The utter indignity of air travel

A rant about blown off windows and bomb-sniffing dogs.

Every time I fly, I’m confronted with a new humiliation. My last air travel experience prompted this cheeky little rant, which is therapeutic for me and hopefully amusing for you. If we can’t laugh at the many affronts of capitalism, then what can we laugh at? Safe travels.

Hello! Are you considering air travel as the mode of transportation for your next trip? Allow me to walk you through an overview of what to expect:

When booking your flight, you’ll see affordable options departing at 6am or 11pm. Anytime in between will be equivalent to your mortgage. If you’d like a seat inside the cabin, be prepared to pay for it.

If you pay the additional $50 seat selection fee, you won’t actually get a seat: No, that just allows you the privilege of being able to pay for a seat. If you choose not to, a perch on the wing will be automatically assigned to you. For just $5 more, we offer ComfortWing™ which provides more buttocks space and is closer to the body of the plane. 

Going on a long trip? You’ll probably need to check a bag. For just $45, we’ll give you the privilege of printing your own tag, affixing it to your luggage, dragging it over to the counter and indelicately plopping it on the scale. You’ll watch in awe as the numbers on the scale fluctuate, your heart palpitating in anticipation of paying an extra $100 in overweight fees. Airline staff will then toss your bag on a conveyor belt as you wave goodbye like a 19th century woman seeing her husband’s boat set sail, not knowing if she’ll ever see him again. 

Next, you’ll head through security. You’ll see a short line straight ahead, but that is NOT for you. That is for rich people. No, you must snake through a series of ropes until you reach a clearing where you’ll be asked to stop, then slowly cross the threshold as bomb-sniffing dogs assess whether or not you have an explosive. When you and your sweaty brow reach the other side, continue snaking through the ropes until you’re winded and disoriented. 

photo and insane caption via the TSA website

Then a TSA agent will call you forward and no matter which document you give them first, it’s the wrong one. Wait as the agent scans your face for signs of trouble and you convince yourself that you are, in fact, a criminal. Once you get the all clear, join the line of seven strollers. 

As you unload your belongings into a tray, an agent will berate you for not knowing the specific rules of this airport’s security procedures. After all, every airport is different—except for the yelling. Take off your shoes, then put them back on, then take your laptop out of your backpack and put it in its own tray but also on top of your shoes that are still on your feet and so help me god if you don’t take off that hoodie you’re wearing because what if it contains something very hazardous like a water bottle. 

Your bag will likely be pulled aside for suspicion and the magic you performed to get everything to fit perfectly will be destroyed by a prying wand. The wand will eventually find the culprit: a water bottle. After profusely apologizing for trying to bring on something as dangerous as a water bottle, you’ll shoelessly shuffle to one small metal bench meant to be shared by the entire airport.

Then it’ll be time to check your gate, which will likely be the one at the complete opposite end of the terminal. You’ll have to decide at that moment whether you want to make your flight or get coffee but under no circumstances can you do both. You’ll walk approximately two miles of moving walkways, half of which are out of service, and when you do reach the gate, you’ll likely want to sit for a moment. Unfortunately, that probably won’t be possible. Every flight in the terminal is delayed and another traveler’s backpack deserves a comfortable seat just as much as you do. 

After 17 delays, the flight will finally board: You’ll scan your ticket and the machine will make a noise indicating either that you’re all set or that you’ve just been added to the No Fly list. If it’s the former, you’ll proceed down the jetway which will serve as an opening act for the horrors of being on the actual plane. 

You’ll be greeted by a flight attendant whose voice says “Welcome,” but whose eyes say “I hate you all,” and will then need to contort your body into a modern dance pose to get through the aisle without whacking anyone in the head. As you pass our first class passengers, we ask that you avert your eyes. Once you’re in the main cabin, you’ll find that all the overhead bins are full and that you’ll have to gate check your bag. Make sure to take your Klonopin out of the front pocket before handing it over. 

Once you reach your middle seat, you’ll find a tray table that’s half the normal size because we cannot pass up another chance to humiliate you. Your seat back will not recline. There will be a personal TV screen in front of you, but make no mistake: It does not work. You will, however, be able to watch the little airplane icon travel across the map as your benzo kicks in and you eventually pass out.

At some point during the flight, expect to be awoken by a commotion coming from a few rows ahead of you where one of the windows just blew off. Double-sided tape can only get you so far, but the consultants we hired to cut costs disagree. Remain calm as the flight attendants replace the gaping hole with a plastic tarp and the pilot prepares for landing. 

Once you’re on the ground, prepare to deplane. People in the rows behind you will surge forward in an attempt to exit first, leaving you to watch them stream by as you ponder our crumbling society. Using your shoulder first, force your way into the aisle and scurry off the plane. Grab your gate-checked bag, if it’s there.

Onto baggage claim! Just as before, you’ll be in the farthest corner of the airport and will need to walk two miles to get your luggage. This time all the moving sidewalks are broken. Find the carousel for your flight and let the anxiety fill your lungs. Did your bag make the trip? Time to find out. Your suitcase, the last one off the plane, will peek around the corner and allow you to exhale. Nevermind it’s missing a wheel—just be glad it’s there. 

Time to finally get out of there. Follow the stickers on the ground down an ominous hallway for ride share app pick up until you reach the sphinx. There she’ll ask you to answer a series of riddles, and if you can’t answer them, well, such is life. If you answer the riddles, you’ll be released into fresh air for the first time in seven hours where you’ll open up Uber, type in the address, and watch the price increase by $30 right before your very eyes. 

Welcome home.

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