Posted by: Catadromy | July 11, 2021

Flying In A Storm

Time was when flying was, well if not gracious, more than simply a means of getting from Point A to Point B. Nowadays, flying has become a full body contact sport, made only worse by the pandemic and the overall sense of entitlement that seems to have permeated society (or what passes for it lately).

I remember when getting on an airplane to go someplace was actually the point. People dressed up, it was glamorous, the flight attendants were literally all uniform and the epitomes of glamour. We, the passengers, had no idea of the abuse the FAs took from the airlines or the roles they were expected to play as ‘air hostesses’ all the while suffering extreme sexual harassment from male passengers and belittlement and disparagement from the female passengers (who largely treated the FAs as servants).

I only knew when I got on a plane, I was lifting off into a world far above the everyday, where everything was a fantasy and nothing was connected to what I was leaving behind.

Flash forward to today.

We’ve been dealing with the effects of terrorism since 2001. There have been periodic ‘embellishments’, such as the shoe bomber or the underwear bomber, which have only enhanced the flying experience. Fortunately, TSA Precheck and Global Entry have ameliorated some of that hassle. But then, I had both hips replaced in 2019 and had no occasion to get on an airplane before the pandemic set in and flying was virtually stopped.

This is not the place to discuss the Chicken Incident. That’s for another time.

I finally made my first round trip this past month and bravely took a vacation to my favorite island of Maui. Because it was Hawai’i, the state has been gradually reopening to visitors. There are rather strict requirements for testing and uploading the results of the tests and positive vaccines onto a website managed by the state, via the airlines. There is also a contact tracing app we had to download onto our phones.

I made sure we all had our tests done within the proper window and uploaded to the state website, that we all had proof of vaccination, that we had our contact tracing app on our phones and off we headed to the airport.

Success!  We checked in, made it to bag drop and received wristbands, indicating that we had successfully answered all the requirements for pretesting and had properly uploaded the results to the state of Hawaii’s website. We didn’t have to show anything else at the gate or anyplace else.

We headed for TSA checkin, got on the Precheck line. So far, so good. The guy directed me through the magnetometer, but I told him that I’d had both hips replaced, so he waved me over to what I refer to as ‘the rapey machine’. You know the one. Stand on the yellow shoes, assume the position, hands over your head. They asked if I had anything in my pockets. Nope. I know this drill. In fact, my entire outfit is specifically chosen for airline security. The pants are pull-ons, there are zippered pockets, but the zippers are non-reactive, my shoes are slip-ons, a plain white T, a hooded sweater.

The machine shows that I have metal on my hips. Well, duh. Titanium, my dudes. Empty my pockets. I open them to show that they are empty. I explain again about the new hips. Surely, I can’t be the first person they’ve seen with hip replacements. I would show them my scars, if it would help. I’m not shy that way.

They let me board.

Coming back, lather, rinse, repeat. Except this time, the machine goes nuts and shows a gigantic hunk of metal on the left hip, smaller alert on the right, something on the left shoulder…I’m a festival of yellow alerts. They bring over a female TSA officer. I explain about the new hips. I take out the tissues and my driver’s license that were in my pockets and back into the machine I go. No go. She’s going to have to pat me down.  Offers me a private room. Nope, I says. Here, with everyone watching. She was thorough. I haven’t even touched that intimately since I was at the gynecologist last. She swabs my hands. Negative, of course. I’m a semi-elderly middle-class white woman, who’s traveling with my family.  I hardly look the part of a terrorist. Not even a terrorist manqué. I just have two new hips.

Then. We get on the plane.

We had purchased premium seats in advance because we like aisles. And the extra legroom. As my child is getting settled in her aisle seat, this overbearing large…person asks her to move so that he can sit next to his child. I said to him that if he wanted to sit next to his child, then maybe he should have planned better. I said that I would like to sit next to my child, as well. Why should my kid have to give up her aisle seat because this guy was bullying her out of it?  By this time, she was cringing with embarrassment. So, I stopped. Had that been me who had been asked to move, I would have refused. The kid has two parents. Mom was in the other aisle seat and SHE could have been the one to sit next to him. This guy is my favorite ‘F’ word…Fascist. Not what you thought I’d say, is it?

So, my kid is now in his bulkhead seat, which is really OK, since she likes the bulkhead. And I’ve been staring daggers at his big, fat, entitled, dyed blond head (with a diamond earring) for most of the flight. I was ready to call over the FA (she looks like she’s about 6’2” and could handle him easily), but I don’t want to embarrass my kid any more than I already have.

My main problem with this is that people like him always get their way because no one ever tells them No. No, you can’t cut in front of me with your two items. No, you can’t park in the handicapped space because you’ll only be here ‘for a minute’. No, your dog can’t poop on my lawn. No, your kid can’t ride his skateboard down the middle of the mall escalator.

Well, I wanted to tell this guy No. But my kid told me not to. And she is the Higher Authority. What do I know? I’m just a street kid from Brooklyn. We fight back. Always.


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