I love to fly. Let me rephrase that – I love going places and since flying seems to be a necessary part of “going” I find I must endure the experience. In truth, over the years I have developed a random fear of flying. As a trip approaches, my growing anxiety blooms into full blown fear by the time boarding ensues. At that moment, the only thing that propels me onto the plane is the comfort of strangers. I reason that surely all these people around me would not be stupid enough to board a plane that is going to crash and burn, right? Clearly, they collectively have the inner track to divine knowledge.
And with this comforting although misguided sense of security, I am able to climb aboard, buckle in, and finally, breathe easy.
However, on recent trips, a flaw has developed in my strategy. You see, the longer it takes to board, the longer I am privy to the behaviors, phone conversations, and smells of my fellow passengers. And, with every glimpse of their humanity, I begin to doubt their collective mystic abilities. Unfortunately, unless one is flying Southwest Airlines – the champion of boarding for the masses – the wait to be called forward and given the honor to climb aboard can seem interminable.
It used to be that all were only made to wait for the First Class passengers to comfortably take their seats – which seemed fair. I mean, you should get something more than a big seat and hot towel for all that extra dough. But, lately, the list of “preferred travelers” i.e. more important, special passengers who get to board before me, seems to be growing.
Case in point: My most recent trip over Thanksgiving. There I was, with the mob of fellow travelers, poised in the most optimum spot to jump in line when my assigned boarding group was called, fear bubbling in my stomach, when finally, the boarding process began. It started out in the usual way as the attendant called:
“People travelling with small children and those needing assistance” (drat those too old, kids of mine who refuse to board on their knees and do not have any broken bones at present to take advantage of)
“First Class Passengers” (not in this lifetime)
“Gold Elite Members may now board” (gold…that must be good, right?)
“Bronze Elite Members” (clearly, not as good as Gold)
I began to get anxious in the waiting. I could feel my stomach climbing up to my throat as the attendant continued boarding groups:
“Priority Frequent Flyers”(nope)
“Now, Frequent Flyers may board”(still waiting)
In my panic the question occurred to me. How long could this go on? How many groups could possibly be called before it was my turn to board??
“Those who drive BMW’s”
“Passengers currently in possession of an Ipad2 may now board – proof required”
“Niemen Marcus shoppers, welcome”
“Those with full benefit Medical Coverage”
I mean really, the possibilities at this moment began to seem endless!
“Passengers traveling with a Chihuahua or other appropriately dressed dog”
“Those who still have a 401K”
“Current residents of California, welcome“
“All those traveling with more than one Apple product feel free to join us”
And as my panic began to overtake me, I feared my wait was not yet over.
“Boarding now, passengers who shop at Walmart”
“Those who watch WWF on TV”
“Those who watch WWF on TV, in their underwear”
“Those who pick their nose, while watching WWF on TV, in their underwear”
Then finally, I was roused out of my musings and impending panic attack as the attendant finally called:
“All remaining passengers”
There it was! The words I had been longing to hear. My group had finally been called. I, and the guy next to me wearing mis-matched clothes and flip-flops in winter, shuffled forward. I pretended to confidently hand the flight attendant my, by now, sweaty boarding pass – Hoping that there was still room in the overhead bins for my carry on, scheming how to gain access to a more prestigious group on future flights, smiling as more possible ‘groupings’ popped into my head, and praying that the guy who could potentially have boarded in the group right before me was not my neighbor for the next several hours.
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