Airport Deja Vu

I actually wrote this in the airport on Saturday but I’m flying home today, so who knows…?

The sun is coming up and I’m sitting in the airport waiting to board my flight.  While I sit here with my carry-on baggage tucked close to my feet so no evil person can tamper with it, I’m reflecting on the changes in air travel since I flew for the first time thirty-some years ago.

After several decades, you’d think things would have changed more than they have.  I still feel unaccountably guilty every time I go through security.  The boarding lounges are still the same boring rows of uncomfortable seating. In fact, judging by the numbness of my butt, these may even be the very same seats as thirty years ago.

They still ask us to get to the airport an hour or two before our flight, apparently for the sole purpose of clogging the boarding lounge with cranky people.

The aircraft are basically the same.  The same cramped seats, the same seatbelts, the same impossibly tiny washrooms.  I never cease to marvel at the fact that some people actually have sex in those washrooms.  Hell, there’s barely room for me in there.  Then again, I guess if you did actually manage to cram two people in there, they’d pretty well have to be having sex.

It’s funny, but the only major improvements are to the airport terminal washrooms and the public-address systems – the two things that aren’t directly related to flying.

I like the automatic flush toilets, except when they flush before I’m done.  There’s nothing like a splash of icy water on your ass and a sudden loud noise to get the old adrenaline pumping.  But it’s nice to see they haven’t eliminated (sorry) the most critical function of airport toilets:  they still project a spray of contaminated water up to three feet when you flush, and it’s impossible to vacate the cubicle fast enough to avoid it.  You haven’t truly travelled until you have splatters of toilet water on your pants.

I have a love/hate relationship with the motion-activated water taps and soap dispensers, too.  When they work, they’re wonderful.  When they don’t (which is most of the time), I feel like an idiot waving my hands up, down, and sideways under an unresponsive spigot.  But, whatever.  I look like an idiot on a semi-regular basis anyway, so there’s really no added humiliation there.

The change I appreciate most is the improved public-address system.  I used to hate those old PA systems that sounded like a garburator attacking a table-setting for twelve.  You never knew whether they were saying your departure gate had changed and you had ten seconds to get to the opposite end of the airport; or that your flight had been cancelled altogether; or possibly that a fireball of death was speeding directly toward the terminal and everybody should flee.  It’s wonderful to be able to effortlessly interpret the announcements now.

But I’ve just discovered that the more things change, the more they stay the same.  The public address system just came on and delivered a lovely, crystal clear message:  my flight has been delayed for nearly two hours.


* * *

Since “that new-fangled internet” can be unreliable in airports, I’ll be responding to comments sporadically today… unless that fireball catches up with me.  If that happens, all bets are off. 

Home Free

I made it!

As I mentioned a couple of months ago, I was worried I might be on a no-fly list somewhere.  (That would be a “don’t-let-this-woman-on-an-airplane” list; not a list that prohibits flies from being in my presence.  I’d be delighted to get on an actual no-fly list – then I wouldn’t need fly diapers.)

Anyway, it turns out I’m on neither of those lists.  Last week I successfully completed a trip to Las Vegas to attend a wedding.  I even had fun.

The last time I flew to the States was about eight years ago, and the U.S. Customs guards, while not exactly hostile, were definitely Not Friendly.  Thanks to sponge toffee, I have issues with authority figures at the best of times, so slinking into a foreign country under the disapproving stare of Uncle Sam was a traumatic experience for me.  And I hadn’t even been doing anything remotely suspicious at the time.

This time, with my guilty browser history searing my conscience, I was distinctly anxious.

What if they turned me away and wouldn’t let me get on the plane?  Or worse, what if they didn’t turn me away, and instead dragged me off to an interrogation room, never to be seen or heard from again?

Clearing airport security has been a worrisome experience for me ever since they stepped up the screening requirements.  My waist pouch always contains a number of items that are either overtly weapons (jackknives), or could be construed as such by paranoid security personnel (nail file, screwdrivers, a vial of hand sanitizer, etc.)

So every time I fly, one of the items on my to-do-before-I-leave list is to audit my waist pouch.  Problem is, I have a lot of crap stuffed in there, and I either forget it or overlook it.  Twice, they’ve confiscated corkscrews from me; once it was scissors.  Each time, they write down my name on an ominous-looking list, and then give me the hairy eyeball until I shrivel to the size of a garden gnome and creep away trembling.

This time, as usual, I wrote “Take out weapons” on my to-do list, and then immediately glanced over my shoulder to see if Big Brother was watching.  Honest, I meant “take weapons out of waist pouch”, not “lay out weapons to be packed and smuggled aboard”.

To my surprise, everything went without a hitch in the Calgary airport.  The border guard barely glanced at me; I hadn’t forgotten to remove that stick of dynamite from my waist pouch; and amazingly, I wasn’t even selected for the “random” physical search (for which I’m chosen ninety percent of the time).

Coming home, Vegas airport security took some more nudie pics of me (I should have asked them for copies, come to think of it), but they didn’t tell me to bend over and pick up the soap, for which I was profoundly grateful.  Once I had removed my epidermis and superficial musculature and tucked it all into the little plastic bin to be X-rayed, it was clear sailing all the way.

Customs on the Canadian side lifted an amused eyebrow at my $20 declaration, and that was that.  Home free.

Little did they know I’d cleverly smuggled a prohibited item across the border:  a living creature carrying a communicable disease.

Yeah, I caught a cold while I was there.

But other than that, it was a perfect trip.