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May 13, 2011 > Happy Living: One Day at a Time

Happy Living: One Day at a Time

'Airport hoops'

By ElenaMartina

United Airlines flight #664 leaving San Francisco was to fly me to Chicago on my way to North Carolina to visit family. At the gate, several people were looking tanned, wearing shorts, and sporting Maui shirts apparently back from a very nice vacation.

We were told our plane was full and the airline offered to put passenger's carry-on luggage in the cargo area - free of charge. I remembered my daughter telling me once that she took such offer before only for her suitcase to be placed on a later flight. I did not want the possibly of a late delivery, so I declined.

Once on board, I sat down and looked out my window to watch the luggage being transported alongside a large horizontal box stamped with: "Human Remains." The sight surprised me as I have never seen a coffin go in the belly of a plane before.

After that unsettling scene, I began to feel encroached in my seat and my right elbow touched my neighbor's arm while I repositioned myself. Later, he coughed, and I immediately turned on the vent to channel his cough away. When the passenger in front of me also coughed, I thought of asking if anybody had a fashionable health mask to spare.

Since there was nothing I could do, I grabbed a magazine from my bag and tried to turn my reading light on, but it did not work. Strangely, my light switch turned my neighbor's light off, and when he tried his switch, it turned my light on. I thought the wiring was inauspicious, but hey, I had a dead body under me, my displeasure was minor in comparison.

In flight and now six in the morning, the sunrise appeared through my window and I was appreciating the beauty of the snow covered mountains below when the flight attendant in the aisle announced, "Snacks for purchase." Her shout out ruined my moment as I turned and asked for hot tea - and that is all I got by the way, no peanuts or pretzels were offered. I simply could not be bothered with television that early and closed my eyes, but the crisp sound of a newspaper folding and unfolding behind me kept my senses awake.

During a three-hour layover in Chicago, I decided to pass the time looking at shops, and bought a bag of peanuts double dipped in chocolate. When the receipt was handed to me, it read: $6.66. "Not a great omen," I said to the cashier. She was taken aback when she looked at it and agreed with me.

The first flight delay was for 20 minutes and I heard the airline personnel ask if anyone would give up their seat for a later flight and receive a $400 travel voucher plus a meal ticket. A young man stood up and took their offer. A second delay added 30 more minutes, but we finally boarded a small Express Jet where it was impossible to hear yourself think. A seat with minimal leg room greeted me, but I arrived safely in Greensboro, North Carolina. Phew!

After four days with family, I was headed once again to the airport and did not realize that my blouse had metallic art embroidered onto it. It made the scanner go off and I was asked to wait for a pat down.

I watched as a female T.S.A. employee put on elastic gloves, like doctors do before an exam, and approach me. She said in detail what she was going to do to me. I felt silly standing there with my arms stretched out, palms up, while she did what she had to do. And yes, she slightly touched every private place.

With that ordeal over, I again waived good-bye to my family who watched the entire event from afar.

United Airlines flight #7377 was delayed twice and later canceled. The airline called passengers for seat reassignments to a new flight; which meant passing through guarded airport areas as if we had just arrived from somewhere.

My new destination was Washington Dulles Airport, departing two hours later. Passengers were understandably annoyed, but I somehow was managing my odyssey extremely well, that is, until I went through security again, where I was patted down once more by another T.S.A. agent.

The journey did not end there; once onboard I noticed the flight attendant to be in his 60's and wondered if in an emergency, I would be helping him rather than him helping me. I sat down and thought "What else could seem wrong?" when I noticed the seal of my window unattached at the wall. I turned to my neighbor passenger and pointed at my window; alarmed, she said, "Should we say something?"

We arrived safely, to Washington D.C., happy that my window held on and that we made it alive. My next flight home was uneventful, and despite jumping through airline hoops, I made it safely to my final destination: Home, sweet home.

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