Weeks ago I agreed to fly to Denver to help my daughter-in-law this week. I leave behind our cold house, waiting for contractors to repair the laundry room, install a new furnace, hot water heater, air conditioner compressor, replace insulation under the house and fix the roof over the house. We lost the washer and dryer to Sandy and have yet to shop for replacements. The insurance adjuster spent time surveying the damage, making careful notes and taking pictures. He gave us no hint how much to expect from the insurance company, so we now impatiently wait for the check, not yet in the mail.
Flying is not fun nowadays, but tolerated to reach our destination. Fortunately the airport was not crowded and there was a short wait at security. I took off my belt, blazer, boots, and bracelets. No underwire bra or trinkets to set off security alarms. I have learned to dress to avoid triggering security warnings.
Whatever I do, however, apparently is not enough. I am not sure what alerted security I might be harboring some banned utensil, liquids, or other prohibited article. I was subjected to a quick pat down and my hands rubbed with something that is supposed to detect gunpowder, drugs, coffee beans or some other substance indicating I spent the past few days cooking something in my house. But I am not living in my house. I guess they did not know that.
I was finally allowed to enter the terminal…
The simple act of getting on a plane is not so simple anymore. Boarding went something like this:
Handicapped, disabled, their families, friends, hangers-on, and children of a very young age and their families boarded first. I am sure there were some older kids with knees bowed and heads low trying to appear younger than their years, probably under order from parents attempting to cut the line and reach their seats as early as possible. After all, the plane may run out of storage space and then what would they do with their assorted paraphernalia?
First class passengers, a small, elite group of dudes dressed in designer jeans and handbags, were next. They looked very important and smug. The rest of us stared and wondered - Did they actually pay full price for their ticket? Were they on expense accounts? Did they use points to upgrade to first class? Or did they know someone who hit the right computer key and got them the larger, plush seats? I doubt these were the one percenters we read about – they probably have their own planes. Maybe these privileged few represent the top five or ten percent?
Members of the gold, silver, platinum and special airline club members were the next group entitled to board.
All these elite travelers slowly made their way onto the plane. Now it was time for the majority of patiently waiting passengers, the masses.
Zone One boarding pass holders filed through.
Zone Two followed.
The line, quiet and orderly, snaked through the terminal. Everyone had the same goal – board the plane, endure the four hour flight, disembark and enjoy their destination.
Zone Three travelers were ushered onto the plane.
Boarding slowed because a couple of passengers had extended conversations with the employees checking and scanning boarding passes, I have no idea about what.
Zone Four moved forward. Many were not seasoned travelers. They marched up to the desk and, when asked for their boarding pass, began fishing in their handbag, suitcase or pockets. No one told them the staff would want to see their boarding pass before actually getting on the plane.
The line inched forward. At last it appeared all Zone Four passengers were on their way to their seats.
Another difficult to understand announc
ement. My turn, my turn, I thought!
“All First Class passengers and passengers in Zone One, Two, Three and Four can now board…”
Huh? Who were all those people ahead of me?
Silence. People looked at each other, impatiently shifting from one foot to another, tired of waiting their turn. A couple of people walked up to the desk and proceeded to the plane.
Then, once again, the employee and microphone –
“Everyone else can now board.”
Obviously the remaining rabble – including me - were the humble, insignificant, forgotten ones.
Did we all buy cheap tickets? Did we refuse to upgrade seats or buy meals ahead of time? Did the airlines know we were not wearing designer clothes? Were we marked for life as back of the line folks?
I walked down the corridor and boarded the plane. There was still overhead storage space for my suitcase. Yeah! But I was wary – where was I sitting?
Did my low-priced fare mean I was singled out to sit between two sumo wrestlers?
Or maybe the airline decided I was the best candidate to sit between the young mother with the screaming baby and the man with the window seat who had to get up every twenty minutes to hit the head?
The anticipation, the excitement, the experience, the wonder, the hassles, the complications of 21st century air travel!