Here’s a piece I wrote in 1999…
The holiday travel season is here. If you’re lucky enough to be staying home, let’s enjoy the wonder and excitement of a virtual trip instead. Our theme: Hurry Up And Wait.
Come on, come on, we have to get going! Our flight is in two hours, and we don’t know what traffic’s going to be like.
Okay, whew, we made it to the airport in record time. Now let’s get in line to check our bags. Great, it looks like only about a hundred people ahead of us.
I wish this line would move faster. Next time, let’s only do carry-on.
Where’s the gate? Oh, gotta go through security first.
Oh, good, they have the x-ray machine set to “super-sensitive,” so that the foil wrapper on my chewing gum makes it beep. This is good, because we want to be sure that no one has anything that can be used as a weapon to hijack the plane with. Of course, once we’re on board our cross-country flight, they’ll give us real silverware with our meal. But no one would ever think of using a knife or fork as a weapon.
Okay, we’re through security. Let’s get to the gate, because the flight’s in an hour.
I’m getting impatient sitting here at the gate. I sure wish they’d start the boarding process already.
Here we go. Wait, that’s not my row they’re calling. Might as well get in line anyway.
Come on, what’s taking so long? Row 14 wants to get on board!
Down the jetway we go. Let me quickly check in with the crew in the cockpit. Hi! Anyone in here so depressed they’re thinking of taking us all down with you? Okay, just checking.
Let’s find our seats and jam those bags in the overhead compartment. Better grab one of those oh-so-fluffy pillows, too. They’re about as cushy as two wadded-up Kleenex.
Is it possible the airline has actually moved these rows closer together? My kneecap is touching the spleen of the passenger in front of me. Mighty comfortable. No, mister, don’t recline, whatever you do!!!
Everyone’s on board, our tray tables are up, and we understand about the oxygen-dispensing margarine cup with the dry-cleaning bag attached. Let’s go!!
Finally, we’re leaving the gate, we’re taxiing, hey, we’re headed for the runway, and we’re taking off. Now I can sit back and relax.
The flight attendant has just announced that they’ve turned off the seat belt sign and we’re free to roam about the cabin. That’s good, because there’s plenty of room to roam. I like to work up a good sweat making that walk up and down the aisle. Sometimes I have enough stamina to make it all the way up to the first class curtain, which is now electrified so no one in coach can trespass.
Fifteen minutes have passed and not one word yet about a drink. I’m getting thirsty.
Here comes the beverage cart. I can see it ten rows away. What should I get? Can’t they move any faster?
Ahh, that was refreshing. Now I’m hungry.
We’re an hour into the flight, and I am incredibly bored. Maybe I should have paid the five bucks for the headphones, even if they are showing an Adam Sandler movie.
I have read everything in sight, including the “fasten seat belt” sign in German. I particularly enjoyed the airline magazine’s fascinating photo spread on houses of the rich and famous in Des Moines.
Does anyone ever actually purchase anything from that inflight shopping catalog? Who needs a putting green alarm clock cuff link? And what the hell is a tongue scraper?
Hey, look, you can get realtime stock quotes on the in-seat airphone, and it’s only $3.99 for the first eight seconds and $12 for every second after that. Now day traders can lose all their money while they fly! I wonder how this airline’s stock is doing?
Here comes the meal cart. I’m surprisingly hungry. Do I want beef or chicken?
Wait a minute, all they’re doing is handing out plastic lunch bags. Well, a sandwich is better than nothing, and it’s been a long time since I filled up on two whole Lorna Doones.
Now I’m thirsty again. Where’s the beverage cart? Oh, it’s behind the eleven people in the aisle waiting to dispose of their earlier beverage in the lavatory.
Lavatory. There’s a word you never hear anyone use in conversation. As in, “I’m sorry sir, the lavatory is occupied.” Must have been named by the same person who decided that my seat cushion can be used as a flotation device. Too bad it can’t be used as a comfortable place to sit for three hours.
Okay, I’m done with my snack. Come take this trash away.
Hurray, we’re almost there! That sounds like the landing gear coming down. Through the window I think I can see…it looks like…yes, it’s several non-descript buildings and a community of cul de sacs. Just like I remember it.
That was a nice smooth landing, and right on time, too. I guess they don’t include the ten minutes it takes to taxi to the gate as part of their official schedule.
There’s the two bell signal, so everybody up! We have to stand here in the aisle for several minutes before we can deplane, deplane!
Finally, we’re headed up the jetway and into the terminal. What a relief. No more exasperation, no more “hurry up and wait.” We’re done.
Now where’s baggage claim? I’m sure our bags will be the first ones out.