A couple of weeks ago, I boarded a plane bound for Denver, Colorado. I really wanted to go to Denver, Colorado as it was the closest airport to where our son lives. As some of you know, the Asheville airport is being expanded. The parking lot sure has. My husband drove around for quite a while looking for a parking space. We eventually found one that seemed about halfway back to our neighborhood. A bus picked us up and dropped us at the terminal. Because I married a smart man, we were ushered to the front of the line due to our priority status. It seemed grossly unfair to all those folks already lined up for check in at the ticket counter. We could have taken our place in their line, but we didn’t because my guy paid more for our tickets and that afforded us the royal treatment. Our elite status pretty much ended there.
After once again forking over our driver’s licenses for careful scrutiny, we had to take off our shoes and anything else which might be misconstrued as an instrument worthy of hijacking a plane and place them in multiple bins which we may or may not ever see again. I had to put my backpack in a bin which other peoples’ shoes had previously occupied and say goodbye to it as it scooted down the rollers toward whatever machine would guarantee my safety while cruising at an altitude of several thousand feet. Then an airport security officer motioned me into the box where I had to hold up my hands like a surrendering criminal. You know the drill. The chase was on to get out of that box to rescue my backpack and shoes and find a bench on which to don my belongings with a modicum of dignity intact. I managed to complete the inspection with good cheer as the safety of all passengers and crewmembers was at stake. That was the fun part.
Every savvy traveler knows that arriving two hours before your flight is the prudent thing to do. That leaves the prudent traveler with about an hour to roam about the airport looking for ways to spend money on overpriced merchandise. It’s a closed circuit. Five laps around the C terminal might eat up all of 15 minutes if you cheat by using those people-mover walkways (aka flat escalators). You could, of course, get on one of those handy cross-airport trains and explore terminal A if you keep good track of the time and don’t accidently leave the secured area and have to go through security again. The Asheville airport doesn’t have one of those trains…yet. We chose to sit at the gate and read. Big mistake.
I don’t like to sit. Three-hour movie? Forget it…unless there’s interactive audience swordplay, dancing or anything else that requires the viewer to stand up. The flight from Asheville to Denver had no traveler participation beyond the security checkpoint. In-air time was announced as 2 hours and 40 minutes. Sometimes I forget to factor in the auxiliary sitting time. Pre-boarding is an extra hour, boarding can take up to 30 minutes if the flight is full and you have priority status, allowing you to board first, which, in retrospect, we should not have done. Taxiing to and from the runway (and waiting for take-off time) can be as long as 10 to 15 minutes each, but seems longer at the destination end when I have to, have to, have to unbuckle my seatbelt before the Fasten Seat Belt Sign is turned off, putting myself and others in peril.
All told, I spent slightly over 5 hours sitting to get to the Denver airport. Then, of course, there was the bus to the car rental place and a couple more hours to our son’s house. That is more sitting than I can handle. Fortunately, I had the chance to stand and/or walk in between some of those hours and an on-flight bathroom visit, though fraught with detangling and the old “excuse me, but” invitation to free myself from the center seat, allowed for a little more circulation in these legs, which kept me from screaming and causing a fuss.
The last time I flew the friendly skies was five years ago, to Denver for the kid’s college graduation. This time, we booked on Allegiant Airlines because they have a direct flight. They were punctual, which I appreciated. The weather was fair all the way through–both ways. I have nothing but praise for the efficiency of this airline and all the wonderful people who staffed that vehicle. Thank goodness since nothing else about this city to-city movement made me a fan of flying.
I especially hate tight spaces. It’s not claustrophobia exactly. It’s the need to be able to spontaneously fling my limbs about me. It’s the allowance of a close proximity of humans which, under most circumstances, would be considered rude. Whenever I hear the term cluster-fuck, I picture a plane full of tightly packed people stacked like fifty forks in a drawer that’s built to hold twenty. I feel sorry for the people on that plane, especially if I’m one of them, especially if I have to sit in the center seat. Give a few of them some alcoholic drinks, and the possibilities for bad behavior becomes enormous. The worst behavior on my recent flight was a screaming child. I felt its misery. I would liked to have let lose a few unrestrained howls myself.
