I remember the first time I traveled by plane. I was a teenage softball player headed for California – a state where I had never been, to jump in an ocean for the first time, and meet boys for a bonfire on the beach. Oh, and to play softball.
I anticipated that trip for months and it turned out to be everything I had hoped for.
Fast forward to now.
I had to travel for work this week. Before hopping on my flight out of Omaha, I felt that same excitement about traveling someplace new.
However, the feeling was quickly canceled out by anxiety as I thought about how I was getting to this new place. I’m not talking fear of flying … instead, the annoyance of air travel and planning. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but this was the first time I had traveled to the airport and checked in solo. I forced my boss to book the same departure and return flights (Oh, yes, I did.) as mine so I wasn’t technically flying all by myself.
I tried to mask my nervousness, but I’m fairly confident that some higher power was playing me like a marionette because here is the sequence of travel events that unfolded:
- My doctor prescribed me medicine to remedy a nasty sore throat and fluid in my ears. After packing that medicine, I also threw a bottle of pain relievers next to my suitcase. My husband picked up the latter and said, “These were prescribed to me after my knee surgery … the bottle has my name on it.”
My heart leaped into my throat as I thought about being interrogated by the TSA if they would have stumbled upon the drug paraphernalia I unintentionally smuggled into my carry on. I’m thinking my excuse of having no idea it wasn’t mine wouldn’t exactly fly … nor would I.
- Shortly after leaving my house for the airport, a police officer pulled me over for speeding. I never speed. Ever. Yet, despite being extremely early, I had a preoccupied mind and a lead foot. Must. Get. To. Airport. The officer issued me a warning for what would have been a triple digit fine and I thanked him through tear-filled eyes.
- On my first leg (because having a direct flight would have been WAY too convenient and comfortable) I felt for a mom who tried to comfort her inconsolable infant for nearly 40 minutes. I asked the flight attendant if the person seated next to her needed a break, because I had an empty seat next to mine. Upon finding out it was her husband, I rescinded my offer. Don’t judge me … the parents never knew about my original plan. I simply figured the poor woman didn’t need to suffer angry looks and sighs from trapped mobsters without her husband’s support.
- For the second leg, I sat next to an 8-year-old boy. After watching the mandatory film about how to use the oxygen mask if the cabin runs out of air and how to inflate your neck preserver if the plane goes down in water, the message: “Thank you for choosing us… Sit back and enjoy your flight,” came over the loud speaker. Panic struck the young boy as he realized the situation he was in. He glanced at me for answers, but the expression on my face confirmed that his instincts were spot on. We were basically cattle being herded by the sheep dogs controlling our destiny from the cockpit.
- I almost didn’t meet this boy. He was on a later flight than my original booking. Because, get this, having a boarding pass doesn’t mean you actually have a seat. NOBODY TOLD ME THIS COULD HAPPEN! If I wasn’t with my boss, I wouldn’t have noticed my original pass didn’t have a seat assignment printed on it. Apparently, airlines overbook all the time. They assume some people will be no-shows and if enough people decide to actually show up for the flights they paid for, then you may be screwed out of your original booking.
I’ve never bought a movie ticket only to find out that the theater oversold 15 percent of their theater space for the show time I wanted. Which brings me to my final point…
- THE BEST PART ABOUT FLYING IS GETTING OFF THE PLANE! That must be why people jump up like whack-a-moles the minute the plane stops even though you can bet it will be at least 15 minutes before anyone is allowed to move.
Did you travel for the holidays? Are you planning to fly anytime soon? Do you detest it as much as I do?
Heidi Woodard is married with three children. Read her Thursdays on momaha.com
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