The destination is the ecstasy—either the smooth marble temple or the legendary spires on ancient, fragile treasures or the craggy mountain and the red rocks or the white-pebbled, frothy shoreline. The travel is the agony—either the subway car where someone drippy sneezes directly on you or the cab ride to the airport in a “Cash for Clunkers” with no shocks. What about the pat-down at the TSA security line at the airport after you sorted your life in four large gray bins (laptop, shoes, purse, cell phone and charger, 3-ounce bottle of Visine, bifocals, jacket, umbrella, and carry-on bag, the one with “I’m a Tourist from Indiana, Rob Me” printed on the side.)
Last weekend we flew back from an east coast city, grateful that returning to southern Indiana involved only one connecting stop. The first leg of the trip was uneventful and on a standard-sized jet. Only when we arrived at the connecting airport did the complete agony fully reveal itself. About thirty minutes before the thirty- minute flight, the informative gate attendant began making announcements.
Welcome to Regional Midwest International Airlines. We are glad that you are flying with us today. We board by zones. Please remain in your seat until your zone is called and then you may come through the gate.
First, I want to welcome persons who need special assistance, parents with small children, and elderly people or those in wheelchairs may board. The gate monitor continued: Next, we want to welcome our frequent flyers, members of our Special Club, members of our Really Special Club, Civil War generals, business class passengers, goat herders, goats, and those with a pentagram stamped on their ticket. This group may use our special “breezeway” and bypass me at the gate.
About two-thirds of the group got up and went through the “breezeway.” We do not fly often enough to make collecting frequent flyer points or joining the special upgrade clubs worthwhile. This breezeway idea made absolutely no sense to me. The small plane could not hold more than forty-five people. We were all headed down the same jetway, outside to a shaky metal set of stairs, around on the concrete tarmac to the plane, and up its small fold-out stairs. What is special about an imaginary eight-foot “breezeway” marked off by theatre ropes? Who buys a business class ticket to walk through a rope line?
Attention, passengers. Now we are ready to board zones one and two.
About ten remaining passengers stood up and presented their crumpled paper tickets. The gate clerk pointed to us, the two remaining, and said,
Finally, zone three, you, that couple in the corner wearing bifocals and looking like you were chosen last for Red Rover on the elementary school playground. Yes, You two, Zone Three, come ahead.
Sheepishly, we went through the gate, ashamed that we did not belong to the Real Special Club or herd goats. Now we were all on the plane, and ready to take off. The flight attendant gave a lengthy oration.
Blah, blah, blah, just like the never-seen teacher in Charlie Brown cartoons. Please do not sit in an exit row if you are under fifteen years old, easily distracted, or think that you will block the exit.
I did not hear much of her speech, distracted by shiny things on the cover of “Sky Mall” magazine. The uneventful flight took about 28 minutes and we were on the ground at home, vowing to sign up for the upgrade next time.
This is a vintage piece from the 2013 book, “A Piece of Her Mind,” by Amy McVay Abbott. Yes, “Sky Mall” magazine has been killed by the Internet, just when I need more worthless electronic junk.