Fear of Flying

Have you ever taken a flight where your boarding gate wasn’t at the very end of the concourse? Or arrived at a gate that was so far from the terminal, you needed another flight to get there?

I always looked forward to flying, but the TSA and the airlines have conspired to make air travel a really unpleasant experience. They now charge you for everything from a bag of nuts to a more desirable seat. And the porous screening process is nothing more than a time-consuming exercise to make you think the government is protecting you.

I diligently prepare for the ordeal by carefully packing my dangerous toiletry bottles. I even restrict my diet for 24 hours, avoiding iron-laden foods like spinach. On my return trip from Chicago, after placing my laptop in a tray, and shoes, toiletries, belt, jacket, etc. in other trays, I stood before the body scan chamber. When the TSA Gestapo told me to wait while he recalibrated the machine, I got nervous. I knew this was going to result in a cavity search. Waiting for the reset, I began to wonder if I was wearing the old underwear with the wear holes in the seat. When I stepped out of the booth, I heard the buzzer and looked back at the screen to see which was the offending body part. Relieved that it wasn’t the one I thought, I saw that my left knee and both shoulders were highlighted. As the former Russian Olympic wrestler approached me for the pat down, I said to her, “Wow! That machine can identify arthritis.”

Everyone knows I love children, and I guess because of that, they always seem to sit in close proximity to me on a plane. And this flight was no different. As we reached cruising altitude of 33,000 feet, this adorable three-year old sitting directly behind me, who will someday be the Homecoming Queen, decided to communicate with someone back on earth. She starts screaming so loud, that the Fasten Seat Belt signs came on. After a futile attempt to calm her down with useless baby talk, mom hands her off to dad across the aisle. He lasts about 12 seconds after she bursts one of his eardrums. So now she’s back behind me yelling for gummy bears. Since mom didn’t bring any on board, and the $8.95 snack pack available from the flight attendant doesn’t have kid-friendly candy, sweetie pie starts kicking the back of my seat like the pistons on a two cycle engine. At that exact moment the flight attendant comes down the aisle holding out a plastic bag asking the passengers in each row, “Do have anything you want to get rid of?” I couldn’t pass up that opening, so I pointed to Honeycups and said, “Yes, please take her.” Of course, just as I said it, the kicking and shouting stops, leaving this uncomfortable silence.

Seeing an opportunity to shift the focus off her little angel, mom turned to her husband, and smugly commented, “Obviously, he’s never had children of his own . . .”

Later, while waiting 40 minutes in the aisle to deplane, watching some brainless twit try to remember which overhead bin he put his seven carry-on bags, and what they look like, I relax thinking that it will give the ground crew time to get the luggage to Baggage Claim. Ever wonder why they call it Baggage Claim? If the airlines knew for certain that your luggage would be at the carousel, they’d call it Baggage Retrieval.

And of course, when I finally get to Baggage Area B27 in Terminal 6, and the luggage crew had just finished its smoking break, they are about to unload the bags from the plane. I’m standing there at the empty carousel, watching this orphan suitcase go around and around. Knowing it’s been there for days I start wondering what happened to its owner. Are some frantic relatives down in People Claim trying to locate this lost soul who probably fell asleep on board, and is now on the second leg of the flight to the International Airport in Bangladesh without a passport?