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Fly the Unfriendly Skies

Young boy and AirlinerI used to love to fly. Loved everything about it. I could spend hours watching people moving to their gates, or standing with my head pressed against the window to watch planes taking off, wondering where they were flying off to. It was all so exciting to me, but it would be to an eight year old child with an overactive imagination.

Even as a college student, flying still held its appeal. Whenever I flew home to New Jersey, my father would meet me. At the gate. Those were the days where you could still go through the security check-in (which was on the concourse) and wait for people to arrive, no ticket required.

Now, it’s hard for me to remember a time before everything changed and flying became a hassle. In the months leading up to September 11, 2001, I flew to Italy and France from Miami. I carried my bottle of water from home through security along with the Swiss Army Knife in my purse. I didn’t have to take off my shoes or worry about stuffing my liquids and gels into a quart-sized plastic bag. I even flew to Pittsburgh for my cousin’s wedding the weekend before 9/11, packing everything – including full-size bottles of shampoo and conditioner – into my carry-on bag.

Nowadays, flying requires a lot of strategizing. If I’m flying off to a place where I’m not packing up my camera and computer, it’s all about fitting everything into a carry-on, which means getting shampoo, conditioner, hair products, face products, moisturizers and toothpaste into that one quart-sized bag.

And getting through the airport to your flight now requires hours of lead time. Stand in line to get your ticket from the automatic kiosk. Stand in another line to check your bag. The security checkpoint can take anywhere from five minutes to an hour, depending on the day, the hour and your luck. But now there are secondary checkpoints, and sometimes third ones at the gate.

Yesterday, I flew back to Miami from Jamaica. I breezed through the lines at Immigration and security. But then I got picked to have my bag manually checked. Then it got checked again after going through the gate to get on the airplane. My underwear was touched by more people in one day since … well, never mind that. But then there’s the pat-down, which is a whole new intimate affair when it comes to travel. I usually like to have someone take me to dinner before I let them feel me up.

Full body scanners are the newest security innovation. I’ve dubbed them the “X-rated x-ray” or “Naked Cam.” Forget terrorists. These things really scare me. And it’s not the prospect of my breasts or my hoo-ha being seen by some stranger sitting at the monitor. I have body issues, people. I’m far more mortified at the thought of some guy/gal seeing the flab hanging over my belt, or the back fat squeezed around my bra strap. I just don’t want to be judged.

Truly, the way to travel nowadays is by private jet. I had the opportunity to do this flying over to Jamaica, and it was wonderful. No security checkpoints. No worries about liquids in your hand luggage. No lines. No waiting. We took off when everyone got there and didn’t have to worry about the time. It made flying back to Miami all that more painful.

So, until the day when my private jet comes in, I’ll be herding along with the rest of the masses – even those fortunate enough to be in first or business class – to jet off to exciting destinations around the world. Too bad there’s nothing exciting about getting there anymore.

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One Response to “Fly the Unfriendly Skies”

  1. [...] Linda Donahue of Parisien Salon wrote an eloquent post called “Fly the Unfriendly Skies” in which she describes what it feels like to travel these days.  As someone who has been on [...]

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