Saturday, March 26, 2011

Wheels Up in 30

Interstate travel is not a major component of my work day-to-day. Being admitted to the Bar in only one state, rare is the occasion that work requires me to travel somewhere outside of the geographic boundaries of the State of Concrete Gardens. Home is not just where the heart is apparently but, also, where the work is.

Thursday past was an exception to the rule. I actually spent a portion of my day in three different states- flying from Newark to Charlotte, North Carolina and thereafter Charlotte, North Carolina to Richmond, Virginia before driving a bit more than an hour west of Richmond to conduct my client's de bene esse deposition as my way of preserving his trial testimony. From the time I left my house in the wee small hours of Thursday morning until I pulled into the driveway in the very early hours of Friday morning, I had been on the go for more than twenty hours. 'Tis an accomplishment I know that would be so much more impressive had I not spent most of it either being flown from place to place or waiting to be. It is not after all as if I spent any time piloting any of the four airplanes on which I flew (or more properly "in which I flew"; right?) Hell, on the final leg of my journey I got to spend a bit of the time doing something that I occasionally do when I drive my car: I napped. I am kidding, of course. At least you hope I am.

I do not fly often although experience has taught me that unless it is unavoidable one should not ever check luggage. Or if one must, one should be resigned to the fact that one's bag, much like a roach at the infamous Roach Motel, might never check out after checking in. Thursday I carried all that I needed for the day in a messenger's bag that I carried on to each of my flights. Only one of the flights - the day's final one, which took me from Charlotte home to Newark - was filled to the gunwales. Yet on each flight there were at least a handful of passengers who expressed surprise, anger and chagrin at not being permitted to carry on a parcel, bag or item of some sort or another that took two grown men and a medium-sized machine to move from Point A to Point B. I went to law school to stay away from hard math but even I know something the approximate size of an 11-year-old boy is likely to be bigger than 45" and weigh more than 40 pounds. My thanks to the twits on each flight who held up the rest of us in our effort to get from where we were to where we next either needed or wanted to be by choosing to play, "They'll Never Reject My Bag!" on our dime. May each of you experience the joy of making your next flight through Denver International Airport.....on Continental.

A lot of interesting things to see at the airport and on the airplane - at least if my admittedly highly concentrated sample is any indication. I had never seen a full body scanner in use until I got to Richmond Thursday afternoon to begin my journey home. Apparently, "Beam me up Scotty!" is something that the TSA security personnel have heard on more than one occasion - judging from the less than lukewarm reaction that line got at the checkpoint. Much funnier - at least to me - was the woman from TSA who had a near heart attack at the expense of the young woman in front of me who had "snuck" two beverages in clear plastic bottles through security.

Of course in the "all the protection that the lowest bid can buy" protection detail's vernacular, "sneaking through" is defined as putting one bottle in each of a backpack's two prominent and clearly visible outer pockets. The fact that the TSA agent who was the initial line of defense was the one who had failed to direct that those items be removed prior to going through the checkpoint was lost on his comrade on the far side of the x-ray machine, whose gasket was blown entirely in the direction of the woman to whom the backpack belonged. I laughed aloud when the agent told the woman she had one of two choices: (a) consume the entire contents of both bottles, which would have necessitated her going back to the end of the security line and going through the scanner again; or (b) permit the agent to throw them out.

Having copious faith in you, the reader, I will not tell you which option she elected (think Hamlet) but let your own innate intelligence and common sense guide you to the answer. While no one beset upon me with cudgels of any type for laughing at the absurdity of the choices presented, I was reminded a short while later why one should never laugh in the face of authority. As I was waiting in line to board the flight to Charlotte, I noticed that a trio of TSA agents had set up a random security checkpoint at our gate. I was happy to play my part in the agency's efforts to prove that it does not engage in racial profiling. What is a dress shirt and tie-wearing white guy to do if not his part to promote equality? I was thinking of refusing to comply with the request when I was pulled out of line.....until I noticed the big, somewhat dim-looking agent manning the checkpoint and the fact this he was already wearing some type of latex or surgical gloves. I do not know about you but I tread lightly around a guy who comes to work dressed up for the cavity search.

Again, as an infrequent flyer, which Continental Airlines and I both appreciate more than I can express adequately here, I was surprised to hear repeated on each flight the directive for those passengers seated in the rows of the plane adjacent to the emergency exits regarding assisting others. Apparently if you are in one of those seats you have to pinky swear that in the event of an emergency you will assist the crew in assisting others. According to the announcement I heard over and over and over (and over), "If you are unwilling or unable to fulfill that obligation, then please contact us now to let us know and we fill re-seat you." Conspicuous by its absence was (a) where one would be directed to sit after walking away from the duties associated with the Seat of Selflessness; and (b) whether the other passengers - having just seen you acknowledge that you care not one rat's ass about their welfare - are permitted to vote as to just where you might be re-seated.

I meant to ask a member of any of the four flight crews I met in my travels if any of them had ever encountered a passenger who raised his or her hand in response to that inquiry. Sadly, I forgot. It boggles the mind to think that one among our number on a plane would be so stupid as to admit such a thing, thus ensuring that a primo location adjacent to an emergency exit would be taken from him or her and awarded to another. One all hell breaks loose, it is every man for himself. Until that time if you need to hear me channel my inner Mother Theresa to guarantee that I have a seat that enhances my chances of making it out alive once the captain has turned on the "Run for Your Life" light, I will gladly say whatever you want me to say in that regard. Talk about Social Darwinism in practical application. If you are not smart enough to lie to keep that seat on the plane, then you have no business being between me and sweet freedom once the shit.....

....Mr. Zevon, if you would be so kind.

-AK

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