Fly Me Away

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Are more old people traveling these days or is it just me? I can’t throw a snack pack at an airport without hitting someone over 80. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against mobility among the super-retired, but the fast-paced misery that is modern air travel is not a natural match for the older crowd.

For one, speed is not their hallmark and, God knows, when getting there involves the airlines, we’d all like to get where we’re going as quickly as possible. Especially me. I don’t want to make a fuss, but I’m claustrophobic and it doesn’t take much in an airport to push me over the edge.

The security line this morning was not that bad. Three lanes open. The one with the longest runway and the biggest stack of bins was deserted, so I veered in that direction. Silly rabbit. The reason the belt was empty was because a single cardigan-clad woman of a certain age had set up camp at the head of the tables ahead of the conveyer belt. One rolling blue backpack (small) with a matching blue monkey swinging off its side. One purse. One bin. That’s a 10-second push for me, but not for her. There were things to be done. The purse needs organizing. The purse needs zipping. And re-organizing. And re-zipping. She would not be pressed or passed. It was her turn and by God she was going to take it. All of it.

I know security’s a sonofabitch. I know that. I hate flying; I get flustered. But here’s the thing: preparation is the key to success. You know it’s coming. We’ve all been here before. Dress for success and for God’s sake, now is not the time to realize that your credit cards really shouldn’t be in the same pocket of your purse as your breath mints. Let’s all focus on the task at hand and get through this together.

The security checkpoint was her low point. After it, we caught up to her zipping down the moving sidewalk at a near-jog. But she was replaced by the next hurdle: the gate area.

Flight bags. Jackets. Friends. Canes. Hats. Canned ham. It all needs space. And space they can have: since they arrive ages before I do, the gate area is theirs. While I am tearing downstairs to catch a cab that will barely get me to the check-in before cut-off, the early birds are settling into the gate area with their worms.

They can travel with these oodles of non-travel-friendly stuffs because they have the wheelchair market at their disposal, so if all the half-empty purses and totally impractical stripey bags get away from them, they can just order up some wheels. (I’m a little jealous about that, but I have my 30-something pride.)

Also, they seem to have abandoned any investment in being or appearing streamlined. I am firmly planted in that latter category and not the former, alas, but I’m working on it and by their age I will be a master of the Katherine Hepburn pants and the single Italian bag. I want to look sleek, even – or especially – under stressful conditions. I don’t understand it, but this group has gone the other way. Doesn’t more stuff = more stress? What am I saying?? That’s almost un-American.

On the plane, I can set up my own shop, surrounded by this same herd in their comfortable black shoes that look like they were made out of petroleum products by Germans. They shuttle to and from the bathroom, toilet seat covers attached to their pants, turquoise short-sleeved tops paired with wide black capris and frosted tips, the ladies reflexively tugging their tunic tops down a little over their ample bottoms. The men wear tan passport cases around their necks and shuffle their newspapers over the seat behind me, taking revenge on reclined seats squashing their retired paunches.

On the one hand, I admire their obliviousness to their surroundings’ requirements and inconveniences. Good on them. On the other hand, I’m not clear why, with the wisdom of age, they would bother with any of the mess.

When I am retired, I am going to circumvent all of it by having my own jet that will pick me up in my backyard. This has obvious advantages, except perhaps for the back yard, which will probably sustain some considerable damage at take-off and landing.

If that can’t be arranged, I will live on a canal (never in Florida) and travel by boat. The pace is admittedly slow, but my majordomo will be much nicer than most flight attendants and I will be able to take all my really heavy stuff – like busts and bowling balls – because I won’t have to hoist any of it above my head.

Both of these will be pre-stocked with my canned ham and hats, so there will be no need to pack them separately.

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Categories: News, Nuisance, Miscellany

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2 Comments on “Fly Me Away”

  1. CarlO
    April 28, 2009 at 2:05 pm #

    Re: the jet, maybe you could have it do a fly-by and yank you out of your backyard via a convenient kite-like device you send up, like Batman did with the bad guy in Hong Kong. Not so good vis-a-vis your aging body, but maybe technology will have improved by then.

  2. Emma
    May 9, 2009 at 9:37 am #

    Just to be clear, I am NOT talking about ALL retired people. I know some very travel-friendly retired people who are more stylish and speedy than I am. I’m talking about the canned ham crowd. In fact, I’m talking about the canned ham crowd of all ages. The oblivious ones who get up in your personal space with their kids and their visors and their cell phones. You know who I mean. And, if you’re reading this, it’s not you. Just FYI. At least I don’t think so. Do you wear a visor a lot?

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