Friday, September 21, 2012

Humiliation: The New Travel Perk

Wrote this in my head while trying to get home a couple of weeks ago, to keep from having a melt down. Traveling with a man when things don't go according to plan, generally means that I'm required to be a calming force to protect others within ear shot...Can I just say-- being the "calming force" when you want to sit down in the floor and cry, is exhausting?

I try to prepare him ahead of time. "Customs and immigration will probably be long lines." I then proceed to tell him my most horrific experiences in an effort to make whatever is about to happen tolerable by comparison. I tell this story:

When I came back from Athens last year with pneumonia I had a 103 degree fever, in Newark the line for re-entry was SO long. I was delirious. I had packed my suitcase in a brain melted stupor that made me look like a refugee. Upon entry to the country, I handed my passport to the immigration agent and it had a panty liner stuck on it.

Your brain tends to process things slowly when it's overheating...he looked at my passport and it's accidental attachment.  He looked at me. I looked at my passport/panty liner combination.


I snatched the panty liner back. It made that detaching adhesive noise which drew the attention of people who hadn't been paying attention. Humiliating sound effects. Perfect.

"You probably don't need that." I said.

My daughter stood by mortified.

(Oh, please feel free to tell me YOUR embarrassing travel story that beats that.)

Copenhagen to Chicago. Customs. Immigration. Baggage claim. Baggage re-check in. Security. Check in. Security. Airport restaurant. Gate.

It is finally the last leg of a long journey home. 26 hours without sleep. I'm dirty. I'm tired. The last pat down at security left a lot to be desired. Why is it always the best looking TSA guys who don't think I look dangerous? Am I the only person over thinking my underwear choices for that new scanner and wondering if they ever sanitize the mats we walk over barefooted? How long before we all have something called traveler's foot?

The Shoe Bomber should be made to clean those mats on his hands and knees -- forever and ever, Amen.

The flight in front of ours doesn't have a first officer. Our plane is on the ground and our crew is here. But we are waiting for the guy holding up the show. Eventually he shows up and that flight departs. We board our flight, stow our luggage, and breath a sigh of relief as the plane is pushed back.


We taxi for a couple of minutes and then the pilot announces that due to bad weather at our destination we'll be sitting on the ground for about a quarter of an hour awaiting clearance for take off. The business man in the seat across the aisle fell asleep as soon as he got on board and now has awakened to collect his luggage because he thinks we landed. In a few more minutes a new announcement: The weather is worse and we will be returning to the gate to step off the plane if we want, thanks to the new Passengers Bill of Rights that ensures airlines cannot hold passengers captive on tarmacs anymore.

Isn't Youtube a wonderful thing? 

Suddenly, the feeling of being strangers dissipates and people begin to talk about trying to get home, their other bad travel experiences, and crack jokes. Here's mine:

We taxied so long I thought he was going to drive to Memphis.

I also had a capital idea: 

I have 3 bottles of Russian vodka and several German chocolate bars in my checked luggage. If someone will get it for us we can have a party.

Our poor flight attendant looked like she might we willing to go get it for us herself.

Eventually the weather clears and we are good to go. I check the time. I should be at home in my own bed, by now. As tired as I am, I can't ever sleep on an airplane, or train. I try to avoid drooling and snoring in public. That's the worst isn't it? To doze off and be awoken by a snort...only to realize it was you.

For everyone's benefit I try to remain awake.

The plane lands and hypothetically you are "home" but there is still the walk to baggage claim, the car, and the ride home...

The going is always such fun. The coming home...well, it just always sucks.

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