I wake up in my Florida hotel room thinking about those upcoming six unknown hours that I thought about last night. The Web says, on a typical Tuesday afternoon there are about 6,000 airplanes delivering and receiving anxious flyers. It’s just me carting dirty laundry home.
I packed the night before wondering about weather, delays and all the hapless stories I’ve read about that hasn’t affected me in my years of air travel. (Well, only once!) Yet? Yet? No need to wait for the alarm, I was wide awake an hour earlier.
Florida-Uber-driver takes its twenty-minute drive with talk about my home weather until she asks, “What airline?” She rates me at the end of the trip and I get to rate her. What a loving relationship between two human beings sponsored by a company that has no employees but having thousands of people working for them! (I have a 4.9 rating so, I guess, a previous Uber trip about Trump did not go well. We could have talked religion.)
“Lift, pull and walk” are my three moving words returning some of my stuff to the rest of my stuff at home.
Check-in is easy. The airline survey emailed two weeks later will ask me if they used my name. If it’s not said, I don’t fault them, it’s Polish, I have to think before saying it! (And, how does pronouncing my name ensure a safe flight?!) There’s time for a smoke outside with other smokers who ignore me but some smile at my saddle shoes. (Style still counts.) Since smokers are a dying breed, you’d think a little bonding would be welcomed.
Arriving at the hub, those six hours are now reduced to three. Everything preceding it was easy. No losing shoes, belt or computer when you’re TSA approved. Leaving Milwaukee, I noticed the sign that exempts removing personal items if you’re 75 or older. At age 74, you’re still a threatening believer, but when you reach seventy-five, you say to yourself, “I’m done with all that.” At that age, you get to breeze through the line; unemptied and untouched.
Many in the airport either don’t see, spot, notice, or ignore me. To most, I simply don’t exist unless we do a bump in a crowd. It’s not an airport. It’s a town and we inhabit it, at least for a while. There’s no voting, but a hierarchy does exist. I spot the “business people” immediately for their “above it all” attitude as though they’re the pilots. The cell phone is on the right and the coffee is on the left centered by their computer. Perfect symmetry for mergers and acquisitions. There’s a couple wearing their Green Bay Packer pajamas having beers in the bar. I tell them, “I know where you’re from!” Surprisingly, I later find them seated in “business.” (Subsidy, anyone?) This town has many, many restaurants with fattening menus alongside overpriced shops offering you headphones for forty dollars. I buy a sandwich because “business” only gives you an array of free carbohydrates that even the smilingly flight attendant is embarrassed to offer you. I take two.
Finally seated, the trick to airline travel interaction is to never quickly speak to someone for fear of avoidance or pure disdain. Small talk is okay. It can lead to full engagement, however, I don’t need to hear the long story about your childhood trauma since you look sixty. (I only said that I liked your bag.) Short sentences help connect. Mentioning the Excel spreadsheet spread across your tray can work either way. (Is anyone or thing that important at thirty-four thousand feet in the air?)
Pee visits always preside boarding when you occupy a window seat. (If you want to look out, pee first.) Aisle-guy mumbles to himself, “I have my spreadsheets, my headphones and my neck rest and now you have to take a piss?”
To anyone who asks the next day about my flight, my favorite word is “uneventful.” “It was a wonderful and uneventful flight. I love flying. It was an enjoyable event with the stressful-free “un” added returning home. I used air miles to get there and received miles for using my air miles. (How often does that occur in life?) Milwaukee-Uber-guy takes me home to return my traveling stuff to my other stuff. He’ll rate me, and I’ll rate him. No talk of politics this time around.
I’m happily tired to be home again…until the next time.