Tags Posts tagged with "flying"


Pixabay photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Even before the pandemic, stand up comics, who took to the air to entertain the rest of us with their clever observations, often spent considerable time describing the absurdities of airline travel.

The process, as each airline and each airport appears to have somewhat different rules, has become even more bizarre.

Each airline has its own baggage limitations. For some larger planes, you can take one carry-on and one personal bag. For some smaller planes, however, especially if you’ve bought the cheapest seats on smaller flights, which we do as a rule, you can only bring one carry-on. You can’t even get a boarding pass unless someone comes and inspects the size of your bag.

Once you have your boarding pass, you head to security with your mask on.

The first screener who checks boarding passes and IDs has to have one of the harder jobs. Everyone is trying to catch a plane, which means that, even if they are early, they are still under time pressure. Many feel the need to share their sense of urgency with people who fly under the radar in our lives unless something goes wrong. When these security agents do their jobs well, we expect it, and when they don’t, we are outraged, frustrated, annoyed and irritable. It’s a bit like being a referee or an effective traffic cop.

Anyway, we shuffle up to the line with the largest possible bag that won’t require checking. When we get to the front, we hand our ID and ticket over, wait for the cue, and then lower our masks.

I like watching people lower their masks. Many feel the need to smile, as if the person is taking a picture of them. It’s ironic because the photo from a driver’s license or a passport looks much more like a 6 a.m. mug shot than a, “this-is-me, this-is-my-face, I’m-about-to-go-somewhere-awesome smile.”

Every so often, someone is selected for random additional screening. On a recent trip, they checked my wife’s phone on the way out and my phone on the way back.

During that trip, one of the conveyer belts that enables the screener to look at x-rays of our underwear was moving especially slowly. Each time a new person approached the conveyor belt, that person could and sometimes did push his or her huge suitcase ahead of the ones from the people who were ahead of them.

Fortunately for me, I travel with a small but powerful force of nature, also known as my wife. She doesn’t allow dysfunctional systems to slow us down, even if that involves shaming people who are trying to shove their suitcases ahead of the ones on the belt.

My wife was so effective that the system not only worked as it should for the few minutes we stood there, but a TSA agent jumped in to reinforce what my wife was doing.

Once we get on a plane, the battle for overhead space begins, with the special people getting first dibs on that space while the people in the last groups get the leftovers. It’s so Darwinian: people who spend extra money are the Alpha Fliers, while those who fly economy get the scraps, with flight attendants telling them to gate check their allowable luggage, which will hopefully be waiting for them on the jetway when we arrive.

People jockey for position at baggage check, where they want to stand directly on a line with the ramp that delivers their luggage magically from below. I’m sure that magic requires considerable lifting and hefting from the people we rarely see.

The final competitive positioning occurs at the curb, where the faces of tired fliers often look much more like the pictures from their IDs than the faces they make at the beginning of their trips. The tired fliers stare at approaching vehicles, looking for their Ubers, family members, or buses to bring them back to their world.