I have been traveling through airports a lot recently. Airline travel is a form of transportation in which passengers are packed into sardine cans without preservatives and shot out of a canon to their final destination, wherever that may be. Thank god we have our choice of carriers.
It wasn’t always this way. Once upon a time airline travel was exciting and fun, a time when you could cross your legs and alcohol was complimentary. I may be wrong, but I think this was when the Wright brothers were still flying.
Nowadays I often find myself wedged in a middle seat toward the rear of the plane. Nowadays, the only meals I am served are my knees, which are forced into my mouth by the reclining seat in front of me. Nowadays, instead of paying extra to bring a suitcase, I wear all my clothes. Nowadays, I would gladly pay for a drink if only I could get to my wallet.
This sort of minimalist, ala carte flying is known as Airboarding, and unlike its counter part with water, it is legal. Thankfully, the Geneva Convention has mandated the use of Sudoku on flights to avoid a common malady associated with flying: Brain Death.
Unfortunately, traveling in confined spaces like this is no longer physically safe, and we must endure lengthy and extensive security checks prior to packaging. For this we can thank terrorists who refuse to check their bags, preferring instead to stow their explosives in the overhead compartment, under the seat in front of them, or in their underwear.
A lot has been said recently about the new full-body scanning machines and pat-down procedures initiated by the TSA at airports. It is an invasion of privacy, travellers say. Personally I think sitting arm in arm with a strange man in the back of an airplane for five hours is an invasion of privacy, but what do I know.
But I understand that people are concerned about enduring an MRI Lite prior to boarding. After all, those images could be found one day on Wikileaks. And of course, as security checks go, pat-downs are pretty denigrating, especially to the poor TSA employees who must work on me.
I think the real problem with security checks is that during the scan process you must raise both hands in the air. This can be somewhat embarrassing if you have just surrendered your belt.
But this is all now a necessary part of air travel, and with it come long lines and delays similar to what we have come to expect at places like Disney World.
On my most recent flight, just minutes before the plane was ready to depart, a rather large distraught man struggled down the aisle sideways dragging a bulging bag and holding his boots in one hand. He had obviously sprinted to the plane from security; he was sweating and breathing heavily.
I just knew he was destined for the empty aisle seat next to me, the only empty seat on the plane. I tried not to let my disappointment show.
He looked at his boarding pass, then looked at the scrawny seat beside me, then at me, and then at his boarding pass again as if he could not believe his bad luck.
He must have been a golfer. He was wearing red pants.
He opened the overhead compartment and several jackets fell onto the heads of the disgruntled passengers below. A flight attendant rushed urgently down the aisle, bumping into the haphazard kneecaps of uncomfortably seated passengers as she went.
“I’m sorry sir, you will have to check that bag,” the attendant said desperately. “There is no more room in the overhead compartment.”
The large man protested vigorously, but the attendant wrestled the bulging sack out of his hands and told him it would be checked through to his final destination. She guided the man into his seat, which is to say my right thigh, and instructed him to quickly prepare for an on-time departure.
Here is another thing about modern air travel; there is no air circulation.
“Do you mind putting your shoes back on.” I asked politely. The man nodded, but it soon became obvious such a task was impossible, even for a contortionist.
“Where is your final destination?” I asked before the man stuck some white ear buds the color of his beard deep into his ears to shut out reality.
The man snorted. “I am flying around the world, and if I make all my connections I will end at my home on the North Pole.”
I contemplated this for a minute, along with his red pants and white beard, before returning to my Sudoku puzzle. I felt sorry for the poor guy.
That’s a lot of airports. Especially during the holidays.