1973, the taxi cab pulls up to the departure area at O’Hare. I pay the man ten dollars and go inside to the ticket counter.
“I have a reservation for one to San Francisco.”
I present my credit card to the nice lady.
“Would you like an aisle seat or window?”
“Window would be nice.” I reply.
Minutes later I am at the gate boarding the plane. About an hour into the flight I am served a hot meal, on a real dish, with a real knife and fork. After the meal I am served a cocktail for one dollar, and I lean back in the large comfy seat and light a cigarette. Of course not without asking the lady sitting in the aisle seat if she would mind. She didn’t.
I cannot get that first experience flying cross country out of my mind. I wish I could because it is the image that pops up every time I am faced with airplane travel. I seem to always imagine that this time it will be like that again. It never is. Last Thursday we flew to Chicago. Mark and I left for the airport with plenty of time to spare. It was 5:45am when we arrived for our 7:15 flight. We hustled over to the TSA security check-in only to find a line that disappeared around the corner, and out the door. I looked over at the haggard looking woman in the TSA uniform and asked if that was the line for security. In her best broken English she barked out, “Dat way mon, dat de end.” An hour later, after slowly inching our way towards the spot where you are frisked, stripped, and fondled, a near riot broke out. Four shiny, well healed, white ladies walked right up to the queue and cut in. Almost Immediately Mark started screaming “End of the line is back there! You, yes you, end of the line is way back there!” When it became clear they were going to ignore Mark, more loud shouts, mostly with New York accents, started up.
“Hey youse, the line starts back there!”
If it wasn’t for the swift work of a TSA supervisor quickly moving them to another line, there might have been some blood spilled.
One more thing about flying in this day and age, don’t fall for the early boarding bullshit. I paid an extra twenty dollars for early boarding, meaning we would be boarded with “Zone 2”. When we got to the gate they had just started boarding. It went like this.
“Now boarding business class and zone 1.”
Ten seconds later.
“Now boarding zone 2.”
two seconds later.
“Now boarding zones 1,2,3,4, and 5.”