Saturday, June 26, 2010

A Flight at the End of the Tunnel

Aah, the airport. The bookends of all my greatest travel stories.

I am finally here, finally feeling the familiar rush of the traveling I have so missed.

The crowded, always too narrow walkways are strewn with people trying to figure out where to go. Inevitably, the charming, old couple who appears to have never traveled before, always gets in line right in front of me, asking for advice and wanting to know if they are in the right place. I oblige them with a smile, after all, this is all part of the experience.

I watch as lovers part and exchange tears. I shift politely as people roll their luggage over my feet, and I laugh pityingly as travelers hold up the line while they dig through their suitcases trying to remove and rearrange things so as not to be over the 50 lb weight limit.

None of this bothers me, because I am going to travel.

The line hasn't moved two inches in the last ten minutes, but I hardly notice. Evidently, the novelty of E-ticket check-in still doesn't have people moving any faster.

I finally reach my kiosk, and the nightmare begins. A change in reservation required a call to an agent. Okay, no problem. We speak, she updates some info, and I start over. Halfway through, the words 'CLOSED, Please use another kiosk' appear on my screen. What? There are no other kiosks, so I wait.

One by one, all the kiosks begin to display the same message, save one. Now we are all waiting for that one. My turn comes nearly twenty minutes later. I proceed, reach nearly to the end, pay the obnoxious $25 bag fee–then, CLOSED.

Again?!

No more rose colored glasses. The hands on my watch are ticking closer and closer to take-off time. The old couple in front of me has transformed from charming and cute to old and in the way. The baby screaming incessantly at the top of its lungs might literally make my ears bleed.

Did I really miss this?

Forty-five minutes later, boarding pass in hand (printed the old school way in 2 minutes by the highly unpleasant agent behind the desk) I have just enough time to get through security and to the gate. And of course, I end up behind Mr. and Mrs. I-don't-understand-shoes-off-coat-off-bag-in-tray-move-on. Sigh. Almost there.

I take my window seat next to a rather large, 35-ish man reading a hefty book titled: Girlhood in Vienna, an interesting book choice from my perspective. Every few seconds he lets out a chuckle or a 'hmm' in reaction to his reading. Girlhood must be riveting.

Thankfully this is a red-eye.

I settle in, close my eyes, and remember that for all the airport madness, this is the flight at the end of the tunnel.
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