport in Atlanta have security down to a science, but the travelers do not. Sir, no you may not bring your water to security. No they don’t care that you just bought it. Sure, you can drink it outside of security. Mam, your bottle of perfume is not permissible on this flight. What’s that? An anniversary present? Yep, they still don’t care. Move it along please. Where are the plastic bags? It doesn’t matter mam because that perfume bottle is big enough to clean the whole Falcons football team, please proceed. Hello there confused tourist. Get your i.d. out now please. Hurry up. Hurrrrrry. Gets to the front of the line and digs around frantically in his bag. Ugh, didn’t you see everyone else with theirs? Now is not the time to be different, be a follower next time. Finally I get closer to the line. An employee repeats what the screens are saying: take off your belt, laptops should be removed from luggage, take off your shoes, empty your pockets, you do not need to show your boarding pass. Okay, we should be good. Detector sounds. Dang! Didn’t you hear the security agent! Men, take your belts off. Don’t act like you haven’t done this before. Chop chop! On the double. Ladies, shoes off. Your toes aren’t cute? Get them done next time and walk faster. Now I will say that even with the latest technologies, airport security still does not seem wholly efficient. You mean to tell me that we can put a man on the moon, but we can’t x-ray a whole room of people simultaneously? I know we’re behind in math and science, but engineers let’s do better on this one.
Walking to gate: The train voice says these doors are closing and will not reopen. I believe the train voice because those doors are heavy so I run onto the train. I do not listen, however, when the voice tells me to hold on. I’m usually texting then I act surprised when I lose my balance. Riding on the train in the airport is kind of fun. I spent this past time thinking of all the different voices the train could use. It used to be a robot voice, now it is a woman who sounds like she is about to give you a massage. I think it would be funny if they did a really southern voice. “Hey y’all, next stop concourse C as in corn!” or if they had a really mean voice that said, “next stop concourse C as in THE LETTER AFTER B”. You should play if you’re bored or if your phone doesn’t get service. Anyway, I get off the train, walk to my gate (which is never by any of the good food places), and then I usually sit on the floor because all the seats are taken and security took too long.
Boarding the plane: I always hope to be close to two guys. Get your head out of the gutter. I hope for this because I pray that one of the two will not think chivalry is dead and they will then ask if I want help with my bag. I usually hesitate as if I’m strong enough to lift it alone and then I act caught off guard and say, “oh! Umm? Sure. That’d be great!” If I’m in Atlanta I’m usually okay, but if I’m somewhere else (say New York) I have to be strategic about how I board the aircraft. Don’t get me wrong. I realize if I’m cheap enough to not check bags then I should be strong enough to lift them, but it really is a struggle. I’m weak. The plane is crowded. It’s hot. C’mon you know and I know it’s embarrassing when you can’t get your bag up. I tried to do a bench press like move last time and failed miserably. When I went to Cali I flew Southwest. Sorry Delta, I promise I am brand loyal but y’all were trippin’ on the prices so I had to settle for Southwest and a layover. I was crushed. Truly. Anyway, I flew Southwest and they have this thing where you choose your own seats. It’s dumb. People like to be told what to do. I know I’ve been venting about not having freedom, but this is a liberty we do not need. Out of all the things you can give us, please don’t give us the option to sit wherever we’d like. It’s like the movie theater all over again. People sit in random seats and then you have to ask if they are waiting on someone or if you can have the aisle, etc. It’s too much. It sounds creative, but it’s not. Tell me I’m in 17A, zone 2, and send me on my way.
Takeoff: No one is listening to the security demonstration. Everyone knows odds are nothing will happen and if they do then all of the safety precautions will go out the window. It will be survival of the fittest and chaos will ensue. People are still using their electronics and Mr. Pilot we don’t care where we are in the runway lineup, just takeoff. Take off tends to be shaky and no matter what I usually start thinking about plane horror stories and how long I could survive in the ocean like Tom Hanks in Cast Away.
The Flight: You remember your freshman dorm room in college? You remember how some people loved having a roommate and others hated it? (Think hard 40tysomeones and up). Yes, well much like your freshman dorm room experience depended on your roommate, your flight experience may depend on those seated beside you. I’ve had every sort of person sit beside me on a plane. I could really write a book of short stories called Up in the Air about all of the people I’ve sat next to on flights. There was the lady telling me about her broken marriage, the unaccompanied minor who kept staring at me, the old man who fell asleep on my shoulder, the list goes on. On my way to New York I sat by a lady who brought a full course meal. At one point she offered me hummus and pita. Now, Lays I can see. But you brought hummus on the plane? After an hour goes by I think she’s on to something. Five pretzels and a drink usually don’t cut it.
Deplaning: As soon as I can see land I reach for my cell phone. Very eager I know. The one thing I don’t understand is why everyone jumps out of their seat as soon as they hear the ding noise. Now, wait a minute! Everybody on this plane doesn’t have a connection so sit down rows 12 and beyond. Where are you going? Nowhere. Chill. When I finally get my bag down and walk off I thank the flight crew for getting me to my destination safely. I am always so happy when I land. I walk off the plane and make my way towards ground transportation. I am glad I don’t have to go through baggage claim, but I know and everyone who has ever traveled knows- flying comes with extra baggage anyway.
Disclaimer: I am aware that most of the airport’s inconveniences are a result of a tireless effort to keep citizens safe. I do not attempt to undermine these efforts. I appreciate them wholeheartedly. I am merely reminiscing about the old days, explaining my traveling experience, and hoping to make you smile on a weekday.