Up in the Air

I don’t fly very often, maybe once or twice every year or so, but I’ve been extremely lucky during those trips. No horrendous delays, or passenger mayhem, or clogged up TSA lines. Granted, I generally fly into and out of smaller airports (CVG – Cincinnati is my home base) which eases the stresses of large crowds traveling.

Sure, I’ve been stopped stupidly by the TSA agent who said my tube of toothpaste was 6 oz and I could only take 3 oz. My argument that the tube was less than half full didn’t change his mind. I’ve been stopped, too, because I’ve had books in my suitcase but the scanner didn’t recognize them as books. If I was a snarky person, I’d say that lack of ability to recognize a book and what ½ of 6 oz. looks like may be related.

I once had a bumpy ride back from Vegas that introduced me to the puke bag and was on a plane that had to turn around mid-air and head back to the airport for a mechanical issue. The worst part about that was the airport restaurants/bars weren’t open when we got back! But really, I’ve had very positive experiences flying the friendly skies.

Of course, every trip is fraught with the anxiety that so many things out of our own control could go wrong. At the extreme end is thinking the plane will go down. But statistically, that’s placing your anxiety bets on the thing that not only isn’t going to happen, but if it did, wouldn’t be nearly as annoying (since you’d be dead) as a number of other traveling micro-aggressions.

Going through security is tense, even for the 99.9% who are going to sail right through with maybe a discussion about ounces, or metal hips, or where to place a laptop. You’re shoeless and shoulder-to-shoulder with hundreds of strangers, dozens of uniformed staff, and few gun-wearing agents. The agents are looking at your stuff and taking an x-ray of your body. You are vulnerable and outside your element. Airline travel starts by putting us in a poor frame of mind.

Just the drive into the airport terminals and the walk to the boarding gates begins to disorient a not frequent flyer. So many signs and instructions all with the idea of putting you inside a tube. And if you head off in the wrong direction, it’s embarrassing and time-consuming.

Time is suddenly the most important information you can have. Even if you’re not running late, you want to know if you have time for a sandwich and pre-flight pee. If you are running late, nothing and no one in front of you makes sense. “Why?” you keep asking while trying not to look like you’re agitated. “Why is the line moving so slow?” “Why isn’t the guy in front of me taking off his belt yet?” “Why can’t I get nice cold beer to take on this flight?”

In a full plane, especially those little connector aircrafts, humanity and all it’s foibles and body odors is pressed together for the duration. Big people and little people. Cry babies and actual crying babies. Talkers and privacy seekers. Etc. Everyone is at the mercy of the flight crew from whom we expect, and lets face it, almost always get the best of what they do in a pretty thankless job of serving a plane full of cranky people.

If finally getting your ass into the seat of the plane calms you, hold on for a second. The FAA makes sure all the passengers get subjected/treated to a lecture on how not to die. Then we’re told to strap ourselves in, not smoke, and don’t use any of those electronic devices that, on the ground, soothe your soul. Maybe the plane will take off within a few minutes which is great. But, sometimes the plane is on the tarmac waiting to take off for a while and all you have to breathe is weird tarmac air. [Side note: Let’s lobby for medical marijuana air!]

If there’s not turbulence the rest of flying is pretty much a breeze. Pluswise, there’s peanuts and Ginger Ale. Some landings are rougher than others and though the concourse through the new airport is full of new signs and rules and unfamiliar patterns, it’s always easier to get out of terminals than get into them. Plus, all those strangers are out of your personal space. Whew!

When I get off a plane, I’m usually just thinking about going to the bathroom and finding my ground transportation. I try to push from my head that I have to do the whole thing one more time in a few days or so, to fly back home to my regular routine.

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