Airlines make more money if they can inhumanely squeeze as many ordinary citizens into the cabin as is physically possible. Over the years, I have seen the space each person is allowed to occupy diminish to a point where there is no space between them. It gives a feeling of intimacy where I certainly don’t want it. I came off that plane with distinctive elbow dents in my sides. I could put my elbow on the arm rest between myself and my husband and even lean into him a little to allow some room on the “stranger” side of the row. The aisle passenger was not friendly, but quietly acquiesced to my polite request for him to move out of my way when the obligatory bathroom break was needed.
I managed to scoot my backpack under the seat in front of me for takeoff. Retrieving it was another matter altogether. My years of training with the Cirque du Soleil would have come in handy at that moment had I actually ever done that. Instead, I maneuvered my upper body in such a manner as to be able to slide my index finger under the handle at the top of my backpack and pull it up into my lap creating only minor muscle spasms in my neck and lower back. It was worth it. I had my novel, crossword puzzles and a book of Sudoku puzzles along with my nerdy pencil case (complete with pencil sharpener). These were meant to be my diversions for the duration of the flight.
Remember the airline tray table? That handy gadget which attached to the back of the seat in front of you? I recalled the many flights I’ve taken over the years in which the tray table played an important role in the utility of having something to place stuff on. On Allegiant flight 236, there existed only a half-sheet of paper worth of tray space, for the purpose of what I am still not sure. I could probably have fit a martini glass on it, but those now come in cans. Neither my Sudoku puzzle book nor my novel could be adequately supported by the thing. So I had to hold my puzzle book up with my left hand while scribbling and erasing numbers 1 through 9 with my right. Then my pencil escaped my grip and dropped to the floor.
The ensuing scuffle became a moment of revelation for me. So this is why the T-Rex became extinct, I thought. I leaned forward from the waist, much as I had done with my retrieve-the-backpack maneuver. But for the fact that the pencil was next to my foot and had no handy handle with which to grab it, I might have been able to contort myself just enough to accomplish the task. After continually banging my forehead on the seat in front of me, I went so far as to lift up the arm rest between me and my husband, scooted my hips as far to the opposite side as I was able and leaned toward his knee in my mad desire to rescue my pencil, but my arm was too short, even in that humiliating position, to do anything more than wave goodbye to my writing implement. The seat rows were so close, the airline attendants no longer recommended passengers put their heads in their laps in case of emergency landing because only a five-year-old child might be able to accomplish that particular action without getting his face entangled in the netting which now serves as a pocket for the inflight magazine, safety instructions and puke bag.
Not to worry, I had two other pencils in my nerdy pencil case (of course!) and simply hauled out a new one and held it with an iron grip. My lost pencil was later discovered by the five-year-old sitting behind me and was graciously returned to be nestled amongst its brethren next to my three-inch ruler and the Pikachu eraser. All this drama served the purpose of diverting my attention from the fact that I was crammed between my dear husband and some unknown man, hurtling through the sky at 34,000 feet cruising altitude and wondering what kind of meal I could possibly get at the Denver airport after claiming our luggage, which was hopefully stowed somewhere below deck. At least I wasn’t on a boat!
The airline might have fudged a bit on how much my safety and comfort were of importance to them, but their promise to get me to Denver in 2 hours and 40 minutes was fulfilled to my great satisfaction. I would then spend nearly the same amount of time sitting in order to get to my son’s house. The scenery was better and I could place my forehead on my knees if I pushed the car seat back. But first we had to be instructed on how to use the rental car’s navigation system. I’m sure those rental agents roll their eyes every time they have to help in this regard. I hooked up my phone to their machinery and off we went. Those mountains looked wonderful from the car, and, as my Pandora app somehow started blasting my favorite music without my consent, we had a pleasant drive along the front range.
We made it there and back and had fun in between!
Travel quotes in Quote of the Week (in menu above).