Sunday, December 6, 2015

Travelling by Air


Monty Python's Holy Grail
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Sir Bedevere: 'Now, why do witches burn?'
Peasant: '... because they're made of wood?'
Sir Bedevere: 'Good. So how do you tell whether she is made of ... wood?'
Peasant 2: 'Build a bridge out of her.'

A Cautionary Tale of Travelling by Air
My plane is late leaving LaGuardia, an hour late, which will cut into the time I have to make connections in Montreal. I need that time for customs, picking up my suitcase, going through security, dropping off the suitcase and then getting though the next security before boarding my final flight. If I’m lucky, I’ll have time to eat.

Everywhere in the Montreal airport, there are signs saying, “This process will take 10 to 15 minutes. Following that, you have a 5 to 12 minute walk to your gate.” This is supposed to be helpful. It isn’t reassuring when I’ve lost an hour, sitting on the runway at LaGuardia.

I hustle through the Montreal airport, walking-running-sprinting, paying attention to where I’m going so I don’t waste time getting lost. All is well, though time is tight, until I reach the place where I hand over my customs form and am about to return my luggage to Air Canada. I fumble handing the form to the staff person. My hands are sweaty from hurrying.

He looks at me, sees an older, overweight, sweaty woman who appears nervous.  Automatically, he points at an open door. Now, I have to go to a second level of security screening. The officer decides I am trying to hide something.

Him: What are you declaring?

Me:  (I think, holy shit I’ll never make the plane now, but remain polite.) I bought two small books and a DVD while in New York.

Him: You’re telling me that you were in New York for Black Friday and all you spent was $60?

Me: Yes. I went to visit family, to spend time with grandchildren.  All I’m bringing back are two books and a Monty Python DVD.  (I offer the additional information hoping it makes me look ordinary, boring and non-threatening.)

Him: Are you saying that if I search your bag and your purse, I won’t find undeclared items?

Me:  That’s what I’m saying.  I have a cold, caught it from my grandson and I’ve been running trying to make my connection. That’s why I look flustered.

Him: Yes,’ tis the season for giving. (No smile.)  I want to search your bags.

Me: That’s OK with me.  Can you help me lift the suitcase?

Him: You look anxious? Are you hiding anything? (He glares at me.)

Me: (Trying hard to remain calm and polite.) No I’m not hiding anything. I visited my family and I didn’t want anything badly enough to take the train, then the subway into New York to shop over the Thanksgiving holiday. I am anxious as I don’t have much time to get to my next flight.

Him: You are shaking and your eyes are watery.

Me:  Yes, I have a cold, and yes, my nose and eyes are runny.

Him: I think you are hiding something.

Me: (I think every swear word I know.) I say: I am hiding nothing but you are welcome to search. Perhaps you could help me lift this bag to your counter.

Him: (Smirking.) You look suspicious because you dropped your customs form and because you are sweating. (He stares and bends over the counter to push his face closer to mine.) I can go through everything. What will I find?

Me: (I stare back, feel bullied. I hope he catches my cold. He continues to stare at me silently. I blow my nose.)
Finally...

Him: Have a good trip. You can go now.

Me: Thanks. (I think bad thoughts.)

 I run-walk to return my bag to Air Canada: this contentious bag containing two small books and a DVD and my clothes.

It is 20 minutes until final boarding for my plane. I go through the next security point (10 to 15 minutes) and then run to my gate (faster than the seven minutes it says it takes). I make it, sweating, out of breath, feeling miserable.

Because of delays, I eat nothing since breakfast except airline pretzels and water. I feel sick and shiver uncontrollably in the uncomfortable, cold and noisy Air Canada Dash 8 which flies from Montreal to Moncton.

The air hostess is friendly, asks if I want water and free pretzels. I say no. She asks if I enjoyed my trip.

The answer is yes, except for this last day of travel with Air Canada, coming back through Montreal.

What have I learned?

Don’t sweat or look nervous when passing through security’s scrutiny.  (Yes, I know they have a job to do and an important one, however this issue of being hauled over and given the gears for merely sweating has happened before. I’m sorry but I’m a damp kind of person.)

Don’t fly with a cold. Wow! That was a painful lesson and one I won’t repeat.

Drive instead of flying whenever possible.

Learn to sprint without perspiring.

Why am I not complaining about my trip from Moncton to New York?

I flew that part of the trip with West Jet.

Perhaps, the Monty Python writers could make a movie moment out of the idiocy of harassing older, out-of-shape women in airport security.

The photo and quote above are from Monty Python's The Holy Grail.

3 comments:

Jeri Landers said...

Hi Carol, I'd be giggling if it weren't so unfortunate for you...and anyone who flies these days. I don't, if I can help it. My 89 yr old mother visited us a few years back. When I took her through the airport security she was in a wheelchair (provided by the airport), they made her stand up and frisked her and examined her wheelchair (THEIR wheelchair) for at least 8 minutes or so. I was absolutely seething. Now, go watch your Monty Python and have a good laugh!

Carol Steel said...

Thanks for the empathy, Jeri. I appreciate it. Sorry that your Mum had a similar experience with security that doesn't make any sense. And yes, the Monty Python DVD helps as does any laughter in these sorts of situations.

Crafty Green Poet said...

I haven't flown for years.

My most memorable customs experience was crossing over into East Berlin - very tough interview in German.