Thursday, November 4, 2010

Flying the Friendly Skies

After 36 fun filled hours of conference, cancer and cousins, I exit Ami’s monstrosity of a truck and prepare for another long day of airline craziness. The whirlwind of the trip surrounds me and yet somehow- none of it has been anywhere near as exhausting day to day care and feeding of my four monstrosities. I slept less than I require, well that’s not exactly true, but consecutive hours of sleep were fairly fleeting. When you get to see family once every few years or so, it seems kind of trivial to waste away your time sleeping when there is so much catching up to do. I am sad that my time with my cousins was so short, yet relieved to visit and exit before the familial intricacies that color our relationships have an opportunity to damper the experience. As I am pondering the fun times recently shared, I am rudely pushed out of this way by a woman and her monstrosity of a bag. I let it go. And before I can even get my balance back, 3 other ladies wheel their bags up behind her. I notice all of the bags are wrapped identically with brightly colored ribbons, identifying them as a group.

Now mind you, I was in line, at the check in counter of the airline. As I rounded the curve of the the people herder ropes, the said offender so rudely acted upon my person in an unfriendly and inconsiderate manner. She starts calling to the rest of the group, in a language I cannot identify. I know she is telling them to get with her group of rude interrupter pusherers. I say No. No is universal as was my tone. She looks at me and I shake my head and say NO again. “If you are calling the whole group over- let me in front of you” I say as I move to the side to go around them. She says something to the 3 who are now moving to block my way. There are at least 10 people with matching brightly colored ribbons behind me, trying to push around me. I scan the faces around me, feeling certain I would spot Ashton Kutcher and willing to laugh off my turn being punked. There is a man pushing at my right and I say “NO!” rather loudly and rudely. A security guard rushes over. He unfastens the guard rope and ushers me through, replacing it after me. “Please proceed to any of the empty kiosks”. As I look for the empty kiosks- I realize that there is a line of 5 people in front of the crazy ribbon pusherers all waiting patiently for the next kiosk while there are dozens of them open. The security guard is yelling at that group to step forward to any open kiosk they are all available for self check in. I then hear him berating the group leader. I feel slightly vindicated and hope they are not on the flight going to Hawaii and that somehow I would be shadowed by these horrendous pusherers for the next week.

I also have come to realize that despite climbing airline ticket prices, e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g is becoming more automated- and by automated- I mean self service. There are airline employees barking orders at every step for those of us who do not travel frequently enough to know the routine of every airport in the DC area. And this is the second one I’ve been to in the past 48 hours, and the 5th airport- so I’m feeling fairly current on my airline travel refresher course. The conference folks were nice enough to arrange my travel and I generally assumed I would be flying out of the same airport I arrived at. And you know what they say about Assumptions. Unfortunately the DC area has 3 airports and when someone else is arranging- you get what you get. Mostly I am glad to have noticed the change in departure airport prior to arriving at the wrong airport.

I successfully completed the grueling self check in procedure which is easy except for the excessive need to decline umpteen upgrades- which is to say additional costs. I look up and 3 employees are just staring at me behind the counter. I hoist my bag onto the scale as the boarding passes for my journey slip out of the kiosk printer. I place my ID on the counter and as I gather the boarding passes, the employee picks up my id and hands it to me while snidely pointing out that it is a self service counter. I take my ID and stand there patiently as he grabs the bag tag. “Mallory” He calls out. I hand him my ID and boarding pass and just wait. “Take the bag over there.” You just have a merry happy sunshiney day too there mr happy pants. People are mean here. Well people are mean everywhere, but especially here. And by here, I mean airports, malls, public places, everywhere. I think the only place that people generally are not mean are Disney World and hence it garners the label- happiest place on earth. I venture towards security smiling at every face I meet, telling each TSA worker along the way how dearly I hope they have a wonderful day. I get a lot of weird looks. How is it everyone expects rudeness and pushererness- yet if you say simple nice ities you are looked at as a loony toon.

I know that the security check points are an exercise in rudeness tolerance. On both sides. Travelers are generally grumpy at the “reasonable” indignities in the name of security while security employees are barraged with the emotional projection by those who indignantly tolerate the measures enacted through a higher power in the name of safety. And people are mean. I follow the directions being barked on both sides. Shoes removed, sweaters and jackets removed, put items in bins- make sure all liquids in their appropriate Ziploc containers are in a bin and all laptops must be in their own bin. I don’t put my shoes in the bin. When I went through security in Honolulu, I was barked at for putting my shoes in the bin. “This is NOT your airport security” I was told. I was taken aback. Oh, then where do I go for MY airport security, because I kinda need to make my flight. “ Would you put your shoes on your baby?” Um no. except maybe Bella, because if my shoes were ON her, then she might not be licking them and THAT’s a win-win situation. But then again I wouldn’t put my baby in a bin to go through an xray machine conveyor belt at an airport either. I’m not really sure where this is going. The woman in front of me turns back to look at me and just shrugs while the tirade continues. We do it such and such way here- we have respect for the aina and your health and people don’t need their lovely bags and jackets dirtied by the nasty shoes that I was trying to put in the bin. OK Mr. I clearly am power tripping in an ignorant fashion with people who fortunately are only held hostage by your stupidity for however long it takes to scan the bags. You are talking to the woman who is abandoning 24 hour disinfecting ops for a flying sardine can of recycled air and considers it a “vacation”.

First of all- shoes are not the cleanest of clothing items. I wouldn’t go around licking them. I know those who do but they have the maturity and intellect of a 4 year old. We are both adults. Secondly, you are implying these bins, that are stacked on the floor, the same floor that soils the shoes that sooo offend you. And the bottoms of these bins that alternate turns on the floor and sandwiched between other bins are then filled with personal items and sent through the xray machine. When they are not there, they are on a conveyor belt, which is where he would like for us to put our offensive footwear. So visualize a smear of red paint on the bottom of your shoes. The red paint goes to conveyor. Conveyor belt goes around and waits for next bin, bin gets put on conveyor, red paint gets on bin, bin goes through, bin takes red paint and deposits it on the inside of the next bin it gets stacked on in the pile. Cycle complete mister Einstein. You really aren’t doing anyone any favors. Thirdly- do you ever watch people and their bags? As they wait in line- where are the bags? On this dirty ground that is so offensively soiling our shoes. You are seriously implying that there is some sort of sanitary state of airport security bins that visit with thousands of humans and their respective questionable hygiene states from all over the world on a daily basis. Outstanding logic. But I digress.

I clear security and my phone starts ringing. It is my lovely husband who I have seen place his shoes on the bin in the Honolulu airport, but that is not the point. I want to say hi to him before I jump on a plane and I know that it is a matter of OCD importance that he talk to me before I get on said flight. Every time he has a big flight, and if I think about it- just about any time he flies- he calls or sends me a text that usually says no more than love you! It’s always nice to hear, or read so I appreciate it and I also appreciate that before he slips the surly bonds of gravity- I am on his mind. I don’t get to fly as often as he does, so I wasn’t really aware until this trip,that the superstition applies to me flying as well. I was relieved to think back to my many connections to get to DC that at each stop I sent a quick text. I don’t mess with people’s superstitions- it’s not good luck. Hi buddy, I love you. I just went through security and they were surprisingly gentle. He is laughing at me and I regale him with the tale of the rude pusherers and the kiosk incident and he laughs. I am chatting away as people walk by and they all look at me. I look around- I’m not in a restricted area, there is no one around- I guess I’m the only one to look at. I smile. People look away, few smile back. Well excuuuuse me- you were looking at me. I rub my nose to make sure there is nothing on it and make sure my clothing and zippers are all in order. I just keep smiling. Do people not talk on the phone here- I’m not being loud . I realize there is no time to chat on and on and I haven’t even gotten to the story about the guy with his hands in his pants on the metro. Yeah that’s a good one, but I tell him I love him and venture on my way. People are still looking at me and I am developing a complex. It occurs to me how different people are. I mean theoretically- it is an airport and people are from everywhere. But if you walk around the airport at Honolulu- many people will not look at you. In many cultures, eye contact is offensive, confrontational, disrespectful. Yet pushing a person out of the way is perfectly acceptable. Go figure. 

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