Sunday, February 7, 2010

Flying in 2010 – A Brave New World….

Well, as you know I have been missing my family quite a bit as of late.  My mother is ill, my sister had a baby and I haven’t been home since the end of July.  Very early Saturday morning I woke up and, worrying, couldn’t get back to sleep.  I woke up André at around 1:30am because I couldn’t get back to sleep and he said I should just go home for the week.  Aren’t I just the luckiest woman in the world to have him?

So, we headed upstairs, checked on prices for flights, one thing led to another, I hopped on a train at 7am and I was actually in Philadelphia by 4pm that afternoon.  That’s right – it was still Saturday!  Even in France it was still Saturday!

Let’s all just stop and think about that for a moment. I decided I wanted to go, and I went!  3914 miles – in 15 hours - just like that. It’s almost a miracle, really.  That’s an average of  260 miles an hour – and 3 of those hours  I was sitting at the airport – so that means it really only took 12 traveling hours – 326 miles an hour!!!! We truly live in an incredible and amazing world. 

The kids were shocked (to say the least) and Zander was so mad I was leaving him behind he wouldn’t even say goodbye to me!  The other kids took me to the train station and it was really fun to kiss André goodbye on the platform and wave madly as the train pulled away.  Just like an old movie.  I got to Paris around 9:30am and my flight wasn’t scheduled to leave until 1pm.  Of course, I figured I had plenty of time.  It really surprised me how scared I felt when I was wandering around trying to find my way to the correct Terminal.  I mean, at this point I consider myself to be a pretty seasoned traveler.  There are plenty of times, as a parent, that I am feeling scared or worried and I cover it up for the sake of the kids – but I never feel that way when we travel.  However, when I was alone, I felt overwhelmed and shaky, and, despite the fact I had plenty of time, worried I wouldn’t make it.  It made me think about how much I have changed, emotionally, due to being a parent.  I am truly a different person than I ever would have been had I not had children.    

But I took a deep breath and forged on.  I knew I had left myself tons of time to be able to make the flight.  Usually, 2 hours would be sufficient, and I had almost 5!  Of course, I had forgotten about 2 very important factors.  First, the underwear bomber and second, I am a dangerous terrorist.  That’s right.  i was traveling alone, I had bought my flight less than 24 hours before takeoff and we all know I am the shady-looking type.  These factors are what we call RED FLAGS.  I was informed that all the effort I had made to fit my stuff into one suitcase was pointless, since I would only be allowed to carry on my purse and computer bag.  In fact, they were taking rolling suitcases away from most of the passengers and making them check them in.  

Every bag I had, front back and sides (including my purse) were plastered with orange stickers.  They also put one on my jacket. Frankly, I was surprised they didn’t put one on my forehead.  I had to wait (standing) about 45 minutes on the side while they processed other passengers onto the plane and debated over whether or not to let me on the plane.  Finally, I was allowed to proceed to the next step which involved walking about a half a mile to get to where you show your passport and boarding pass to  the next security guard. (who, of course, had some extra questions for dangerous me).  Then, about a mile further (it literally took me about 20 minutes to walk it – so it might have been more than a mile – but I did stop at one point for the bathroom so…) I finally reached the actual security to get to my flight gate.  The wait there was tremendous since everyone had to remove their shoes and they were giving extra scrutiny to everything.  Finally I got through that and sat down on a bench to read for a few minutes.  By this point it was almost noon and I hadn’t sat at all!  A marshal, wandering by, noticed me there with my neon orange stickers and must have figured I was waiting to meet my terrorist contacts.  He brusquely ordered me to follow him.  I was taken to the front of the line that I hadn’t realized existed. Yes, there was to be another line – this time for each and every person on the plane. They meticulously searched our bags, checked the pockets of our jackets and confiscated many dangerous items that somehow made it through the previous layers of security.  Items such as mascara, lipstick, breath mints in metal containers, lotions in glass containers and the oh-so-dangerous carabineers. Luckily I didn’t have any of these items.  I DID have a box of straight pins – which they didn’t even notice.  Hmm…. I guess they never thought voodoo against the pilot would work from the rear of the plane.  We also had to remove our shoes, again, to be lifted up and felt all over to search for hidden items.   I was wearing hiking boots because of the snow forecast and they got extra close scrutiny.  Then it was time for the full body pat down and the repeat of the same questions we had already answered two times before.  This was for every single person who got on the plane. I’m sure the staff that pats everyone down is embarrassed as we are, if not more, but there is no doubt in my mind that, despite extra vigorous patting due to my orange sticker status, I could have, if I wished, had a few ounces of explosives stuffed between my legs. (Those, plus the pins? And a cell phone too…  Is MacGyver on the watch list?)  Needless to say, it took quite some time to process all the passengers.  I think the only reason the plane somehow managed to leave on schedule was that the flight was only half full.

It was a good flight though – enough room to spread out since there weren’t too many people.  I tried to watch the Time Traveler’s Wife but it got cut off before we landed (torture!).  I enjoyed chatting though, and I had lovely conversation with the woman near me.  She claimed she had a great time in Paris but that the people were rude.  I think I have become more French since the last time I traveled since this really annoyed me and I spent some time defending the French.  I noticed, as we boarded, people didn’t even attempt to speak French to the workers in the airport and got annoyed if they had even an accent!  That seems rude to me – I mean, you are in a foreign country – at least make an effort.  I wonder if, when I eventually return home, how much of the old me will be lost forever.  It’s not going to be just bread and cheese I miss, but things I can’t even begin to understand at this point in time.  It’s kind of scary even to think about, to tell you the truth.

But, digression over, I finished my first 2010 flight uneventfully, collecting my baggage, sailing through customs and making my way to a lovely evening with my friend Heather. In the end, despite my complaining, I made it – and isn’t that awesome?   I just think they could make it even more awesome with a bit less fear mongering. My father thinks I shouldn’t even post this blog, I am using all the hot words that will tag me as a terrorist.  Whatever happened to freedom of speech?  How about search warrants? I guess buying a ticket means I give up my right to not have illegal search and seizure? All this stuff is so ridiculous.  I overheard one person say to her friend that she didn’t mind, if it kept us safe.  Do you really think that we are safe because of all of this?  Why are we so afraid?  All I can say is, if you are planning on flying internationally, and you are not super strong, bring a folding chair along. If you can get it through security. 

1 comment:

Jenae said...

Seriously? Bring on the poof machines- the exray scanner- the shoe wipes- the pat downs- don't pretend like you didn't enjoy it. If this is how the airline companies feel like they can help protect us as flyers- DO IT! Is it an unconvienence? Sure. But you know its going to happen so embrace it! Would you really rather get on a plane knowing there are those who want to harm us because they can, without any preventative measures in place? Not me!

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