Up, Up, and Away

Posted: July 30, 2008 in Uncategorized

Once again, this was written for a class…let me know what you think.

For some people, travel is a matter of pleasure over business. For others, myself included, travel is a matter of necessity. The almighty dollar dictates that we go from place to place in order to make others happy, which in turn, keeps money in our pockets and those around us happy. That’s not to say, of course, that business travel is without benefits. Often times I travel for free, and merely have to put up with the inconvenience of air travel. I get to see the sights and sounds of a new place, and meet people that I would never dream of meeting if stuck in an office all the time. That perk aside, air travel can be a heart attack waiting to happen.

Have you ever hear the phrase, “flying through the air with the greatest of ease?” That is probably one of single the stupidest statements I have ever heard. In the 21st century, there is nothing neither great nor easy about flying through the air, unless of course you are a bird. I am not, as you can imagine, a bird. I am a human being, and as a human being I am required to get on a plane, which is, in turn, driven by another human being, in order to fly through the air. It is not so much the flying itself that is cumbersome, but rather, the airport adventure that can make air travel so unsavory.

We all know the routine for airport travel: get to the airport, check your bags, go through security, wait to get on plane, get on plane. If it were only that simple, but it’s not. Personally traveling to the airport has never been much of an issue for me. I know how to drive my car, and I know how to park it, so half the battle is won. The other half of the battle, which most people tend to lose, is getting to the airport on time. Once again, I have no problems with this. I have a sense of urgency when going to the airport, perhaps because I hear the horror stories of those that do not have the same urgency. I also have good time management skills, which come in handy with an upcoming trip to the airport. If others don’t have a sense of urgency and/or decent time management skills, well, don’t look my way for sympathy because there is none. When such people board my flight late I feel that it is only right that I shoot them the Vulcan death stare and wish bad things upon them.

Getting to the airport aside, it is the next steps in the process that can become a royal Charlie Foxtrot if you aren’t paying attention, or just have bad luck. I am a bag-checker. I never carry a massive bag onto the plane for one reason, and one reason alone: it’s annoying. Not only is it an annoyance to drag around a 30-lb. bag through LAX, or LaGuardia, it is pain in the ass trying to get it in the overhead bin. And for those waiting behind you while you attempt to shove a dead body into a bin that should only hold a can of corn, it is especially maddening. Having been stuck behind a bag-shover more than once, I decided long ago not to be one of those people; let’s call it Karma. So as a matter of good Karma, I check my bag. Other than the waiting, I normally don’t have any issues, unless, of course, I get the rookie flyer in front of me that should probably be driving instead of flying. It just so happens that these rookies are not aware of Karma and subsequently oblivious to the line forming behind them. It is occasions like that where I wish I could carry a Taser…I think that would solve the problem pretty quickly.

My bag has been checked and next on the agenda is security. Going through security is probably the biggest nightmare of the entire arduous process. I will take the liberty to generalize here and say security sucks at every single airport across this great nation. I appreciate the security, I truly do, but it doesn’t make it any more pleasant. Once again it is the rookies that muck it up for everyone else. I sometimes wonder if the people that slow down the lines at security live under a rock. For the nearly seven years now we as a society have been subjected to more strenuous security checkpoints. This includes not having lighters, liquids, bombs, guns, knives, swords, bottles of acid, and alligators. When the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) says that a person cannot carry an Uzi onto a plane, that rule generally applies to everyone. There are signs posted throughout the airport and the rules, as posted, are pretty clear. As discretion is the better part of valor, the TSA has even gone so far as to post these rules in multiple languages. Yet, surprisingly enough, some people just don’t get it. If you can’t read the rules, then don’t argue when the person making $7.50 an hour tries to take your scythe, do us all a favor and just give it up. It is this lack of basic comprehension that stirs the more seasoned traveler (me) into a frenzy and causes us (me) to have visions of Tasering people (rookies) out of our (my) way. Though, truth be told, I know I can’t carry a Taser because I’ve read the rules, so in the end, that really isn’t an option.

The last step of the car-to-plane process is easy enough, and it is called waiting. And waiting. And waiting. Sometimes, if I’m lucky, even more waiting. It’s a good time to nap, or collect one’s thoughts, or in my case, write. I like to keep a journal of my travels and waiting at the gate for my plane to disembark is a perfect opportunity for me to unload pen to paper. I have found that having a play-by-play recall or even a real-time documentation of my day’s events helps me to let off some steam and keep my mind from being clouded with irritation. Like soaking in Calgon, I can feel my troubles melting away as I embellish about the fat lady in front of me with four arms and a beard. It’s healthy, fun, and all mine. When you are traveling, you often find that privacy is at a premium, and by writing, I am able to keep my fingers around the neck of privacy and therefore keep my sanity intact. Without my sanity during air travel, I would probably be rotting in a jail cell somewhere.

Once on the plane, things tend to smooth out a little bit. Maybe. Sometimes. The wildcard once on the plane is the person, or people, next to you. It’s a good ole fashioned turkey shoot when it comes to your seat buddies. I usually have pretty good luck with air travel up until this point. It never fails that I get a talker next to me, or the sweater, or worst of all, the talking sweater that spills over into my seat and insists on drinking excessively the entire flight. This person is always a feast for the senses and because I always take the window seat, running down the aisle to the lavatory to vomit isn’t normally an option. I have said “thank God for iPods” on countless occasions and Apple should get a letter of commendation from the President for making traveling next to a talker a bit more pleasant.

When the flight is done, and if I have survived through it, the only thing left is to deal with yet another airport. Once I have squeezed off the flight, and shaken off the mild atrophy of constant sitting, I like to see how fast I can walk to baggage claim. I don’t know why I do this because it tends to take 30 minutes for the airport staff to get my bag off the plane, and my bag is usually the last bag off. Maybe I do it for the exercise. Maybe I do it to get as far away from the nightmare as possible. Who knows, but it feels good. Once at the baggage claim I quickly discover that it is, of course, as crowded as the flight. Everyone jockeys for a position next to the conveyor belt as though someone is going to steal their bags. Once we are all crammed around the belt, we wait. And we wait. And we wait. Eventually, bag or no bag, we all get to go home and hopefully never see each other again.

Air travel is a necessary evil that we all must accept. It is not without peril, and it is rarely ever smooth as glass, but it is what we must deal with in order to get from point A to point B when such points are thousands of miles apart. If you have a little patience in your pocket, and a couple of Advil, in the end, you’ll get where you need to be in one piece.

I had arrived at the airport one hour early so that, in accordance with airline procedures, I could stand around.
–Dave Barry


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