The Frequent Flyer

Vol 15, Issue 8, Leduc - Wetaskiwin Pipestone Flyer

I am confident in stating that I have never liked the airport experience. Gone are the times of showing up twenty minutes before a flight, showing an agent your ticket and then immediately proceeding to your airplane. This procedure has been replaced with the routine of getting up in the middle of the night, after a fitful sleep worrying if the bedside alarm would go off, to arrive at the airport the recommended two hours ahead of flight time supposedly to allow the clearing of Customs, only to note that Customs doesn’t even open until one hour prior to your flight.

Smiling counter attendants have been replaced by check-in kiosks that were designed by individuals determined to make even the best of us feel like morons. After pushing several buttons, attempting to place the passport just the right way in that hardly big enough slot, you are finally rewarded with the printing of a boarding pass. This still doesn’t take care of your luggage, which then must be checked in by an actual person, who obviously has not had the extensive training in how to print the boarding pass at the same time.

After watching our suitcases disappear into the bowels of the airport we are now ready for the next leg of the airport adventure; the security gate. If the line-ups at the ‘pearly gates’ are even remotely as long and tedious as this, I may choose the alternate route when it comes to my final demise! We should no doubt be thankful that locally we are only required to clear through one such experience. Some countries abroad do the process two or three times between check in and the actual airplane. We are greeted by the first of the highly educated airport security employees. I know this because they always greet me in our two official languages. At this point I am wishing that I were truly bilingual and able to start a conversation in French just to throw them off their steady feet just slightly. All the power is theirs. “Remove this, put that there, walk this way, step over here, step into that.”  You are under their command. Don’t dare crack a joke about your hidden exploding underwear!

I have concluded that I must have one of those faces. Or perhaps my generous size has them wondering if that is all really me or if I indeed am hiding exploding underwear. Invariably I am chosen out of many to have the full pat down. Recently I was given the choice of the full body scan machine. Someone must have liked what he or she saw! I was sent through this full scan while my husband was sent through the arbour of “I hope it doesn’t beep”. Our shoes, jackets and my purse were sent together on the screening belt beside him. After I was permitted to step out of the body scanner my husband attempted to hand me my jacket.

“Step back sir, do not get near her Sir, you must step back now!” demanded the very large, very intimidating looking woman, who obviously enjoyed her job immensely. “This woman has not been cleared and noone may approach her until she is.” 

“But it is her jacket,” retorted my husband.

She countered, “It may contain something prohibited, and she is not cleared.” This is the jacket that has already gone through the scanner and is now sitting in its plastic bucket holding up the rest of the plastic buckets trying to emerge from the scanner. We were both admittedly stunned by this drama. True to form for this bizarre system that panics if your bottle of hand cream is over 4 ounces, immediately after my ‘body guard’ finished berating my husband she turned to me and said, “You are cleared to go.”

Why is it that as we leave the security area, we all feel like we have been cleared of a non-existent crime?

The waiting lounge areas are the one aspect of airports that have seen improvements over the years. One can grab that last Tim Horton’s coffee before heading to Tim Horton barren countries abroad. Plenty to read and eat are available, the latter being a necessity to bring on the aircraft with you, unless you want to purchase snacks during the flight that, indicated by price, must be packaged in gold lined pouches.

Boarding time is another exercise in frustration. Remember the days when those with special needs and those with young children were offered a little extra time to board? Following that, the rest of us filed through the gate. No more. The muffled voice of the lone boarding pass checker announces, “We would like to invite our Platinum members, Super-duper Platinum members, Platinum in waiting members, Platinum hopeful members and all first class ticket holders to board now.” How do you even qualify for this Platinum status? Eventually, the six of us left in the waiting area are finally invited to board.

In the news every day we hear about how North Americans are becoming more obese, Type 2 diabetes is on the rise, even children are suffering from hypertension, then why, tell me, are airline seats getting smaller? Is that a gasp of horror I hear from that lone person seated in row 12, two empty seats beside them, as my husband and I, both plus size, make our way down the aisle? We could have had the roomier seats. The on-line check in process always offers upgrades to larger seats with more legroom, for a substantial increase in price. Being thrifty, here we are, your average overweight North Americans, with limited funds in a struggling and depressed economy, having to suck ourselves into seating made for my six year old granddaughter.

Will we continue to fly? Yes. Will we continue to complain? Yes. Will it do any good? I doubt it, but it sure feels better to get if off my chest, the chest that after taking that flight over two weeks ago, arms crossed and shoulders rounded all the way, is just now expanding back to its normal state. 

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