I’ve been on some of the great airlines of the past. Do you remember Freddie Laker and the Laker Skytrain? How about People’s Express? I flew them, along with airlines like Sabena. I always loved to go to the airport, board the plane and fly away. It almost didn’t matter where I was going just as long as I was flying there. That love of flying is gone. I can’t figure if it got squeezed out of me by countless delays, excuses for poor service, ever-shrinking leg room, portering my own bags or what. Or maybe it’s because people blow up airplanes now because they weren’t raised right.
Today I had to fly. Airport security at 5:28 am was moving people through at good clip at my local international airport. I know because a TSA person asked me to do him a favor while I moved through the line; he asked me to take a time punched receipt along with me and hand it to the body scanner guard after I exited the scanner. The TSA is judging how long its taking people to get through the security line the good old fashioned way. . .with a time stamped piece of paper. Of course I told the TSA official I would be very happy to deliver that piece of paper to the security person up ahead.
I clutched that piece of paper tightly as I removed my jacket and shoes and put them in a bin on the conveyor belt. I held onto it as I removed my computer from its zip bag and placed it in a bin with all of its accompanying cords and my phone and camera. I didn’t let go of that piece of paper as I put my tote bag in a bin and heaved my wheelie up onto the conveyor belt. I didn’t even let it go as I wrestled my 1 quart ziplock out of said tote bag and put it in yet-another bin. Brandishing my passport, ticket and the important time punched receipt, I made it without mishap to the walk-through scanner and the guard. I gave that guard the time-stamped piece of paper and guess what? It took me less than 20 minutes start to finish through the line. I was a happy woman.
After successfully clearing security for the first time in I don’t know how long (okay, twice I really did have something suspicious-looking in my bag since I forgot to take my pocket knife out of my purse; I’ve lost two good ones that way.), I wheeled my way to Gate 84. If you’d like to know for future reference, that’s the next to the last gate down the far corridor from where I went through security. On my way I purchased a cup of tea ($2.15) and a bottle of water ($3), items that I used to bring from home for free. Anyway, I rolled my luggage and myself up to the gate and took a look around. Guess what? I was the youngest person. . . by a lot . . .in the waiting area at Gate 84. The older folks were a chatty bunch for so early in the morning too, sharing stories about grandchildren and pets. One old fella in a WWII hat was telling everyone within shouting distance some complicated story about a dog and a boy and something else I couldn’t quite catch.
We began to board the plane, back to front. I was in Row 20 so I got on board pretty fast. Then we sat. And sat. Then the flight attendant came on the speaker and told us we were waiting for about 20 passengers who didn’t leave their homes two hours ahead of time to make sure they got through security in enough time to get to their gate before the plane took off. Yes, about 149 of my closest travel companions and I waited for those folks who got to sleep a lot later than the rest of us to arrive so we could take off. We were pretty polite about their lateness.
Once en route, I realized that I had a connecting flight that I would have had plenty of time to make if we had taken off on time, but now, according to the pilot, I likely wouldn’t make because my connecting flight would be boarding as I was just about to land. I spoke up when ordering my tomato juice on ice, asking the flight attendant politely if Continental was having all the connecting flights wait to depart as we had so politely waited for the 20 late sleepers on our flight. Boy, you would have thought I asked for free television ($6 extra please). Drawing herself up real tall, the attendant informed me that she and the flight crew had no control, no computer and no help to offer. Hmmm. Continental holds up more than a hundred passengers for 20 late sleepers and won’t help those of us with connecting flights? Where’s the justice?
After about 10 minutes the attendant returned to Row 20 and let me know empty seats existed toward the front of the plane if I wanted to sit closer to the front exit in an attempt to try to hustle out of the plane quickly to make my connecting flight.
“Ok,” I thought. “This works.”
So I roused my two deeply sleeping row mates, they groggily exited their seats and I tried to retrieve my tote bag from under the seat in front of me. With the long blond-haired woman in front of me having put her seat back so far it was practically in my lap, I could hardly move let alone retrieve my bag. I pulled and grunted and tugged and climbed on the seat closest to the aisle in order to extricate myself from Row 20. The passengers around me watched in fascination. I mean, what else is there to watch on a plane besides the $6 television?
I hustled up toward the front of the plane and saw empty aisle seats. Who knew? Now I had to find room in the overhead for my suitcase so I could attempt that quick exit when the plane landed. The helpful flight attendant assured me in no uncertain terms “No, all the overheads are full.” Since the passengers seated near my new row, Row 12, were listening closely to the back and forth, one helpful male passenger offered to remove his pretty hefty briefcase from an overhead nearby so I could stuff my wheelie in its place. I was so thankful, I kept patting the poor man on his arm. I think his wife was beginning to wonder.
So here I am in Row 12, Seat A with lots of leg room and a young passenger (formerly sprawled across the three seats) sleeping across the two empty seats to my left. Let the games begin when the plane lands.
P.S.: I hustled off the plane, ran through the terminal with my wheelie bouncing along behind me, leaped down the steps to Gate 1 and skidded to a halt in front of the check-in desk. The customer service rep smiled.
“Has the plane left the gate yet?” I asked.
“No, not yet. Have a seat and we’ll board in about 10 minutes,” she said, turning away to help someone behind me.