Friday, June 17, 2011

All the fun of travel without ever leaving the airport

What follows is a slighted redacted version of my sister’s blow-by-blow description of her latest adventure traveling.
Background: She takes the bus down from Portland, and the parents go to Logan by cab. They rendezvous there at United Airlines, in order to fly to Chicago to watch their estimable & venerable godson/grandson graduate from Business school where he has learned how to find Free Food wherever it may be. It is time to go through Security, which in the 21st century has replaced cholera as a traveler’s best friend. We shall now switch to my sister’s voice:
• We get in line; there is only ONE line.
• Mom goes through first. She has a faux knee, which requires a pat-down after the scan. She goes ahead and has certain parts of her body patted down 'with the back of a hand". Dad and I are right behind her.
• I remove Dad’s shoes, which are double-knotted. Tightly double-knotted.
• I remove Dad’s belt. His pants start to descend. I will try to ignore this warning sign.
• I remove Dad’s jacket.
• I remove both wallets, one from each back pocket. He always carries two wallets – can anyone tell me why?
• He is called to go through the full body scanner. But he cannot do this because he physically cannot raise his arms above his head, and it is required to do this in order to be seen in one’s naked glory by the snickering TSA staff inside the Wizard’s black box.
• He steps out of the scanner and is sent through the metal detector machine. It beeps.
• I walk through the detector in order to re-check his pockets, and I unclip the volume control for his hearing aid.
• Have I mentioned that Dad is completely unsteady on his feet because they took away his cane, and he is walking in socks and has no feeling in his feet because of neuropathy? Well, he is.
• He goes through the detector again. It beeps again.
• I go through again and discover that his house keys are deep inside yet another pocket, and his watch is still on. I remove them.
• He goes through the detector again. It beeps. People behind us in line are getting agitated. Have I mentioned that there is only ONE line?
• I dig even deeper into his pockets and find a bag with extra hearing aid batteries and a used handkerchief. Have I mentioned how much I enjoy rooting around in my father’s business in the middle of Logan airport? No? That is because I was not enjoying this one bit.
• Dad goes through again. He doesn’t beep.
• Now I get scolded for going through the x-ray and must go back out the detector so I can go through the body scanner. The woman in charge of the scanner yells at me because I have my boarding pass in my pocket. I remove it, put the by-now radioactive boarding pass between my teeth, raise my hands above my head, and get scanned. I hope someone out there is enjoying this.
• I am sent on my way, and I put Dad’s shoes back on, double knotting the laces. I put his belt back on, his jacket back on, and put all his items back in their appointed pockets.
• At the gate we find Mom awaiting us.She could use a nap.
• The flight is delayed due to thunderstorms. We have excellent molded plastic seats at the gate, allowing us to watch the sky darken and the planes taxi.
• Six and a half hours later we are told we can board. We are on the gangplank. The pilot emerges from the plane and announces that there is no way he is flying in ‘that weather’ and besides, he is ‘timed out.’ We return to the gate.
• Thirty minutes later the flight is officially canceled.

1 comment:

Anne said...

Having just come back from the North Country by way of Porter Airlines' new connection Newark-Toronto-Mont-Tremblant, I read your recent posts with even greater than usual interest. The whole craziness of shoe removal, etc. leading to full body scanning or pat downs, then the wait for boarding, then the slow boarding process itself, the seating and then the chant of the flight attendants starting with how to buckle the seat belt: it is all a magical incantation, isn't it? Nothing to do with really making anyone safer, but somehow, in some Kantian way, the more obnoxious the inconveniences, the longer the waits, the safer we will inevitably be. It did occur to me that the booklet of 'safety instructions' located in the seat pocket might better be a collection of suggested prayers...some for private meditation, and others designed for group responses...psalms where the right hand side of the plane would do the first verse, then the left hand side...