The cold, craziness of traveling by air

My adventuresome friend Alice greeted me at a recent gathering shaking her head in the negative and saying “never again, I am done.”

What she was done with was flying, she explained. So she grounded herself until the airline industry can shrink its carbon footprint and make travel simpler and more efficient.

And, passengers had to be half marathoners just to get around the airports and have the patience of Job to fly the friendly skies, she said.

Alice loves traveling. Is she getting too old to fly the friendly skies, I wondered. What the heck?

I thought nothing more of her complaints until I found myself booking a flight from Cleveland to the Baltimore/Washington, D.C. area.

I got to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport in plenty of time. With my ticket confirmation number at the ready, I approached the ticketing counter and noticed what I assumed (wrongly) were guards standing in line separating the passengers and the ticket agent.

From what Alice had told me earlier, the guards must have been there in case of a passenger uprising for poor service. They were not. They were members of the concierge service there to answer questions, help with baggage and check in.

Good sign, And one of them got me a wheelchair which is a free service of the airport.

If you are disabled there are attendants who will wheel you straight to the jet way door through the boarding process and settle you into your seat, putting your stuff into the overhead bin.

So far, so good. But I really don’t enjoy flying. What’s to enjoy? You are squished into a seat next to someone with questionable hygiene habits and the overhead vents blowing DNA laden stale air in your face.

I always, always, always come out of the experience with a cold.

And people accept it all without recognizing the craziness of it or our willingness to put up with the illogical.

Deplaning is another thing. Here’s where being a half marathoner comes in handy. Good luck if you are not. Finding your way in a new, oversized airport and where you are supposed to be and how to get there is another barrier among people because even when we are all speaking the same language, everyone’s saying, “I’m a stranger here myself.”

It’s the only time I was thankful I have a disability. The wheelchair appeared with an attendant holding a sign with my name on it. Glory be!

Hint: you too can order a wheelchair when you buy your ticket and fake a limp. As mentioned, this is a free service and no one questions your need.

Be aware, the free service comes with dirty looks from fellow passengers as you are whisked through security to your gate.

One leg of a recent trip took me and my trusty wheelchair attendant on (I counted) six elevators and trips down endless shiny concourses and two trams to end up in a waiting room beyond luggage claim carousels.

It was there that I was abandoned by my wheelchair attendant. But before he disappeared, he said I was now in “arrival six” and I needed to tell that to whoever was coming to fetch me.

Even if they had a Cinnabon every 6 feet, airports are terrible places to spend any time. Wonder why cities spent so much time and money adding new stores, attractions and restaurants when every single person in the airport can’t wait to be away from the airport.

Airports have become overcrowded, third world countries populated by people who are perpetually confused, frustrated, angry, exhausted and ready to revolt.

So maybe it is OK that Cleveland lost its status as a hub city on June 4, 2014 when Continental announced it was leaving and taking its direct flights with it.

We got our fly-over status back. This means we can board a plane from Cleveland to Chicago to get on another plane that flies to New York and where we wanted to go in the first place.

Being at my destination was far more enjoyable than getting to and from it. Dorothy and the Wiz were right. In the end, there is no place like home and my cozy bed where I slept like the proverbial rock.

And when I woke the next morning, and right on schedule, I sneezed. My post-flight cold had landed.

A veteran reporter and columnist, Barbara Christian has been covering Chagrin Falls since 1967 and is currently responsible for Chagrin Falls village events, government and school board news along with her weekly column "Window on Main Street."

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