Hay’s Daze: Trying to get off the ground

Mayhem! Madness! Havoc! Horror! No, I’m not describing the current season the Edmonton Elks are having in the Canadian Football League (although, coincidentally, the descriptions are woefully accurate) these are terms being bandied about when people talk about airports and the attempt to actually fly out of those said aerodromes these days.

We’ve all heard news reports and anecdotal tales of bumped flights and bummed travelers, lost luggage, over-crowded crowds, insane lineups, and entire airlines being run by three airport workers who have to check in a plane full of guests, run outside to load the luggage and then stumble wearily into the cockpit to fly the bloody airplane!

So, we thought, let’s go fly somewhere just to see how badly this flying thing sucks these days! Just kidding about the reason, but we did have occasion to take a short trip recently which gave us a reluctant excuse to find out the hard way, preferably without having to triple mortgage the house to fly a small distance and preferably being able to leave the same day as our scheduled departure time. We were already resigned to a 50-50 chance of our luggage arriving when and where we did, and we’d made contingency plans if our four-day trip was extended by a week or two because all three airline employees were too tired to fly the plane.

Oh, and just to make things nice and dicey we went on one of those so-called “Ultra Low Fare” airlines. As I’ve previously ranted, the ones where you can get a three hundred dollar flight for sixty-seven beans but you have to bring your own lawn chair aboard and it costs twelve bucks to use the bathroom on the plane (which is a bucket in the back).

We went online and found out you have to go online. You have to use the interweb to book a seat, obtain a boarding pass, check-in and agree to help disinfect the seats and vacuum out the plane when you land.

Flying is truly a cyberspace procedure nowadays. If you want to check in and get your boarding pass from an actual person, they charge an extra $35. And, yeah, it’s $15 for a phone call (not kidding) to the airline if you happen to have a hankering to talk to a human rather than typing a question to an internet robot that never solves anything.

But what the heck, we forged headlong into the brink as Shakespeare or possibly Bob Dylan used to say and went for it. The cyber robot told us, “You must, on pain of execution, arrive THREE hours before your scheduled flight”. So since we had an early morning flight we had to get up before we went to bed, drive a couple hours grumpily in the dark to the airport, park in a “Park and Gouge” lot and clatter to the terminal in a shuttle full of other grumpy sleep-deprived travelers. Only to come upon a war zone in the aptly named “terminal”.

The coffee has worn off by now but my certain bladder hasn’t. But heaven forbid you leave the line which is moving like an elderly snail with hip problems.

We were quite a bit older when we finally reach the airline desk just before passing out. “Boarding pass,” one of the three haggard airline employees mumbles. So I fumble for the comforting piece of paper you use when you fly in a normal world, but instead, out comes my phone. And when I start clicking the boarding passes, booking reservation and what’s left of my sanity is absolutely nowhere to be found. Next week: the chaos continues…

Harley Hay is a Red Deer author and filmmaker. You can send him column ideas to harleyhay1@hotmail.com.