October 15, 2006

Alive is Good

This weekend was spent traveling, time with my sister and her fiancee, and people I have grown to feel great warmth in my heart when I hear their names.

Of course that means air travel, travel I put at the bottom of my list, even below that of the Greyhound bus, was involved. Most of you know I am not fond of air travel, for reasons varied. After 9/11 it has become almost too stressful.

I suppose I should keep it all in perspective and realize that really any time I arrive at my destination alive, is a good flight.

Alive is good.

Plummeting 30,000 feet out of the air, exploding into a fiery ball, or an uncontained compressor or turbine failure at take off or landing are… bad. But unfortunately while living in the moment, I tend to forget the simplicity of it.

Alive is good.

I fly so infrequently, purposefully I might add, that each flight brings with it changes.

Change.

I feel old. I find it stressful, these types of changes. Travel changes. It wigs me out.

Three flights ago was the first time I had to take off my shoes. I was aghast. As much as I love to be barefoot, I don’t do so in public. Not in airports. There is something that feels so… undignified as to having to remove one’s shoes to go through security.

I make sure I wear socks now. The first time I was in sandals. I found myself amongst the shoeless masses, looking upon pair after pair of stockinged or bare feet. Mine were bare.

Were theirs clean? Who had foot fungus? Who hadn’t bathed? Who had stepped in something unimaginably filthy and not washed their feet? (obscure reference that a few will get…) The potential for foot filth and grime was more than I could stomach.

A Monk Moment.

I wear socks now. And throw them in the wash immediately.

There are sometimes years between flights, I fly so infrequently.

The flight after that, I missed my plane due to the fact that my IQ appears to plummet occasionally to subnormal levels. ‘Tis the only excuse I have. Sheer inexcusable stupidity.

And as I stood at the counter talking to the man from Delta, unbelieving that I had in fact missed my flight, I heard him utter these words, “Go to the line of phones behind you and pick one up… someone from Delta will help you.”

I still was not over my initial shock that it was a ‘serve yourself’ check in. There was no line. Nobody greeted me. There was no human contact… just a machine that I was supposed to know how to operate to manually check myself in… a machine, that with assistance from the same Delta man, showed me I had missed my flight.

I looked at him and said, “No…”

He pointed to the phones.

In a panic, wide eyed and pleading I said, “No. You don’t understand… I need someone I can talk to. I have to SEE them. You don’t understand…”

And he kindly said, “I’m sorry. I can’t help you. You have to use the phones.”

With great anxiety, I picked up the phone to speak with some faceless nameless stranger, who did not know me, could not see me… and could not understand the horror I felt for my mistake.

Some things just cannot be conveyed via phone.

She helped me. She was polite, but what I will never forget was the hand of the stranger. The Delta man… he had looked up my flights. He put his hand on my back and gently said to me quietly, “Ask her for this flight. This is what you want.”

And his voice, his touch, his thoughtfulness… all my anxiety was washed away. I knew it would be OK. And it was.

The flights this weekend I went into knowing I would wear socks. I would know how to check myself in. I could check my own baggage. Morrigan, who travels frequently, even brought me up to snuff on the whole ‘liquids in a baggy’ situation. Still, leaving West Palm was a mess with heavy rain and accidents on my normal route to the airport. Long term parking was full and I was directed to “Park and Ride”.

Holy crap.

Another first. I couldn’t. Time was an issue. I was freaking. I parked in short term parking for 4 days. That one hurt come cashing in time. Trust me.

My return flight. Huge traffic to the Atlanta airport. Long lines of people. LONG LINES. Suddenly the lead time Mo and I had given me didn’t seem like enough.

Security.

Someone had a heart attack at check in.

A desk check in Delta woman nearly standing on the counter yelling, “IS THERE A DOCTOR?”

Paramedics.

Buzzers of some kind going off as someone had grabbed one of those new heart get going machines off the wall.

Bags checked. I was checked in, rethinking this entire ‘get recertified for CPR’ thing. I was going to do it for the guys in the office, since I know someone’s going to have a heart attack in there one day… an inevitability… and wondering, if I were recertified, would I have helped that man? CPR is nasty. It was the international travel section. Who was he? Where was he from? What illnesses did he have? And I would press my mouth against his to save his life?

Suddenly I think… not so much. I am selfish. I would save the men I work with. I do not know if I could attempt to save a stranger packed in the Atlanta airport in the international travel line.

I do not know. Another Monk Moment.

Walking. Walking. I had to escape the chaos. Too much noise. Too many people.

Ticket in hand. No seat. What?

Long lines for security.

Security shouting at the masses, “NO AEROSOL CANS!” “People, Lay Your Bags FLAT!” “Plastic bags for your liquids!”

Lines move slowly.

Display cases of what you can and cannot take on the plane. Thank God I left my Amdro at home.

And my oven cleaner.

Slow.

No bins to put our stuff in.

Security guys just throw them in stacks in the middle of the floor. People clamoring for them.

Hundreds and hundreds of people… as far as the eye can see.

Take off the shoes.

Pray I get through.

Trains are packed. People look out the windows expressionless… emotionless. Resigned to their fate that this will not be a good experience.

Do not speak to me. Do not look at me. Don’t get too close. Cold. I hate that. I don’t like feeling like that. I am with the masses.

I walk.

No seat.

Overbooked plane.

Volunteers.

I get on.

Over fueled plane. Wait 40 minutes as they suck fuel out.

Get home.

Last bag off the plane.

