August 26, 2009

The Agony of Getting to the Ecstasy

The destination is the ecstasy -- the smooth marble temple, the legendary spires, the ancient treasures within, the craggy mountain, the red rocks, or the white-pebbled, frothy shoreline.

The travel is the agony, the subway car where someone drippy sneezes directly on you, the cab ride to the airport in a “Cash for Clunkers” special with no shocks. You have been in that cab –the one that smells like feet and has a ripped vinyl seat.

Or the pat-down at the TSA security line at the airport after you have fully spread forth your life in four large gray bins (laptop, shoes, purse, carry-on bag with “I’m a Tourist from Indiana, rob me” printed on the side, 3 ounce bottle of Visine, bifocals, jacket, umbrella, and cell phone.)

Last weekend we flew back from an East Coast city, grateful that returning to southern Indiana involved only one connecting stop. The first leg of the trip was uneventful and on a normal sized regional jet. Only when we arrived at the connecting airport, did the complete agony reveal itself fully.

We do not fly often enough to make collecting frequent flier points or joining the special upgrade clubs worthwhile.

Will we reconsider after the shame we faced?

About thirty minutes before the 30- minute flight, the efficient gate attendant began making announcements.

Welcome to Regional Midwest International Airlines. We are glad that you are flying with us today.

We board by zones. Please remain in your seat until your zone is called and then you may come through the gate.

First, I want to welcome persons who need special assistance, parents with small children, and elderly people or those in wheelchairs may board.

The gate chieftain continued:

Next, we want to welcome our frequent fliers, members of our Special Club, members of our Really Special Club, Civil War generals, business class passengers, goat herders, goats, and those with a pentagram stamped on their ticket. This group may use our special “breezeway” and bypass me at the gate.

About two-thirds of the group got up and went through the “breezeway.”

This made absolutely no sense to me, as the plane did not hold more than 45 people and we were all headed down the same jet way, outside to another shaky metal set of stairs, around on the concrete tarmac to the plane, and up its small fold-out stairs. What is special about an imaginary 8-foot “breezeway” made of theatre ropes? Moreover, who is going to pay a business class ticket to walk through a rope line?

Attention, passengers. Now we are ready to board zones one and two.

About ten people remained, stood up and presented their crumpled paper tickets.

The gate clerk pointed to us:

Finally, zone three, you, that couple in the corner wearing bifocals and looking like you were chosen last for Red Rover on the elementary school playground.
You two, Zone Three, come forth.

Sheepishly, we went through the gate, ashamed that we did not belong to the Real Special Club or herd goats.

Now we were all loaded on the plane, and ready to take off. The flight attendant gave a lengthy oration. Blah, blah, blah, just like the never-seen teacher in Charlie Brown cartoons.

Please do not sit in an exit row if you are under fifteen years old, easily distracted, or think that you will block the exit.

I of course did not hear much of her speech, as shiny things on the cover of Sky Mall magazine easily distracted me.

The uneventful flight took about 28 minutes and we were on the ground in Evansville. Back home again in Indiana. Oh, yeah!