Some of you are probably wondering where the heck I’ve been for the last couple weeks. Well, I was visiting a much beloved friend in Chicago, and in all the commotion of preparing to leave I simply forgot to tell my readers about it. My humblest apologies.
To make up for it, I will tell you about my trip to the most spectacular city in the united states. I have not traveled much in my 28 years, so I’m not entirely certain that assessment is accurate, but that is how it felt when I was there. Getting there, however, was almost as interesting as the vacation itself.
Flying has always seemed so glamorous to me. The hustle and bustle of important people sipping cocktails and jetting to their next important meeting. Maybe honeymooners coming back from a romantic getaway in Italy. My imagination has always made people watching exciting. When being invited to stay in Chicago I was as excited about getting on the plane as I was getting to see my friend. I have not been on a plane since I was about 19 years old, and even then it was only a 1 hour flight. I suspect that my youthful sense of wonder painted a much more favorable memory of flying than reality.
My first flight was from Ontario to San Francisco. It was a Tuesday afternoon, which translates to slow and empty. There was also some bad weather in the Midwest that was delaying everything going in and out of Chicago. The busy image of the airport I had in my head evaporated the moment I walked into those automatic doors at the United lobby. There were about 8-10 other people in line (I didn’t actually count), and every one of us were traveling to Chicago. Some by way of Huston, some on the San Francisco flight with me. There was one United employee at the counter. After about half an hour in line, the United woman announced that anyone boarding the plane to San Francisco could jump ahead to the self serve counter, as our flight was not delayed. After a small pang of empathy for those who were being delayed, I headed over to check myself in.
Here is where an inexperienced flyer such as me has a great deal of problems. I was checking a bag, and there are absolutely no instructions on how to do this. There aren’t really any instructions on how to check in either, but you can figure that out if you have half a brain. I stood there awkwardly holding my black carryon bag and my bright pink Hawaiian print luggage, praying someone would tell me what to do. To her credit, The United Employee was extremely helpful the moment I told her I was new to flying. She got my bag checked in and turned me loose. From there I had to figure out where to go next on my own.
Luckily, Ontario is a very small airport. Finding security is not difficult. Dealing with security is incredibly difficult. I get that being a security agent at an airport is probably not the most exciting or rewarding career choice. But would it kill you to say hello? Crack a smile? The answer is yes, it will kill them apparently. I walked up to the first security agent, who just stuck his hand out at me. I handed him my boarding pass (assuming correctly that is what he wanted) and he wrote all over it. When I asked him what to do next, he grudgingly mumbled “to the left”. I then figured out, by watching the person in front of me that you have to put all your stuff, coat included, into the white bins, then shove them onto the conveyor belt. I reiterate that there are no signs that give instructions of any kind anywhere around this area.
I stepped forward and was told by a slightly more friendly female security agent that I must also remove my shoes and place them in a bin. Ick. All I could think was, ” I really hope I don’t catch athletes foot from this nasty floor”. I went through one of those tubes banks used to use at the drive through (only these were human sized) with my arms up in the “M” pose for thy YMCA dance, then went to collect my stuff.
As Soon as I reached for my bag, the security agent manning the x-ray machine said, “Ma’am do you have a laptop in your bag?”
“Yeah,” I answered with a smile. I smile a lot when people make me uneasy. I made the mistake of watching a government conspiracy documentary 2 days before my flight. All I could think was, “great. They are going to think a $300 laptop I bought at Wal-Mart is a bomb and I am going to be strip searched and miss my flight.”
“You’re supposed to take it out.” The security woman huffed while rummaging through my bag to remove the offending laptop.
Once cleared, I was again set free to roam the airport and find my gate. I wandered past several closed up shops and gates with sparse passengers. I wondered how the travel industry has been managing through this rough patch in our economy. My sympathy evaporated when I saw a price tag of $3.25 for a 20oz coke. Jerks. They don’t let you bring anything over 3.5oz past security, and then rape your wallet once you get there. It isn’t that I begrudge them the added security, I would like to make it to my final destination un-exploded, thank you very much. But I do begrudge them using that as a cover to gouge you on the other side. I already paid over $400 for my tickets there and back. They can charge me the normal $1.29 for a soda and still make a profit.
After a short wait, we boarded the small plane to san Francisco, packed in like sardines. I got a window seat, and took great joy in watching the landscape shrink beneath us. It was a beautiful and smooth flight. Even though the idea of flying was a little dimmed for me at this point, I was still excited to finally be on my way.
Stay tuned for the next installment.