A renewed passion for why I hate flying. It has become so barbaric. So uncivil.

I do this again in November. With my husband. And three kids.

Say it isn’t so…

Alive is Good.

Posted by Boudicca at October 15, 2006 10:34 PM | TrackBack
Comments

Eck

Posted by: Sissy at October 15, 2006 10:40 PM

Glad you made it safely. I feel exactly the same way about flying, perhaps even worse. The last time I flew for work was on a 40 seat commuter jet to Gulfport back in February. That was no picnic. Turbulence and stuff always has me worried, but being on a plane that smalle, I feel more like it is directed at me personally :)

Posted by: Richard at October 16, 2006 04:03 AM

Yaaaa! You survived!

Posted by: vw bug at October 16, 2006 05:59 AM

... wow, what a nightmare... glad you made it home in one piece though....

Posted by: Eric at October 16, 2006 07:40 AM

yikes..i share the fear with you. having kids makes you really sensitive about flying. my mom used to say at takeoff, "you know this plane was built by the lowest bidder, don't you?" the older i get, the more terrifying that statement becomes.

glad you made it back and i WISH i could have been there to spend some more time with you.

Posted by: shoe at October 16, 2006 08:03 AM

Why did you use a plane when you could make it by car ? Just a question...
Dom

Posted by: dom at October 16, 2006 08:16 AM

DAAAAAM..I have not been on an airplane in about 10 years. And if this is the kind of hassle I can expect I suspect I will NEVER be on one again..I know flying is safe..it is the sudden impact hitting the ground that usually gets them..but I just never learned to enjoy flying.

Posted by: GUYK at October 16, 2006 08:44 AM

I can remember as a young man, we had to get dressed up to go flying, suit tie the whole nine. Nowadays I only fly in Jeans and golf shirt, I check EVERYTHING, except the laptop. I then proceed to the bar to have a beer, relax and let it happen. Anytime my business travel requires air travel, I ensure that I am arriving late enough in the day that the work will start the next day. I am not a Red Eye kinda guy.

Laid Back..It's the only way to do air travel these days.

Posted by: P'Cola Titan at October 16, 2006 10:08 AM

If it's any consolation, the Atlanta airport is one of the worst in terms of processing people through and chaos. I hate travelling there by plane. I wait for my relatives to come up for a visit and treat them really great and I tell them it's cause they're saving me from a flight down to hell. Nothing good ever happened to me at the Atlanta airport. NOTHING!

As for CPR/mouth to mouth, there's a plastic shield that's used to cover a victim's lips but with an opening. Forgot the name of it... I carry it in a tiny pouch on my key chain so it's with everywhere I go.

Posted by: michele at October 16, 2006 10:24 AM

Geez, Bou, I'd hate to see you on a bad travel day. I’ve gotten used to the Chaos That Is ATL over many years of all-too-frequent traveling, so all this business doesn't give me conniptions. But it is a colossal Pain In The Arse compared to what it used to be. [I'm old enough to remember when there was no airport security screening whatsoever.]

That said, the important thing is that you are home safe. And those of use who got to visit with you at the Hysterics at Eric's are glad you were willing to put up with the (temporary) inconvenience of travel so that we could enjoy your company.

Posted by: Elisson at October 16, 2006 12:19 PM

Wow. But you had fun *between* that bouts of travelling, right?? Tell me you had some fun to balance that out...

Posted by: Richmond at October 16, 2006 12:29 PM

Mihchele is right about the CPR mask. They told me about them when I took a Red Cross CPR class 10 years ago. I imagine they can sell you one or tell you where to get one.

And I'm not afraid of flying, but the hassle factor you illustrated makes me start to give serious thought to cross-country driving on my next trip. With flying, sure you get their quicker, but your brain is fried and your nerves are rattled. (Plus I've had major hassles and extra expense with rental cars after flying the past two trips... but that's ANOTHER story....)

Posted by: George at October 16, 2006 01:30 PM

So glad that you braved the horrors of travel to spend some time with your blogger friends. We all enjoyed seeing you, Mo, and Sissy again. It's just not often enough.

I used to love to fly. No more. Both trips to Texas this year, I drove. Will do the same if I go to Texas next year.

Posted by: Denny at October 16, 2006 02:40 PM

Flying just sucks wet socks. Period. I just need to factor in an extra hour over what I do, keep a good book and realize I'm going to sit and read in the airport as I wait.

I had a GREAT time with everyone. Holy crap. I had a blast and it was so totally worth it. The air travel just wigs me out.

And Dom, it's a 9 hour drive, which is not bad, but I wasn't staying in ATL. I needed to get there so we could keep moving, so time was a factor. Driving wasn't an option really.

Posted by: bou at October 16, 2006 02:55 PM

So glad you braved it so we could go to the pumpkin festival together.

Posted by: SWMBO at October 16, 2006 06:08 PM

Bou,

Well didn't you just take all the fun out of flying?

Seriously, that is a great post. Since I fly once a month, I rarely think about what a hassle it's become. The fact that I can't stay awake on an airplane is a big perk for me too. You definitely need a book or a DVD player for the layovers.

Traveling with kids? Better take a valium first.

Posted by: Jerry at October 16, 2006 06:16 PM

Flying itself doesn't bother me. Even landing with 45mph winds at O'Hare doesn't bug me (that was Friday)... it's all those delays and all the crap just to get to the point where you find out everything has been cancelled. I hate that.

Posted by: Teresa at October 16, 2006 08:18 PM