Friday, September 28, 2012

Flying the Unfriendly Skies

Here's an oldie but goodie from the archives...

It being the holidays and all I thought I would set aside the tried and true SharePoint programming for a minute and vent about one of the things that most peeves me off in this entire universe – infrequent fliers. You know them. Those poor hapless souls who travel once in a blue moon to visit Aunt Edith in Nowheresville and who fervently believe that the TSA is a CIA-funded black operation designed expressly to take away their Crest and Oil of Olay Cucumber Eye Cream. These are the ones who cannot possibly grasp the following simple rules of flying the unfriendly skies:

  1. The rules are stupid.
  2. Obey the rules.

As I write this, I'm waiting to board my fifth flight to the UK this year. I've collected about 65k frequent flier miles in 2007 (just about midway between Platinum and Executive Platinum if you keep score using AAdvantage parlance) which means I have seen just about every gross violation of airport etiquette in existence (short of actually trying to carry a Desert Eagle through security but then I don't travel with my relatives that often anymore). I have determined, through empirical study and rigorous application of the scientific method, that 99.95% of security delays are caused by Mr. or Mrs. FirstTimeFlier (the remaining .05% is due to overly fatigued road warriors like myself who have slipped into a walking coma while waiting for yet another TSA shift change and must be Tasered back into consciousness every so often).

After studying these line-stalling creatures for some time, I have identified four distinct personalities:

  1. Betty Blue Hair. This is the archetypal absent-minded grandmother who has absolutely no idea what is going on around her when she is behind the wheel of a car much less in a busy international airport. Betty always has one bag too many – usually containing knitting needles and enough yarn to blanket half of Kentucky – and cannot figure out why her fourteen inch, sharp-as-sharks-teeth fabric skewers might pose a potential security risk. Invariably, Betty also knows nothing about 3-1-1 and insists on carrying a 20lb. tube of Dentucream and eight bottles of Aloe Vera gel with her everywhere she goes. We love you grandma, but in the eternal words of John Pinette, Get Out of the Line!
  2. Suzy the Floozy. We may see this one more in Dallas than just about anywhere this side of Los Angeles but I've seen her in airports all over the country - Suzy gets around. You know who I'm talking about – the young, usually pretending to be rich, hipster peroxide blonde with the vintage 2004 Britney Spears hip huggers and a belt with so much sparkling metal that it could be used to signal returning orbiters from outer space. There she stands, smacking her gum, boarding pass nowhere in sight, refusing to remove her $50 Minolo Blahnik knock-offs and went-out-of-style-before-it-was-ever-in shawl. Never mind that her voluminous purse holds more liquid gels and sprays than the trunk of a Mary Kay Cadillac, she huffs, puffs, clicks, rolls her eyes, and stomps her feet at the mere suggestion of a TSA goon that she might not exactly be complying with the rules, which are plastered everywhere, shouted by a uniformed officer at least fifty times before you get to the x-ray machine and, naturally, could not possibly apply to her. The best revenge upon Suzy is fifteen minutes in the full-body scanner and a good wanding (which would do more good applied liberally to her empty head).
  3. Joe Cooler Than You. Oh yeah, Joe is way too good to be standing in a line with the rest of us common folk. He's got it all, this guy – hair that hasn't been washed in a week (but has seen at least a can of mousse a day), untucked shirt with some kind of gut-wrenching psychedelic pattern that burns itself directly into your cerebral cortex, the token 1987-era Corey Haim earring, massive wraparound shades so translucent they can't possibly perform either true function of sunglasses (i.e. blocking the sunlight or hiding one's eyes), and Italian leather shoes so pointy they make Santa's Elves green with envy. Always found carrying a designer label messenger bag slung over his shoulder and iPod earbuds surgically implanted into his ears, Joe Cool won't speak to security personnel for they are beneath him. Instead, he will simply ignore them, choosing not to remove his coveted Steve Madden's or take off the five pounds of chrome and leather being used to keep his designer jeans from falling down around his ankles. He glares darkly at the hapless peasant who bars his way and angrily slams keys, coins, money clips, wallets, watches, sunglasses, the ubiquitous iPod, more keys, cigarette case and at least two lighters into the tray. And whether he's from Milan or Milwaukee, you never fail to get a hint of some obscure European accent has he steps indignantly through the scanner. Yeah, Joe, we know you're better than we are, but just once could you be superior AND empty your pockets without all the drama? Us lowlifes would appreciate it.
  4. Dan the Disorganized. This guy is my favorite because I actually feel for him (sometimes). He wants to be a road warrior, Dan does, but he just can't keep it all together. He's got a laptop bag, a sport coat, a carry on, and only one bin. He manages to get his keys and wallet into the bowl, and sometimes remembers to take his laptop out, but he just can't get a handle on those shoes. So back for another bin goes Dan, while his carry on and laptop bag are whisked away into the unknown, and we all wait for him to sort things out. And wouldn't you know it – and you always know it's coming – Dan left his boarding pass in his laptop bag! Hooray for Dan! Of course Dan can never make it through the xray the first time, either – those pesky coins rattling around in his pocket are his downfall. Oh, Dan, if only there was a special travel kit just for you, one with big bold labels and step-by-step instructions, complete with a friendly, smiling assistant to help get those bins loaded. But then you'd still forget your boarding pass in your jacket pocket, wouldn't you?

Perhaps I've been unkind to these poor lost souls of air travel. Perhaps they just need a small nudge in the right direction. Or perhaps, after seeing them in one form or another for more than a quarter of a million miles, I must determine that there are certain people who just shouldn't be allowed past the plastic baggies and friendly ID checker. If only I could bill these people at current market rates for the time they've cost me over the years I could retire to some obscure island and become one of them each year around the holidays. Ignorance is, after all, the most delightful form of bliss.

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