Traveling by plane used to be fun, well maybe not fun, but at least pleasant and certainly much easier than it is today. I think we all used to look forward to feeling a little special when the stewardess, now flight attendant, actually seemed to enjoy serving us a beverage and choice of in-flight meal. Of course if you were in the back of the plane, you most likely got whatever was the least popular of the two choices, but it was food, and best of all it was ‘free.’
We used to complain about the food, but now we consider ourselves lucky if a bag of peanuts is tossed our way, and we rave about the airlines that hand out chocolate chip cookies (what happened to the champagne and strawberries?) Today we hope there is enough time between security or our connecting flight to grab a bite of overpriced food while racing to the gate. For me, it’s a toss-up: airport cuisine may be a step above airline fare, but it’s ten times as expensive as it should be. This morning, I paid ten dollars and fifty six cents for a bagel, a bottle of water, and a cup of bad coffee; I think I’d rather have ‘free.’
A lot has changed about travel. I miss the lingering farewells, boisterous homecomings and hugs experienced at the gate; they’ve been replaced with hasty hellos and rushed goodbyes in the ‘drop off zone.’
It seems that the only thing about traveling that isn’t rushed is going through security. ‘They’ don’t advise you to arrive two hours before departure for no reason. My flight was at 6 a.m., which made for a very short night or a very early morning, depending on which way you look at it. Either way by 4 a.m. I was in a cab and on my way to the airport.
Surprisingly there was no line to check in. I guess I was one of three that chose to pay the fee and check my bag rather than go without my perfume or necessary hair products. Judging by the long security line and the caterpillar pace, airlines charging to check baggage may have caused more than one unintended consequence. Nearly every person in line had a carry on, hmmm – more work for TSA, less revenue for the airline, and it takes longer to get through security. In the end the plane weighs the same and doesn’t cost any less to fly.
Early morning staffing must be a problem because there was only one TSA agent checking IDs, one droning instructions, and two security belts open for scanning bags. I shifted from one foot to the other and tried to be patient as the line inched forward. I wasn’t late for my flight but I was in dire need of coffee and food. Forty-five minutes later, the clatter of a metal gate being raised and the words, “Folks, move along and fill the line to the station that just opened up,” was music to my ears.
Within five minutes only one person stood between me and the next point in the security process. There were twenty people between me and the newly opened station, so I pretended I didn’t hear the instruction to wrap around to the new line.
This did not make the TSA man happy.
He bellowed rather than droned, “Folks, if everyone would just follow directions and go to the next open station rather than stopping at the first person you see, everyone will get out of here just a little quicker. It’s YOUR choice and YOUR tax dollars, if you don’t go to the open position, you’re paying someone to sit and do absolutely nothing, and you’re NOT getting your money’s worth.”
The agent checking my ID raised his eyebrow, shook his head and muttered, “That’s a new one. There are twenty people in line for the other guy. Tax dollars at work, getting your money’s worth, is he for real?”
There was one last obstacle between me and a bad cup of coffee. I filled the totes with my laptop, shoes, jacket, and purse; ready to face the metal detector. Much to my chagrin, I got ‘the hand,’ the stop, do not enter hand. It was followed by a sideways wave motioning me toward the entrance to the body scan.
I stepped onto the footprints outlined on the squishy black rubber mat, raised my hands above my head like it showed in the picture, and wondered what the security people could really see. Relieved to be done with the body scan I stepped out of the contraption ready to gather my things and find the nearest open coffee shop. No such luck, instead I was greeted with the phrase, “Female traveler, need an agent for a pat down.”
I guess you could say on this trip, I ‘got my money’s worth.’