Recently I had to travel to Atlanta for a conference. My flight was at 6:00 am so I awoke at 4:00 am, stumbled to my car in the pre-dawn darkness with a traveling mug of coffee and drove myself to the Albany Airport. At the security check in I was chosen for what I was told was a random security check. The guard approached and informed me that if I’d feel more comfortable he and I could go into a private room, which honestly unsettled me more then the imminent public pat down. After being wanded and given what could only be described as a deep tissue massage I was allowed to proceed to my gate. A stop at the coffee shop for breakfast only further unsettled me as even though I asked for a receipt I, in my post-security rub down glow, left it on the counter. “There’s $5.87 I’ll never see again. Damn receipts.” I mumbled as I settled into my aisle seat. “This is your Captain.” a crackling voice came over the intercom “Due to ground traffic in Charlotte our take-off is going to be delayed for 20 to 25 minutes.” Ground traffic in Charlotte? Maybe I don’t understand the finer points of aviation, but why would planes on the ground in Charlotte have any effect on a plane taking off in Albany? With no further explanation from the disembodied voice we sat, as it said we would, for 25 minutes on the runway before we took off.
Evidently the ground traffic problem cleared up and sometime around 8:45 we landed in Charlotte. Two incidents occurred in the Charlotte Airport that nearly prevented me from making my connecting flight. Well, three actually. The first being that the gate I had to reach was not quite the “two hops, a skip and a jump” away as the flight attendant had so colloquially told me it was. In fact, two hops, a skip and a jump only got me about 14 feet from the gate. I immediately decided to instead use a combination of walking and running to make it to my connecting flight and to save the hopping, skipping and jumping for my next double-dutch competition. The second incident was an advertisement I passed while I was sprinting down the middle of a moving sidewalk. It was a Geico Ad that showed some hipster doofus wearing a black suit with an open collar shirt in front of a laptop computer with copy that read, “Geico Insurance: So easy a Marketing Coordinator can do it.” A quick call to my therapist calmed me down enough for me to make my gate just as they began boarding. Here is where I ran into the third incident that nearly prevented me from making my flight. In short, I was again “randomly” selected for a security check for which I again decided to be publicly humiliated rather than opt for a more intimate exploration of where my bathing suit covers and was allowed to board the plane without further questioning.
The flight to Atlanta was uneventful; however once in the Atlanta Airport I could not have felt more bewildered. As I left the gate I, as any air traveler might, began searching for the baggage claim, or a maybe a sign for the baggage claim, or perhaps even a sign that told me where I could find a sign that told me how to get to the baggage claim. After wandering for a few minutes I found myself in what appeared to be some sort of futuristic subway terminal with pods rocketing through pneumatic tubes. A sign suspended from the ceiling of the depot read among other things, “Baggage Claim 5000ft/1500m” I actually said out loud, “One Mile? One Friggin’ Mile? They couldn’t have landed the plane closer than one mile from the Baggage Claim?” I decided rather then begin marathon training I’d take my chances with the subway. Minutes later I arrived at the last stop which I was told was baggage claim. Upon exiting the train car I came upon an escalator so magnificent in its size and elevation that the top was obscured by a radiant glow. Stepping onto the bottom step I had the fleeting thought that I’d died and was now ascending an escalator to heaven. The unanswerable question of whether or not Led Zeppelin has toyed with alternate versions of there signature song occurred to me. (There’s a lady who’s sure, all that glitters is gold and she’s buying an escalator to heaven. No, that doesn’t sound right. Maybe she’s buying an elevator to heaven? No, that doesn’t make sense. How about if she was buying a moving sidewalk to heaven? It’s so easy a marketing coordinator could do it.) Well, the glow turned out to be nothing more than a ticket counter and thankfully my brother, who lives in Atlanta, was there, as he said he would be, to pick me up. We grabbed my luggage and I finally escaped the airport.
(Side Bar: While I was down there I had a chance to catch a baseball game with some colleagues. In the eighth inning we actually made it on to the jumbo-tron; and by “we” I mean our shin bones. Even though the camera was more interested in a group dancing a few rows below us we were fortunate bystanders and got to see what our tibias looked like on the 71′ by 79′ HDTV that occupies center field.)
The next day after the conference finished I caught a cab to the airport. Once inside I was once again chosen for a “random security check”, again declined the private room option and again made the acquaintance of yet another security guard. I then descended the ethereal elevator, took one of the pneumatic tubes to my gate, then boarded the plane. Oh wait, what’s that? I’ve been chosen for yet another random security check? How thoughtful. Oh, I can board the plane without some tension releasing hot stone therapy? Are you sure? Once on the plane we sat at the terminal for an extra 20 minutes while the flight crew tried to match the number of people on the plane with the number of people on the manifest. Each flight attendant counted heads and each came up with a different number. How? There were 67 people on the plane. How do you miscount 67 people? Then they decided to count empty seats and subtract that number from the total number of seats on the plane, compare that to the manifest, take the square root of that number, divide by two …it was somewhere around the time they tried to apply Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz’s Sum of the Reciprocals of the Triangular Numbers Theorem that they gave up and took off for Albany.
The plane arrived in Albany just after 11:00 and as I left the plane I was stopped by an airport official. I dejectedly asked if I had been chosen for a random security check. The official said, “No, but you look so familiar to me. Did I see your shins on TV the other night?”