It could be bad luck. It could be poor planning. It could be fear of flying. Or it could be that the airlines are trying to kill me.
Okay, that’s extreme. It could more likely be that America’s airline industry, the economic whipping boys since 9/11 and silent victim of increased security and rising gasoline prices, have begun a slow descent into self-destruction. And it could be that I’m just witnessing it, and maybe one of the few speaking up about it. But there’s something about it that feels vaguely personal.
I’ve always liked traveling light, especially on airlines. I’d mastered the art of fitting everything into one carry-on bag. But that was before the plot to smuggle bomb-making chemicals aboard an airplane that resulted in the rule change that forbade passengers from carrying liquid onto a plane. I flew just a month after that. I brought my water, and my carry-on with more water in it. I had to dump the water I was carrying, first, then the water in my carry on. Then I bought a bottle of water beyond the checkpoint, paying $2.50 for the privilege of a 20¢ bottle of water, in a captive area. I especially dehydrate during flights, and that day I had a cold also, and was dreading the flying. My real dread came when I was informed that I had to toss the water I’d just bought, just bought, inside the airport, beyond the security gate, just outside the boarding area, before I got on the plane. This was when I first became the first of the series of outrageous rules, which the government and the FAA created to protect the flying public, and to slowly, incrementally, kill me. I mean, do they believe that small shop inside the security area had somehow smuggled dangerous chemicals into their stock, just waiting for some clever terrorist criminal to purchase it and bring it on board? If so, I should take it as a compliment to their perception of my mastery and evil genius. But if not, I could perceive it as a plot. After all, would it have killed them, or the vendor, to let me know that if I bought water, I’d need to finish it before boarding? Shouldn’t there be a discount on a bottle you only drink halfway? No, no organized system could be that devious, or that inept. It has to be a plot.
I have to do a certain amount of flying for my job, to connect with a sister office in Austin,TX. But the trips are often very fast—two or three days at most. Despite this fact, I realized that the days of carrying all in a carry on may be past me, in this new era. So, on my first trip to Texas about 2 months ago, I checked my carry-on. It was a small bag, and one that I could have carried it on, but I was unfamiliar with the exact rules of what I could carry on, so I felt better safe than sorry. I was ready to leave 3 hours early, to be at the airport the requisite (and troubling) 2 hours early. That’s when I realized I couldn’t find my drivers license. This was troubling because I knew I’d need it to get through security, which made me realize for the first time how crippling the lack of a license, and the lack of a car, would be to an individual. If you had no car, you’d need no license. But if you had no license, you could never fly anywhere. Do not pass go. I was stuck.
Then I remembered that I had an old passport. It was old-actually almost five years expired. I carried it because I used it as a second form of ID at my new job, to prove that I was a US citizen. And I kept it, as I meant to get it renewed, and never quite got around to it. But would it get me on a plane? I checked the website, and found out that yes, you could indeed board a plane using an expired passport for ID. But it would mean an additional level of security. But I needed to go, and so I hoped that 2-and-a-half-hours would be enough extra time.
Hope is a silly thing, sometimes—the last resort of the unprepared.
To be continued.