Wednesday, August 29, 2007


I was recently asked to travel for business purposes which will necessitate the use of the airline industry. I used to do this quite a bit, and while I am happy to be able to make the trip, I am afraid that my experience with airline travel in the past has left me with the distinct aroma and sour taste in my mouth of natural fertilizer, and an impending sense of dread where future travel is concerned. Since I now have a soapbox on which to recount and complain about these prior experiences, I shall do so here.

Arriving at the Temple of Travel that my hard earned tax dollars have paid to build (and are paying to remodel every other year whether it needs it or not), I get to stand in a long line at a ticket counter, only to have to serve myself in the end. With some luck, the computer that I am dealing with agrees that I have a reservation and that I will not have to sit in a seat between two retired sumo wrestlers (but I'm not holding my breath). 

Now clutching a document that the airlines call a 'Boarding Pass', but which seems more like a certificate reading either "I am an Idiot" or "Please Torture and Abuse Me', I hand my belongings over to the airlines for attempted destruction, and quietly make my way to the security area. My God, these people know as much about real security as I do about nuclear physics! Any relation that the government regulations involved here have to actual security is purely accidental, and the use of common sense is strictly prohibited by this bunch of people who wouldn't qualify as greeters in a Wal-Mart. The experience would be funny as a Monty Python sketch or a scene from a Mel Brooks movie, but when it is happening to you ... not so much. 

Eventually however, having submitted to a complete loss of dignity (and a body cavity search), I am released from this "Midnight Express" experience and allowed to proceed to the gate. Fighting my way through the ADL in both terminal and gate area (see previous posting "Emergency Travel Alert"), I finally manage to find my seat, only to find it occupied by someone who didn't seem to understand the concept of either the numbers or the alphabet and how they relate to seat assignments. After explaining these concepts to them, I finally manage to sit down in what I realize has mostly become a Greyhound bus with wings, only to find myself crammed into a piece of furniture that would be considered excessive torture during the Spanish Inquisition (which nobody expected, by the way). 

Wedged in and unable to move, I am lectured unceasingly on such esoteric concepts as the operation of a seat belt, how to breathe through a mask, and why I should spend the last minutes of my life sucking old beer farts our of a seat cushion that I erroneously chose as a floatation device in the event of a "Water Landing". (I sometimes ask myself why, if this is a landing, they can't just make the plane float, but never get an intelligent answer.)

Having now lost my will to live, I gratefully accept food served in a portion so small that a United Nations relief effort in a Third World Hell Hole would would be aghast at its distribution; and a beverage portion normally reserved for cowboys drinking 'rot-gut whiskey' in a western movie. (That is of course, assuming that you are served anything at all

I point out specifically that you accept these things gratefully because if you do not, the person passing them out (who does not seem to be particularly happy in their job) can have you arrested at the next stop for any lack of cooperation that you show. I finally attempt to fall asleep, hoping that the oblivion of unconsciousness will serve as a release from this nightmare; only to be awakened by a pilot who had seems to have missed his calling as the tour guide for the butter sculpture tent at the state fair, and who feels that my travel experience could only be enhanced by telling me that I was flying over Ft. Wayne, Indiana (it wasn't).

Finally reaching my destination, I bleakly make my way down to the baggage claim area; only to find that my baggage has been lost, stolen, or has become so unrecognizable because of the damage that has been done to it during transit that I am no longer capable of recognizing it. Disheartened, but by now pummeled by the experience to the point that I am only capable of nodding my head vaguely; I disconsolately fill out the proper forms for recompense for my property, knowing that I will probably receive a settlement capable of allowing me to purchase one designer outfit consisting of blue jeans and a tee shirt from the aforementioned Wal-Mart (but only if its on sale). Looking back on the entire experience, I really have to wonder why I am not looking forward to my upcoming trip and why I don't try to do this more often...

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