Well Traveled (Part I)

Want to know the current state of airport security?  Last Friday, on our way to our eventually doomed flight to Washington (more on that later), we had to take off all our metal objects and our shoes, get scanned and checked and re-checked, and were finally allowed down to the waiting area by our gate.

Where I was able to buy a root beer in a glass bottle.

So, although you are perfectly safe from guns, knives, and baseball bats, you’re one shattered bottle away from a good cutting.

The other funny security thing was that we were constantly reminded that the current threat level was orange.  This is one notch below the top of the scale.  In my mind, “orange” means I should be seeing turbans all over the place, but everything seemed to be business as usual.  Nobody even seemed properly scared by the color scale.

Our travel adventure got off to a great start, which should have been a sign to just go back home and ask for them to send us pictures from the wedding.  We managed to park in the satellite lot right as the airport shuttle was pulling in.  We got our bag checked in a matter of minutes.  We breezed through the security check-point.  They announced our flight was eight minutes ahead of schedule.  I was able to buy a potential weapon.  Things were looking up.

Then they said there’d be a ten minute delay, just a maintenance bookkeeping issue, not big deal.  But then that became ten more minutes.  Then another ten.  Then they were looking for a part.  Then the part was being flown in.  Then we were sitting in a Best Western wondering why the hell we weren’t in Washington.

And so we were booked on a flight at 6:15 the following morning.  Which meant we had to be on the hotel shuttle at 5:00.  Which meant getting up at 3:00 to get ready, since we weren’t sure we’d have time to get to our hotel in DC before the wedding.  Our entire weekend had basically been cut in half.

On the bright side, we got to see sort of the yin/yang of a typical Waffle House.  There was one right next to the hotel, so we hit it for dinner around 8:00, just as the overnight shift was coming in.  It was fairly laid back, just a couple of folks grabbing greasy food.  Then we went back for breakfast around 4:00, and let me tell you, the place was hopping.  Unlike us, most people there seemed to be just ending their day, all pleasantly drunk and eating waffles.  And, as I can tell you from experience, an hour or so away from profoundly regretting mixing alcohol and pancake syrup.

So it was back to the airport, to the scene of our debacle from the previous day.  This time, the flight was actually going to Philadelphia, then connecting to DC.  Double the opportunity for things to go wrong.

Now, I haven’t been on a plane in about ten years.  I just don’t do that much traveling that can’t be done by car.  So I’m not really used to the experience.  Any little shudder was obviously the engine falling off.  Any change of sound meant we’d lost power and were about to smack into the earth.  The flight attendant asking me if I wanted a drink was a veiled “Do you have any last requests?”  But seeing as how no one else around me was in a state of panic, I eventually settled down and watch the scenery go by below.  Once you’re up and cruising, flight is a very calming experience.  You can see the gentle curve of the horizon, and you get an idea of just how simultaneously big and small this place is. It was almost peaceful.

Not to say I didn’t nearly lose my mind a half dozen times during the descent and landing.

We didn’t stay long at Philadelphia International Airport, but we were there long enough to discover a scientific breakthrough that I’m amazed they’ve managed to keep secret:  they have invisible golf carts there.  I say this because I’ll be damned if anyone at the airport saw the damn things.  They must have some kind of sound dampening technology too, because nobody seemed to be able to hear the horns and bells blaring for them to get out of the way either.  A goldmine waiting to be tapped.

Before long, we were looking at the plane that would take us to Washington.  As well as its propellers.

Yes, we’d be flying to our nation’s capitol in the finest flight technology 1955 had to offer.  And this time, there’d be no comforting calm gently soaring above the ground.  Oh no.  This was thirty minutes of endless engine drone coupled with wondering if Amelia Earhart was going to step out of the cockpit, followed by about five minutes of sheer terror as it felt like the plane didn’t so much descend as drop repeatedly.  And the disconcerting moment where it felt for all the world like the engines had just stopped and we were going to glide in, you know, just for fun.

And that’s how we touched down in DC.  I didn’t kiss the ground, but I sure looked at it lustily.

To be continued in Part II.

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One Response to Well Traveled (Part I)

  1. Joe says:

    a couple of years ago I had to make a trip to San Fran from Seattle. In the security line I realized that I had forgotten to take the little pocket knife off of my keychain. It was one of those knives with a 1.5” blade on it. My choices were to get out of line (sucky), volunteer that I had the knife (and lose it forever), or put it in the carry on and act dumb if they found it. Naturally, I decided to act dumb. I put the bag on the x-ray machine, walked through and sure enough – the security guard gave me the line “Sir, is this your bag?”…ugh. here we go! He pulled me aside and started rifling through my stuff (this was a one night trip, so I had my change of clothes in there as well). He pulled out my toiletry bag grabbed something and said “Sir, what is this?”. I said “uh…that’s tooth paste….” He said “it is more than 3 oz. I’m going to have to throw it away.” I gave him permission, he zipped up my bag, ordered me to “have a nice day” and let me go. Wow. On the way back from SF, I thought I’d try it again. This time, they pulled me off to the side and gave me the same line “Sir, what is this?”. I said “uh, that’s shaving cream”. “Sir, we are going to have to throw it away as it is more than the allowed size of a liquid.”…”Uh, ok…” (btw, this was the same shaving cream I flew down with…)then he let me go.I still have that knife someplace…

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