If you’re a fairly regular reader of this irregular blog, you know that things never go smoothly for me when I travel. Usually, the issues pop up either at the airport or once on the plane. While both of these happened during my most recent trip, there was a new wrinkle that brought home the fact that people’s jobs shouldn’t be taken over by non-humans. I’ve always believed that, but keep reading for the fun details.
So, I recently traveled to Texas from SC. I made sure to book a nonstop both ways to avoid all the frustrations that come with hoping your plane leaves on time, hoping that the gate for your connecting flight is in the same zip code as the gate you arrived at, hoping your luggage makes it to your connecting flight (if you have to spring for checking your luggage which I rarely do unless I’m gone for a month – which I haven’t been), hoping the connecting flight leaves on time, and, well, you get the picture.
When I made my reservation, the only seat available on the flying tin can was a seat in the very last row in front of the restroom. Since I had no desire to pay $40 for a seat a few rows up, I reserved that seat. So imagine my surprise when I finally made my way to the back of the plane and found a rather large, older man firmly planted in the seat. The flight attendant was standing right behind him in the aisle, watching everyone trying to shove their overstuffed backpacks into the teeny-weeny overhead bins. The rest of us who had carry-ons had to gate-check them since the bins on these bus-sized planes aren’t large enough to hold a cell phone, let alone a small suitcase.
Anyway, I very politely asked the flight attendant if I was indeed at the right seat (I knew I was, but didn’t want to rile anyone up – there was no room for riling on this plane). The man said he thought my seat was across from his, indicating two empty seats. The flight attendant asked to see my boarding pass which was on my phone. It took forever to get my phone to access my boarding pass, but once I did, she made a hmmph sound and told me to sit in the empty seat across from the man until she figured things out. She was starting to stress about a couple who didn’t speak English and somehow had managed to board with a huge, quilted duffel bag which was half the size of the plane, which they were trying to cram into the minuscule overhead bin.
Wouldn’t you know it, but the moment I sat in the empty seat, a man made his way to the back of the plane and stood in front of me expectantly. “Your seat?” I asked, resignedly. He nodded and I squeezed into the area next to the restroom in the back of the plane, waiting to see what happened next. The flight attendant made her way back and told me as soon as everyone was on board, she would get me a seat in the front of the plane. I said that was fine since I didn’t really care where I sat, I just wanted to get a seat already. A few more minutes passed when suddenly, the man in what I knew was my seat literally jumped up, popped the overhead bin open and grabbed his cane, and excited announced, “This isn’t 5C!” He then barreled down the aisle to the front of the plane. I stood in shock for a moment, and then calmly reclaimed my seat.
I had a great visit in Texas, doing lots of Texas-type things with friends and family. Then came the flight home. First, the line to get through security at the airport was long and snaky. Anticipating this, we had gotten to the airport with plenty of time to spare. I finally got to go through the X-ray machine with my hands in the air, and went to reclaim my carry-on, purse and shoes, when I saw that my carry-on was being held hostage next to the screening person. Fortunately, the TSA guy who was checking things out was young and cute and funny, so I wasn’t too stressed out. After he checked out the shopping bags of the girls in front of me who somehow didn’t realize they weren’t supposed to shove a nearly full bottle of water in their shopping bag to go through security, it was my turn. I asked what they thought they saw. He asked if I had a candle. Why, yes I did. I was very proud of having gotten a great deal at a store at the mall that had everything half price. He opened my suitcase, started undoing the great folding job I had done as he rummaged through my things, trying to find the candle, and finally found it. I told him it was Vanilla Cupcake which he thought sounded great and I told him which store I had bought it at, asking him not to confiscate it since he could go find one for himself there. Lucky for me, he laughed.
My plane boarded on time, which was a thrill, and I discovered that this plane was even smaller than the previous one – more like a flying minibus where you had to kneel to board if you were taller than 5’6″. I busied myself looking out the window. After awhile, I realized I had been looking out the window for an awfully long time. Finally, the pilot announced that we were waiting for the first officer. We all looked at each other – I’m sure I wasn’t the only one wondering if this guy had partied too hard the night before and had slept through his alarm. About ten minutes later, the pilot finally announced that the first officer had arrived at the airport – on another flight that had obviously come in late. Great scheduling on the airline’s part. About a half hour later, we finally left.
So we got back to SC about 45 minutes late. I had parked in the economy lot which is a bit of a hike from the airport, but it was a lovely day and I was just happy to be back. I got to my car, pulled out my ticket to get out of the lot, and drove up to the machine to pay. I inserted the ticket in the slot. It shot right back at me. A mechanical voice told me the ticket was invalid. What??? I checked the ticket. It was the right one. It wasn’t bent, it wasn’t damaged. I made sure it was perfectly straight and inserted it again. Same thing. Third time. Same thing. No people in sight, although there are still booths. So I pressed the help button. I heard a ringing sound and then a recording came on telling me I should leave a message. Believe me, they wouldn’t have wanted to hear my message. There is a second lane for credit cards only. Fortunately no one was behind me in either lane, so I backed up and tried the next machine. It spit out my ticket and told me it was invalid just as heartlessly as the first one. So I resigned myself to the fact that I might never be able to leave the parking lot. I backed up, turned around, and parked once again, muttering to myself as I stormed back towards the airport. But then I looked up to see two older ladies in uniform, smoking and yakking in front of the booths on the other side of the street. I had never seen a more welcome sight. I was so busy ranting and raving, I don’t think I said anything intelligible other than the fact I needed help getting my car out of the parking lot. I proceeded to add that the airport had no right to take people’s jobs away by automating things when people still need other real-live people to help them. They thanked me for my concern about their jobs and finally, I was able to leave. The woman did tell me my ticket was damaged when she also tried to insert it. The damage must have been internal.
And that was my trip in a nutshell. I await the day we can get beamed to our location without need of airports or airplanes. Although with my luck, my molecules would end up scrambled and I’d have no way to complain to anyone.
Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved