We all know that the days of relaxing air travel are long gone. I, as have many others, have adjusted to the fact that security lines are long, and the processes are inefficient. But alas, I am all for keeping people safe, so I comply with a good attitude. I dutifully remove my shoes, undo my belt (if I have been silly enough to wear one), take loose coins out of my pocket, put my computer in a separate bin, and live with the unpleasant pat down (note: lots of women's bras have under wires).
But even with my fabulous travel attitude, I occasionally am stunned by the absurdity of the experience. I got to my international flight 5 hours early. I actually should clarify. I got to my rescheduled, standby flight 5 hours early. The previous evening, I got an uninformative e-mail from my preferred airline indicating that my flight was cancelled (of course with no reason given).
The service agent gave me a number of promising alternatives. Instead of flying to the airport 19 minutes from my house, I had the option of flying the next day from my Asian destination to Vienna, then Frankfurt, then DC, then New Jersey - 3 stops instead of non-stop. Yeah me!!! Or, she was kind enough to reschedule me on a flight 2 days later with a brief stop in Europe landing in a an airport only 1 day's travel to my home state. Or I could choose from door 3 and WAIT for hours to see if I could go standby and maybe get to my house within 8 hours of my actual arrival time, but at least within the same time zone.
I have never been in the military, but trust me when I tell you that waiting for hours with people desperate to get home is a bonding experience akin to boot camp. There was the math professor who was expected as a guest lecturer in North Carolina the next day, the stunning model and her gorgeous surfer boyfriend who tried to flirt their way up on the wait list (it didn't work), the crying teenage girls who had been away from home for 6 weeks having had the time of their lives AND ABSOLUTELY HAD to be on the next flight out - or else. And there was the protective dad traveling with his 8 year old daughter who almost caused an international incident - more on that later.
After much delay, jostling and multiple wait list strategic initiatives by my new friends, we were hustled onto the flight - only 4.0 short hours after our airport arrival and 30 minutes before take-off. I might have forgotten to mention that until you had a seat, you couldn't go to the part of the airport with the seats, water or food. Luckily I personally find it very comfortable to nap on a luggage cart with my lumpy carry on as a pillow. I am nothing if not flexible. And fyi, mentos from the bottom of one's pocketbook are a perfectly enjoyable dinner.
Finally, with breathless anticipation, my merry band of waitlisters and I were ushered onto the plan - next to screaming babies, loud snorers, and the hygiene uninvolved. But back to the dad. It seems that his daughter was put in a premium seat, so he just took the premium seat - with the coveted extra leg room - next to hers. Great idea - except for the fact that the man who actually paid for the premium seat was not quite as interested in keeping the family together. Suffice it to say, the 8 flight attendants were arguing with the father and the paying customer, threatening to turn the flight back to the gate unless they could work it out. At this point, many other passengers felt the need to get involved. The 8 year old was crying - could you blame her. The father got more irate, which is a little tricky when you are in a seat you haven't even paid for. After 26 people were moved to accommodate premium seating, family togetherness, and a generally irritated flight crew, we were off to the races - relatively without incident.
That is except for the woman in row 23 who insisted her adorable dog was not the cause of the wheezing from the man sitting next to her. Thank goodness I was able to catch some back episode of Suits or the 12-hour flight really would have felt interminable.
Alas, bad travel is a bit like childbirth. You forget the pain soon after, and focus on the joy of the outcome. So as I walked through the terminal (content with the knowledge that customs, baggage claim and a 3 hour drive lay ahead of me), I smiled as I walked toward the exit. And just then, as if to put a beautiful ending on the journey, the dog from Row 23 pooped - and not just a little - in the middle of the airport. Welcome home.
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