Writing About Life: Traveling Pains
by Honeydew Zubari
Q. Why did the chicken board the plane?
A. Because there was no time to walk to Colorado.
A recent family emergency had me flying to Denver on short notice. Now, I’ll admit right up front I’m not the greatest passenger. The older I get, the less I like being thousands of miles above the clouds hurling
through space at the speed of light with no parachute or safety net.
I realize that people fly all the time, but I’m not people. I don’t even jump because I don’t like having my feet that far off the ground.
“It’s like falling off a horse,” a friend told me when I admitted my sheer terror. “You gotta get back on to keep the fear away.”
Um, okay. When Pegasus lands in my yard I’ll gladly hop on for a ride. In the meantime, I’m planning to throw up my stomach and a lung and chew all my nails off and, in general, be pathetic up to and through and after the whole flying experience.
By some twist of irony that’s too long to get into, it’s been exactly ten years since I last flew on a plane. Back then I wandered down the concourse with family and friends and hung out at the gate chatting until the last minute, when I had to tear myself away from them and board the plane waving and sobbing and calling “good-bye” until the stewardess lost her patience and yanked me to my seat by the hair.
Not so this time! It’s a military zone. Absolutely no one without a plane ticket and thirteen forms of ID in hand may pass through the electric barbed wire fences, where Uzi-carrying guards patrol with attack dogs. And 7-foot-tall women with muscles in their arms wider than my body paw through our luggage, inspecting every little thing. They get a special kick out of holding up holey underwear and passing around those embarrassing driver’s license photos (you know, the ones that make you look like an escaped convict with a hang-over and insane hair) with their cohorts. One prodded at me with a suspicious looking wand and nearly got slapped for being fresh, I can tell you. Ladies, a word of warning, never wear an underwire bra unless you enjoy having your “sensitive areas” frisked by the security mafia while male goons look on and grin.
As if all that weren’t bad enough, I had to take off my shoes. This last is Bush’s doing. He’s so desperate to find those weapons of massdestruction, he’s started searching anywhere and everywhere, including my sandals.
After three hours of interrogation, I was stamped “OK” on the forehead and allowed to enter the rarefied air of the waiting area.
Dazed and hollow eyed we would-be travelers waved to our loved ones, barely visible through the crowds on the other side of the barricade before trudging on to our respective gates. We sat around disheveled and looking like survivors of… well, a plane wreck.
Now I ask you, is this any way to fly the so-called friendly skies? If they have to hire guards to inspect us from top to bottom, at least make them hunky guys with good personalities. Get rid of the Huns. Teach them how to smile while asking us if we’re wearing underwire bras, or is that a bomb taped to our chest. Have them overlook the granny panties and other things we packed for our eyes only. Have counselors waiting at the other side to help us with the post traumatic stress and give us pep talks before sending us winging away. A teddy bear might be nice, or fluffy blankets to hide under while we recover. Soft lighting is a must, and gentle music and motherly-types with chicken broth in mugs.
But that’s all the precursor to the actual getting in the plane part.
“We’re all gonna die and I haven’t made out a will yet,” I screeched, clutching the armrests and hitting the “brake” in a fair simulation of my mother whenever she drove with me.
“Will you shut up? You’re embarrassing me,” my sister hissed, peering at me over the magazine she was hiding behind. “We haven’t even boarded the plane yet.”
“Oh.” I checked the mirror to see how many new gray hairs had popped out.
The disgustingly cheerful announcing person called our flight and I glared at her as I passed by. She could afford to be chipper, she wasn’t boarding a metal tube of death. I never noticed how they shrink the longer a person sits in them either. After ten minutes, it had the circumference of a lipstick case.
My sister and I, both being taller than the average person, sat in the bulkhead. The advantage is that extra ¼ inch of leg room and being first to get served. I think they must hire people 5’ 2” and under to design the seating on these things.
A man that stank of cigars in the seat behind us shouted to his companion about Denver. Naturally I couldn’t help overhearing, even though I had my CD player vibrating my eardrums at top volume. Get this; the city is a mile above sea level. He said the air is thinner and newcomers sometimes feel the change in atmosphere.
This didn’t go over well, since I’m such a sea-level kind of gal I almost have gills.
“Why didn’t you warn me?” I gasped at my sister. “I could have brought my scuba gear. I think I have the Benz, my blood feels like club soda bubbling in my veins. This is it, the big one! Everything’s fading,
“Will you knock it off?” My sister said, hitting me over the head with the rolled-up magazine. “We haven’t left the gate yet.”
“Need…paper bag,” I said, rooting through my backpack. “Hyperventilating…”
I made do with the air sickness bag, and it worked fine until I accidentally popped it. My sister paid a guy in the last row $100 to switch seats. Some people have no sympathy.
When we landed in Denver I kissed the guy next to me (he was a cutie) and ran off the plane, sprawling on the ground, giving thanks. My sister walked by without acknowledging me, talking to a lawyer on her
cell phone. I didn’t catch the whole conversation, due to my hysterical crying, but I believe she asked how much it would cost to disown a relative. I guess that makes me an only child now.
The moral of this disjointed story is: Next time, I’m traveling by train. At least they don’t make you take off your shoes before boarding. I think.
©2004, Susan “Aged 10 years in 3 hours” Scott