September 2015

The friendly skies

By Suzanne Strazza

What I learned about airplane travel in a week.

Day 1:

Using miles to purchase your ticket does not elevate your status (as in “Welcome back Ms. Strazza – so nice to see you again.”) It actually sends you to the bottom of the heap (“Here comes another cheapskate”.)

While it’s painful and leaves bruises, getting The Bracelet off before going through airport security greatly reduces the chances of a strip search.

It takes the entire 3 oz. of permitted lotion in my carry-on to get The Bracelet back over my elbow.

Ammo cans aren’t really just for boating, they’re for transporting ammunition. And you can check that shit along with your firearm.

The Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) airport is mind-bogglingly huge.

If you’re from Cuba and don’t speak a lick of English, you might end up crying on a stranger’s shoulder while they personally escort you via train to your gate.

Texans named Clive tend to be quite charming.

Even the FAA can have computer glitches.

A minor glitch can shut down the entire Eastern Seaboard.

There is a Popeye’s in Terminal A, but not in B, C, or D.

There’s also a Fuzzywigs wannabe.

And Brooks Brothers.

People can be downright mean.

Being mean to airline employees will get you nowhere. Literally.

You can be rerouted to Richmond, Charlotte, or D.C., instead of Baltimore, your actual destination, and as long as they get you east of the Mississippi, American Airlines feels as if they’ve done their job.

When you are rerouted, TSA regulations state that your luggage must travel to its original destination.

When you are rerouted, make sure the airlines employee hits the “save” button. It helps to have an off-site coordinator taking care of the logistics of renting cars at one airport, picking up family at another, and getting (or not getting) luggage from the original destination at 3 a.m.

The airline sends an automated call every 30 minutes updating you on your flight even though you are stuck at your gate for the next 15 hours and well aware of your predicament.

It takes as long to say “I’m driving from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport to Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshal Airport” as it does to drive the distance.

Mean people just want to yell at someone, anyone, when things aren’t going their way.

If you are having a bad travel day, you can guarantee that the folks working the Customer Service desk are having a worse day.

A full ammo can can’t “just be left lying around”; it has to be locked in a safe. But the firearm can sit right out in the open.

It’s “firearm,” not “gun.”

No one who works at the Baggage Claim Customer Service desk is allowed a key to the safe.

No one who works at the Baggage Claim Customer Service desk has a clue about who does have a key to the safe.

Day 2:

Going back to the airport in the morning to get your bags doesn’t necessarily mean that you are going to get your bags.

According to TSA employee, Train, working in the lost luggage department “is not a job. It’s a torturous hell. Driving the parking-lot bus is a dream job in comparison.”

People desperate for whatever happens to be in the luggage that didn’t arrive will yell at anyone in their path. If they’re not yelling, they’re sobbing. In addition to the automated calls stating that your flight has been delayed (yes, last night’s flight), AA promptly begins calls letting you know that they are busy looking for your missing luggage.

These calls come in every two hours. Sometimes you just need to say, “F--- it, the airlines can deal with this mess. Let’s go to the Beach.”

Day 5:

When you purchase your tickets with miles, the only way to get from Baltimore to Melbourne, Fla., is from D.C. to Greensboro to Charlotte to Melbourne.

Charlotte is one hour by car from Greensboro but it can take days to get there by plane.

(Thank goodness for those automated calls letting me know that my flight was delayed. And that they were still searching for the ammo can.)

Charlotte airport is extremely important in the Southeastern travel scene.

Especially when it closes.

When you are suddenly removed from the plane you boarded an hour earlier, get on the phone to customer service before you get in the two-mile-long line with every other passenger trying to get out of North Carolina.

It is comforting to be stuck in the terminal rather than taking off in a tornado.

Do not smuggle marijuana from Colorado to the South – they have drug dogs everywhere.

More dogs than outgoing flights.

If you spend $25+ in the airport bookstore, you earn a pair of free ear buds.

The Greensboro airport completely shuts down at night, but they will allow a gal to sleep on a bench in the lobby. Staten Island Elizabeth stayed there with me. Girls’ slumber party.

My ability to differentiate between a New Jersey, a Long Island, and a Staten Island accent is still very much intact. An airport closing is unheard of when your airport of choice is JFK.

Day 6:

It’s acceptable to travel in sweatpants if you spent the night on a bench, got up at 4 a.m., and there isn’t a f---ing coffee shop open until 7.

Living in an airport is nothing like Tom Hanks’ experience.

The airlines will happily send you back to your starting place (D.C.) to get you to the finish line, even if it means going backwards.

The finish line might not be where you thought it was, but if it’s below the Mason Dixon line, they’ve done their job. They don’t pay for rental cars.

African Americans from the South knowingly ask things like, “Are there any black people where you live?”

A “non-smoking” car can just be a car that isn’t smoking, not one in which no one has ever smoked.

Day 8:

If you have been rerouted six times in five days, chances are, your return itinerary has accidentally been cancelled. If you calmly and quietly threaten a nervous breakdown, they’ll get you on a plane just to get rid of you.

Sparkle jeans don’t make it through airport security unscathed. Wearing them is an open invitation for a pat-down.

If your laptop and shoes share an x-ray bin, your computer will be subjected to a pat-down and strip search.

Thank God The Bracelet was off.

After two days of trying to get to Charlotte, finally arriving is an utter letdown.

In some airports, AA and USAir have combined. In others, they are two separate entities.

It takes eight sweaty minutes to run, with a computer bag and duffle, from the far end of terminal B (US Air) to the far end of terminal A (American) in the Phoenix airport.

The person in the next seat won’t necessarily appreciate your perspirey, panting body plunking down next to them.

The Durango airport can feel like Paradise. According to the plethora of voicemails still coming in, they’re still searching for the ammunition.

And apparently, my flight to Charlotte has been delayed.

Suzanne Strazza is an award-winning writer in Mancos, Colo.