Fear of flying: No longer able to run through airports



One of my favorite blogs, Life in the Boomer Lane, had a popular post about the author flying in cramped seats from Seattle to Chicago, sandwiched in between two football fans, one of whom was invading her space dramatically. It made me realize how long it’s been since my husband and I have flown. 

Fourteen years ago, I wrote a similar piece for my weekly newspaper, remarking about the many changes that were affecting air travel. Can you believe that cell phones and laptops were just then coming into vogue?! Here’s a reprint of that piece:

When Mad Mother and Lemonade Man took to the friendly skies of American (faulty tail sections and all) on Feb. 4, 2000, we’d both been strangers to air travel for about six or seven years. A lot has changed in that time.

The biggest change has been in the number of electronic gadgets in evidence. And it’s not that the cell phones and laptop computers were all that necessary on a Saturday morning. Most of the users were showing off.

As we picked up our bags at the St. Petersburg, FL airport, one guy was talking to his bookie. Earlier, at our layover in Dallas, a plump mother with a cell phone attached to her like a child on a retractable cord, was giving her family a play-by-play: They’ve just called us for boarding . . . I’m now boarding the plane . . . I’m now picking up my Bistro bag snack . . . I’m now looking for seat 24C . . .

The guy across the aisle on our flight to Florida got out his laptop immediately and said it’s what he does now instead of reading a book. Helps the flight time go faster and he doesn’t so much mind that he’s scrunched in a narrow seat for two hours (those seats do seem to have gotten narrower in six years).

Me? I waited to use my laptop until we got to our condo, then used it to help put out three pages of this week’s newspaper from Florida, thus ruining one day that was supposed to have been spent in the sun. But what the heck? It was just as warm in Missouri as in Florida anyway.

On the return trip, we did invest in a low-tech device that has now become a necessity for air travel. Got us one of those carts with wheels to put carry-on luggage on. If you’ve never tried to run from gate 14 in Terminal A of the Dallas airport to gate 39 in Terminal C in only 15 minutes, you haven’t lived. We almost died, actually, on the trip down.

It may be a long time before we fly again, but you can bet the laptop will be riding on that new little cart next time, instead of hanging off the shoulders of someone who got too old to run through airports.

We’ve only flown once since 9/11 and the dramatic changes that ensued after then and were appalled at having to remove our shoes, be frisked and “wanded” into indignity and then made to throw away the bottled water we had just purchased outside the gate. Thus we’ve totally missed the whole body scans.

In these post-retirement days we talk about planning a trip that includes air travel but all we can think about is cabins full of recycled, germ-laden air and cramped seats. It’s enough to make us stay at home.