Isn’t air travel fun!
From the sheer pleasure of getting up at 3 a.m. in order to be at the airport on time, until the moment you stagger exhausted and suffering from severe malnutrition into a dented taxi at your destination many hours past the scheduled time of arrival, if you’re lucky, the adventurous joy of travelling by air remains high on the list of life’s truly memorable experiences.
It’s right up there with, say, getting a root canal, undergoing a public colonoscopy, or bungee jumping without a bungee.
The torture begins with arrival at the departures area of the airport after a fitful two-hour sleep on account of the fact the airline requires that you arrive at the airport 11.5 hours before your scheduled departure so that they can be sure that each and every passenger is as sleep deprived and uncomfortable as possible.
All airports require that all luggage carts have at least one wonky wheel, so that they become nearly impossible to steer. So as soon as the sliding doors whisk open, you enter a world packed with lost and confused people frantically pushing faulty carts piled high with overweight luggage, zig-zagging their way in the wrong direction, crashing into and careening off of garbage containers, lineup posts, flight attendants, etc.
If you manage to survive long enough to finally reach the proper airline, the correct flight, on the right day, you will find a lineup so long you need binoculars to see the check-in desk.
The dawn has not yet dawned on your day and here you are in a lineup full of nervous and tired fellow citizens, a lineup culminating some time in the distant future with an extremely uncomfortable little visit with a grim-faced “customs person” sitting in a glass booth wearing a scary uniform, and a look that confirms that they have recently graduated with honours from the compulsory Grumpy Pants Border Guard School.
And of course your adventure includes the dreaded airport security scanner. This surrealistic little area is where hordes of strangers have to take off their belts and shoes in public, pile all the private personal belongings into a public plastic tray on a conveyer belt where it disappears into a large machine that bombards all your belongings with mysterious rays that remove random files from laptops, erase images from digital cameras and decrease the value of all Canadian coins and bills by at least 20 per cent.
All the while, highly trained security staff gather around the screen on the other side of the machine, chatting away in various foreign languages, and perusing the screen, carefully pretending they are busy “scanning” when, in fact, they are actually watching reruns of Gilligan’s Island.
By then, the entire area is crammed with a seething horde of dazed travellers stumbling around in their socks with their pants down around their knees.
Then, while everyone else in the entire airport is staring at you, you get to walk through the Doorway of Doom.
This is another security scanner that is disguised to look like a plastic door frame without a door, but is actually a Sonic Embarrassment Machine designed to make a loud beeping noise whenever you personally walk through it.
And if you make it this far, you now have several minutes to somehow find your gate, which is always strategically hidden in an obscure part of the airport several dozen kilometres away.
All this for the honour of paying large sums of money to cram yourself into seats designed for emaciated eight-year-old children for a bumpy 10-hour flight with no food, no fresh air, and one working washroom closet, to finally land, several hours behind schedule, only to find that your luggage is on a different plane on its way to Hong Kong.
Such is the joy of flight, where modern airlines and airports all operate under the same collective motto:
“We’re not happy until you’re not happy”.
Or should I say: “Good luck?”
Harley Hay is a local filmmaker and freelance writer.