Only a few of us will be lucky enough to make it through the holidays without a trip to the airport.
A couple weeks back, I took a certain family member who doesn’t like her name (same as the 19th state, aka, “The Hoosier State”) ever to find its way to the public eye. We gave ourselves four hours to make it to Los Angeles International from Newhall. We ended up being late and missing the flight.
Oh. The plane wouldn’t depart for another hour-15. But the attendant smilingly plane-splaned we were 10 minutes late despite being an hour-15 early. Instead of a 10:30 a.m. flight, we had to board the next at 7:30 that night. Lovely bonus though. The best thing in my life and I got to spend another 10 hours together.
In the glory days at Hart High, a couple of us Mighty Indians would drive to Burbank Airport. We’d walk to the PSA counter and plop down as little as $13 for a flight to San Francisco. No bomb-sniffing dogs. No surly Transportation Security Administration storm troopers giving you the evil eye. No full body scanners. We just bought our tickets, showed no ID and walked onto the plane. In an hour, we were in San Francisco for a day, making faces at the hippies. When it was time to come home, we flew back to Burbank. That $26 round trip included peanuts and a couple free Cokes.
This was in the days before government went Orwellian. Remember being questioned every time you brought a suitcase on a flight? Who was the useless donkey Girl Scout mutant civil servant who came up with the idea of asking if you packed your own bag? Would the sheer psychological pressure of such a question cause you to collapse and sob: “Damn you! You tricked me! Yes! Yes! I can’t take it anymore with your questioning! Osama bin Laden was in my bedroom and packed my suitcase! He made me sneak on 18 ounces of smelly armpit aftershave instead of the required 10. Kill me and put me out of my misery!”
I flew into Denver this year to do a TV show. Another guest and pal had the same flight. Because it was Denver, we brought our Sunday best Stetsons for the airing. Actually, he brought two — one for barroom slumming. Cheap celeb he was, he didn’t want to pop $40 for an extra hat case, so, he wore two hats on the flight.
One on top of the over.
They didn’t have any problem with that at LAX. Denver? A security official chased us through the terminal, yelling: “Sir! Sir! YOU CAN’T WEAR TWO COWBOY HATS IN AN AIRPORT!!”
The government imbecile, oft an oxymoron, excitedly barked that it was against safety regulations.
“WHAT safety regulations?” my friend asked, still balancing two Stetsons on his noggin. “Show me the regulation where it says you can’t wear two, three or even 11 hats.”
Guess what. There ISN’T a regulation limiting the number of hats atop of one another you can wear.
Airport security is a bastion for people going absolutely nowhere in life, trying to punish people going somewhere in life. I should note that on the return flight, my pal and I accidentally switched boarding passes and IDs. They let us through, no questions asked. I’m 6-2, 225, tan, muscular, fetching if I may say and approaching my prime. My guitar-playing friend Edgar was skinny, albino, 70-ish and sported long white hair. And, well, two cowboy hats. I can see how you’d mix up the two of us.
On the bright side, there’s nothing like getting picked up for a ride in a stretch limousine by two PR handlers and a chauffeur in a tux.
It would be a lengthy list, my pet peeves of air travel. The uncomfortable seats. A small beer costing $45. The congestion. The sheer tonnage of humanity with the audacity to be headed where I’m going. At the top of my list are the mouth-breathing mutts they pick to make announcements on the P.A. system.
Year after year, I relive the same nightmare. I’m in a crowded terminal. Some employee from a rainforest nation who only speaks in clicks and bird whistles gets the job of A.I.M.
Airline Intercom Monitor.
The only distinct words are: “We have an urgent and important message for passengers…”
Followed by: “goola beechie gwando muy kwankaka eetchie minorah con gusto Flight Number Runch Doodie Fwa will be stulikah now at Gate Munguh…”
I’m frantically looking around the terminal. There are Eskimos with sled dogs, Africans in tribal dress, businessmen in turbans, Bedouins, a couple of rainforest hunters carrying a slain capybara on a pole, some fetching soccer moms and a couple of terrorists in Nike track suits. We all have the same terrified expression and question marks above our heads.
Is there anyone who understands Mumbled Trout Mouth Airline Speak?
Of course not.
John Boston is a local writer who prefers telecommuting. Everywhere.