Irregular Conditions

I don’t travel well. No, it’s true. I don’t and I freely own it. I am especially awful about air travel. Despite the fact that it is preferred by many, I would rather drive. Driving aligns more comfortably with my control freaky nature and I tend to get where I am going. Air travel is for gamblers. People who haven’t any issues with turning their lives over to the fates and are happy as long as the outcome approximates their expectations.

Because I am often the downer on air trips to the States, I resolved to be the Dalai Lama of the skies this time. I would not overheat or flap. I would be zen’s cremey vanilla center.

And I was.

When our first flight was grounded for an hour with a computer glich, I napped. The American across the aisle was on his cell phone franctically trying to make sure his connecting flight could still be made and grumbling to anyone who would listen that when a pilot said “We’ll be leaving momentarily” then perhaps that’s what should happen. I have been in Canada long enough to know that “moment” is a completely relative term. The Canadians occupy the same temporal space as the Mexicans when it comes to time, space and the idea that work should intersect these spheres.

“He just doesn’t understand the whole time thing here,” I said to Rob.

“You have assimilated well,” he replied.

“Seven of Nine,” I added.

When the plane circled Minneapolis for an hour, I was serene. When a tiny woman tried to guilt Rob into stepping aside for her when we finally landed and could disembark because “I have a conecting flight!” and his reply was strained through his teeth, “We all have connecting flights.” I just concentrated on my breathing and scurrying Dee along.

The cancellation of our connecting flight, after we’d run Dee’s tiny legs to nubs to get to the gate on time, did not faze me. Nor did the fact that we couldn’t get on another flight until the next morning.

Even the fact that our lugguage was caught in the unspeakable vortex of the unknown that claims all luggage whose owners are victims of “acts of God” and “irregular conditions” wasn’t enough to keep me from chirping all sorts of silver lining mantras.

But when the shuttle bus to the hotel arrived late and the pouring rain and rush hour traffic pushed a 20 minute drive to the hotel past an hour, I was done with my Pollyanna of the Skies persona. It was ill-fitting and, frankly, stupid.

Flying sucks. From the moment a person walks into an airport terminal to be herded and suspected and stripped of any real power over their well-being, loved ones and belongings until it deposits him/her like spit on summer’s sidewalk – maybe at their destination and maybe not – everything about it peels and grates and burns. It’s like being Gollum on the end of a tether.

9 responses to “Irregular Conditions

  1. Well, my guess is that someone on the International Olympics Committee read this post and decided that American airports are not amiable enough for travelers coming into the country. On Saturday the Committee denied Chicago a chance to become a site for the “games,” in large part they said, because it’s such a pain to navigate the procedures at American airports. I feel bad for Chicago, but I wouldn’t look forward to flying there and I live in the States. I wish there was some way to take us back to the days when airports functioned and flying was a pleasure….

  2. Wow. I don’t hate air travel. I do love road trips. I don’t love “travelling”, because I’d increasingly rather be at home. Next time I’m on an air trip, I’ll look out for you all, and see if I can’t lend you a hand.

  3. I’m usually so focused on the possibility of my own imminent doom that the little annoyances of travel pass me right by. We flew three times last year (twice cross-country) and every time I wanted to kiss the tarmac at the airport when we arrived. We’re going to England sometime in 2010, and already I’m gearing up to worry about that 12-hour nonstop flight … maybe the dread will make the time until the trip go faster?

  4. I hate flying with a passion. It didn’t help my attitude that I once was on a flight when the hydraulics went out and we had to turn around and make an emergency landing in Kansas City. And, now with all the anti-terrorism rituals and luggage fees, there is no enticement for me. Your story simply adds to my “Reasons to avoid air travel” list.

    We generally drive or take the Amtrak train (which I love.) Ironically, I was willing to fly for my father-in-law’s recent funeral, but the cost for last minute tickets was prohibitive, even with a bereavement discount.

    I hope the rest of your trip is enjoyable. 🙂

  5. I’m really bad. I have to be drugged hours before the flight, or I throw up till the time we take off. Once we get in the air, I become thr animal crouched in the farthest corner of the pet carrier. I have OCD, and one of my fears is that once I leave I’ll never get back home again.

  6. I think we’re soul mates… I try to have a good attitude when these things happen at the airport, on the plane… but why does it always seem to ALL go wrong? I traveled last weekend:
    On Friday I got to the airport at 6pm for my 7pm flight and found it was delayed two hours, meaning I was going to miss my connection. I talked to a customer service rep and got switched to a direct flight to Chicago that left at 11, so on Friday I spent 5 hours at the airport. Five. I got to Chicago at 5am. Waited two more hours and then took a flight to Madison. Got in at 8. I then spent about a day with my wonderful family in Madison and turned around to go back to the airport on Sunday. I got to the airport Sunday and my flight was delayed 40 minutes. Then it was delayed an hour. Then we got on the plane and as we were taxi-ing, everything shut down and we had to be towed back to the gate. Towed. We finally took off about 2.5 hours after we were originally supposed to take off. I then hauled through O’Hare to try to get a seat on a later flight to SF. Got a seat but it was a middle seat and started to panic (I have claustrophobia issues). The people behind the desk did not care at all, despite the fact that I was actually crying in front of them. Got on the flight and called my mom, where I proceeded to start crying again because I was telling her I was in a middle seat and I started to feel all panicky about being boxed in for 5 hours. The flight attendant, Scott, came by and asked me to turn off my phone. He saw my face and asked what was wrong and I immediately started sobbing (I think it was me panicking, mixed with the fact that finally a United Airlines employee was being nice to me that day), and everyone was staring at me and it was SO embarrassing. This woman who was sitting next to me, she was like, “Sometimes it helps to fan yourself. Here, use the safety card, do you want to fan yourself? Do you want me to fan you?” I almost laughed, but I was too busy crying like a 5-year-old and digging my purse for a xanax… she wanted to fan me with the safety card. Amazing. It was one for the books.

  7. Give me driving any time. It’s so much more pleasant; air travel was novel when I was a boy, and as a man, unless it’s impossible to get there any other way, I just don’t want to do it.

    Nice job trying to hold the center though.

  8. ouch. this sounds extrordinarily painful. the only way i can do it is play it like a game… a real-life ‘survival’ game, where i award myself points for avoiding a-holes in airport bars by spotting them before i grab a seat, finding the electrical outlets for a laptop/phone juice-up, or sweet talking the gate agents into an upgrade… otherwise? i’d be just another crispy-crunchy business travel person on a death march…

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