Christine called me last night from North Carolina, about the halfway point. She's finishing the trip today, and expects to be in Jacksonville by the evening. I have a flight leaving out of Dulles early Saturday morning to join her. I have a lot to plan, a lot to pack, so I'm calling people all over. Kris, answer your voicemail! :)
Of course, the concept of flying again scares me a little. Last time I was on a plane was August of 2001, about 40 days before 9/11. I am not scared of the flying part, that's easy. Turbulence has always been a little comforting, like being rocked on a boat. The chances of me dying in a car wreck is far more likely than being in an airplane disaster. Am I afraid of some terrorist taking over my plane? No. I'll beat the shit out of them. Other passengers can be annoying, but only if you let them. And it's only a 2 hour flight. You know what I hate most?
I have always hated airport security. I'm not sure why, but I have some ideas. When I was little, I was traveling through Chicago, and one of the airport security guys confiscated my stuffed animal. He was really rude about it, too. He ripped it open, found nothing, and then wouldn't give it back. It was a gift from my grandmother I had just gotten, so I wasn't too attached to it, although I cried at the time. The guy was just a mean old man. That would have been back in the 1970s, only a few years after all those Cuban hijackings. My father once got his whole manicure kit taken away, and they never mailed it back to him. Back when I worked for Cargo, I once had my asthma inhaler confiscated because I didn't have a written note from my doctor stating I needed it for travel. I haven't taken the thing with me since.
Another issue is I ALWAYS trigger metal detectors. I don't know why, but 4 out of 5 times, I get wanded, and of course, they never find anything. Well, once they did. I was trying to get from one end of the airport to another after the ticket agent MASSIVELY screwed up my boarding pass at Logan airport in Boston. I was pressed for time. They wanded me, and right at my pocket level, the wand went crazy. They asked me to empty my pockets. I didn't have anything in my pockets. The wand went off again, and like 5 guards came out of nowhere, and surrounded me. They asked me to step into their room, when a supervisor, with an exasperated look on her face, pushed me two steps to the left, wanded my pocket, and it didn't go off. Then she demonstrated, without saying a word, by wanding the metal edge of the examining table I had been next to, and the wand went nuts. She then slapped the wand down on the table, said I could go, and gave the security person a nasty look like this was a frequent occurrence.
Now they are uber-paranoid. Two weeks ago, I got a letter from a coworker, telling everyone on the list about a story where he was denied going to Europe by United Airlines. He was told, "You ruined your own vacation through your attitude. I know in my heart that the safety of the other passengers is my responsibility, and you are a safety risk." Why? Because he said this, "As a customer, I think this is poor customer service, and I don't think our concerns are being addressed." In response, the ticket person proclaimed, "That's it, this conversation is over," and the whole family got escorted out of the airport. And why did he say this was poor customer service? Because instead of honoring their reservations, they wanted to split up his family on different flights. Great. Another friend of mine had paid for a first-class ticket, but when he got there, he was told they were out of first class seats, but there was a coach available. "No, I paid for a first class ticket." He was told upgrades weren't guaranteed, and he said, "No, again, I paid money for a first class ticket." Their response was to label him a troublemaker, and he was denied boarding (later, this was rectified, and he did go home). I recall at Logan, when they gave me a boarding pass to New York, I said, "No, I am going to DC." His response? "It's called 'a transfer,' sir!" Like I was a moron. It turned out he put me on the wrong plane. It's called, "you are an idiot," sir. Luckily, this was fixed, but only after running around the airport, sans inhaler. And now any disgruntled agent can cry wolf, and upgrade any problem from "don't want to deal with" to "security threat."
I hate being treated like a suspect. I'm a big guy, and people, especially dumb people who live by defined stereotypes, often mistake being a big guy means I am a dumb oaf with a short temper and the strength of several gorillas. I know that I will be especially watched this time around because I am purchasing a one-way ticket with very little luggage. I wouldn't be surprised if I got stopped and searched like 50 times, so I am packing very light with nothing suspicious-looking at all if I can help it. My backpack, which has a lot of punk and goth stuff on it, will be stripped bare, and all I will carry on is my wallet, a hairbrush, deodorant, some books (not "Catcher in the Rye," I'll tell you that), and a change of clothes. I'll stow luggage, because I expect to be gone about a week, but I won't bring anything even remotely sentimental or expensive. I see myself write this, and think, "Jesus, this reminds me of communist Russia."
I am going via Airtran, recommended to me by my friend Seth. I avoided United like the plague, because all I ever hear are horror stories about them. I would have gone via my favorite carrier, American Airlines, but their cost was double what Airtran was, and I didn't want to shell out $450 to go to Florida. I am aware Airtran is no-frills, but I figure I can deal with it for a few hours. Got to better than United.
This entry was originally posted at http://www.punkwalrus.com/blog/archives/00000436.html