Well, I mentioned that my trip back from Portland was “harrowing”, so I thought I should elaborate. It makes for a short but all too familiar story. It all starts with something known as the “puffer” (no, it’s not dirty, well, as far as I know anyway). The puffer is the machine shown on the right.
I was making my way through security, taking off my shoes, my bracelet and glasses and trying to juggle all of that in my hands. For some reason the security guards always seem to pick me for special treatment. Maybe it’s because they can sense that I am reasonably amiable and I’m not in too much of a hurry, so they can afford to mess me around a bit.
Or maybe it’s because I try to do things efficiently and they get annoyed watching me standing there with my shoes in my hand, all metallic things conveniently stuffed into one of them. Maybe they think: “I’ll show that smug bastard what airport security is all about.”
So, this nice young gentleman approaches me and says he’d like me to go through a special security check. “Ok, sure” I said, just a little concerned. All around me hundreds of people were industriously taking off their shoes and throwing away their bottles of water.
“I want you to go through that machine there, sir.” he pointed towards the machine in question “the puffer.” He added for clarity.
“The puffer?” I asked. I decided I may as well enjoy it. “Sounds like fun!”
“I guess it depends on what you think of as fun, sir.” He looked at me a little strangely as though he wished he had chosen someone with perhaps a little less enthusiasm.
“Can I take a picture?”
So, I took a picture and then entered the machine. It blasted me with three short “puffs” of air from all directions. It tickled. Then it sucked air up out of the machine through a vent in the top. No doubt it would determine if I had been in contact with any weapons of mass destruction. I wondered idly how many false positives thy get.
I then stepped through the machine to continue on my way unmolested.
Now, the reason I was so calm is I knew my flight had been delayed an hour. I had taken the time to sit down and have a wonderful breakfast of Belgian waffles with strawberries. As I sat I read my latest book: “What the Bible really says about homosexuality.” I must confess I was tempted to hide the book from my waitress when she came over. I am not sure if it’s because of the word “Homosexual” or “Bible”. So many people in the world seem to dislike both.
So, it was with a full belly I boarded the plane, 1 hour later than it was originally intended to depart. The lady behind the counter had assured me that they would book me on another flight if I missed my connection. Little comfort since I was already scheduled to arrive in Dallas late that night, and I needed to work the next morning.
A few hours later, as we approached Phoenix (I always think of MacGyver when I hear the name “Phoenix” since he worked for the phoenix foundation) the pilot came over the PA system. “We are aware that many of our passengers have connecting flights and very little time to make them. If you do not have an immediate connecting flight, we would ask that you stay out of the aisle and allow the other passengers to get off first.”
We touched down and people started disembarking, as we did, one of the stewards got on the PA to amplify the message. “Since some people need to leave the aircraft immediately, we ask that you don’t stand in the aisle until you are ready to leave”
As he said this, a man stepped into the aisle and started fiddling with the bags in the locker above him. This is perhaps one of the most inconsiderate acts you can make while on an aircraft. It’s so easy to grab your stuff while standing out of the aisle, or even to wait politely until there’s a bit of a gap to step out, grab your stuff and continue. But of course, to this man, no one else’s pressing schedule was his concern.
The steward stopped in surprise and then reiterated his instruction a little slower with sardonic emphasis: “That means don’t stand in the aisle while people are trying to pass you.”
“In other words, get out of the aisle.” He added as pointedly as he could.
Anyway, I made it out of the plane and then stood flabbergasted. I didn’t know my gate and my flight number was not displayed on any of the terminals. I wasted a good few minutes waiting patiently behind someone in line, then gave up and accosted a random person behind a desk.
“Oh, it’s gate B14” she said. “But you’ll never make it.”
“Watch me” I said and started sprinting.
Now, I don’t run very fast and I am certainly not fit, but the risk of missing my connection was enough of a motivation. I ran as fast as I have ever run. I quickly outstripped the people sitting on the little airport golf-buggies. When I happened upon a travelator, I ran on that too.
For some reason, when I am being rude I affect a British accent.
I lost count of travelators. It was probably about 4 or so. I guess I must have run from one end of the terminal to another. The last stretch was devoid of travelators. By this time I had a stitch developing and I was really “feeling the burn” but I dare not stop. I ended up all but collapsing at the desk in front of my gate, they were literally closing the doors. I brandished my ticket wordlessly, then started panting.
They accepted me on the flight, along with a couple who were also breathing rather hard. I collapsed to my seat and immediately signaled the steward for water.
“I’m sorry sir, not until we are airborn”. So, I sat there panting and parched. I got my water eventually and stopped coughing by the time we touched down in Dallas. I really need to get ore fit.