Please place all of your patience, sanity, and shoes into the plastic containers...In honor of my departure on Tuesday for a brief sojurn to the midwest, I have decided to do a little bit of a travel theme for the next couple of days...
Let's face it, a trip to the airport is something that has never been joyous. At least for me, anyway. It involves a lot of walking, a lot of waiting, and if you're unlucky enough, running and more waiting when you realize that your flight has either changed gates at the last minute, has been delayed, or there was a snafu with the ticketing. All three scenarios have happened to me in the past, and although I never required an injecting of thorazine to help relax my grip around the neck of some hapless airline agent, I've at least imagined the scenario enough times for it to become theraputic in instances where my young children have been assigned seats three rows apart from me, or when I- a 6' tall behemoth of a woman who already has a slight disdain for flying- have been placed in the very back row of an over-booked jet.
Be all that as it may, I think it's safe to assume that flying in the last five years has become even more of a hair-raising experience, due to the advent of tighter security measures. Ones which, in my opinion, do nothing more than create an illusion of safety rather than safety itself. Of course, if the goal was to create a buereaucratic agency that functions like the American government itself- bloated, slow, expensive, and incredibly inefficient and ineffective- then the feds had an incredible success with implementing the Transportation Safety Administration.
Perhaps the most faithful adherent to the aforementioned adjectives that I've been subjected to is Port Columbus International Airport, where after you finish checking in at the ticket counter, you have to turn right back around with all of your baggage (and if you're travelling with children fresh from a trip with grandparents who have increased the weight of said baggage by about 100 pounds, give or take an ounce, this is REALLY fun) and manually feed your suitcases through a giant MRI machine before they will check it for you. Joyful in and of itself before you proceed to the security checkpoint where the regular ritual of shoe removal, laptop opening, I.D./ticket juggling- and if you're lucky- a totally random search of every speck of your belongings and person ensues.
The ultimate nightmare is if you make a wrong turn while trying to get to a connecting flight (in one of the world's largest airports, for instance) and have to go BACK through security a second time. Trust me when I say that this is the one time in which I begin to wonder if there is the existence of a higher being, because I have no idea what else holds my murderous desires at bay. It is also perhaps a miracle that American airports have not become terrorist training grounds in and of themselves. If it takes desperation and rage to breed terrorists, a trip to the Middle East might not actually be necessary.
Regardless of whether or not what happens at airports now has benefitted travellers in the longrun (I just won't go there right now), I feel the need to lament on what used to make these trips more bearable. Such as the warm, happy feeling of seeing your loved one step right off the jetway, and the safe reassurance you used to be able to feel whenever you could see them walk onto the plane and then stay to watch it taxi the runway. It definitely would have been a help when travelling alone with children to be able to have those extra hands available as well. Although, to be fair, my mom was able to get a special pass to accompany me to the gate the last time I did this. So the reigns are being loosened a little in some instances.
But then you have the over-priced food, broken air conditioning (yes, I'm talking about YOU, Dallas/Ft. Worth), crowded trams, the absence of those really handy moving walkways when you REALLY need one, etc etc.
At least this time, I will be travelling alone. I will have only my baggage to worry about and plenty of reading material and my iPod to keep me entertained. No strollers, child-sized carry on, and kid's shoes to feed through the conveyor belt.
Seattle-Tacoma International will be hard-pressed to make a terrorist out of me, at least this time.