I love to fly. Love it. Take-off and landing, bumpy or smooth. I love being in the clouds. Never been scared. Don't even mind turbulence.
What I do mind -- yep, here it comes -- is the business around flying. The long lines, absurd security practices, the over-priced airport merchandise (I had a beer for $11.63! For that, I could have stayed home, slurped down a 6-pack, and pretended I was flying somewhere!).
I had a beer because I was on standby, because I missed my flight. Well, not really missed -- I could have made the gate/plane/flight. Except, I arrived 29 minutes before the flight -- 30 is the rule (domestic). One Minute, I pleaded, cajoled, argued. No. I was put on standby for the next flight (hence the beer).
And it's then that I realized -- I could have gotten on my plane but they'd overbooked, so my seat had gone to a standby passenger, while I was there. I understand, airlines desperately need to make money and overbook to keep flight costs down in the face of high fuel charges. So, I relaxed ... until I didn't make the next flight.
At the customer service line, the man next to me looked like his head was going to explode. He, unlike me, had not been one minute late, he had just been rerouted, several times it sounded like, due to technical problems, schedule changes, etc. Now they refused to put him on another airline even though they couldn't get him to the city in North Carolina he needed to get to in time for his meeting the next day.
He demanded supervisor after supervisor, till they were lined up like the nanny applicants in Mary Poppins -- all with the same dour and intractable expression. His face got redder and redder and kind of puffed up, till I thought his whole head was going to pop off and fly wildly around the room like a just-released giant balloon, loudly expelling hot air in an ear-splitting buzz.
I decided to just quietly accept my reassigned flight at 4 the next morning, and went home. Thank goodness I hadn't checked my bag.
Ah, the bag. Here's where the beauty aspect comes in. On the way back, I was stopped at security because my little bag had somehow offended the X-ray machine, or more accurately X-ray machine operator (because it had made it through outbound security no problem).
Now, I sort of pride myself on being a good travel dresser. Nowhere near as adept as George Clooney's character in Up in the Air, but pretty good. Slip-on shoes, no metal jewelry, etc. (The woman in front of me had on complicated sandals with multiple buckles. Baffling.)
But really, we might has well just walk through naked. Ugh. (Did I mention that a few years ago I edited a book with all the reports on airline security, which said that all these machinations do absolutely no good? I don't want to get political here -- I'm just sayin'.)
And though I normally check my bag, it didn't this time because, 1.) It was so small, and 2.) Now they charge for checked baggage and this was supposed to be a cheap, quickie trip. But no. Apparently an innocent tube of curl matrix anti-humidity curl-defining life-enhancing gel-mousse-milk-whatever had raised a red flag.
Pulled to the side, The Man With the Plastic Gloves begins pulling out the contents of said bag: 1 pair pjs, several pairs underwear and shoes, a change of clothes, extra jacket, books, papers, press kits, a cookie. And the offending curl matrix. "What?" I say. Yes, I was getting annoyed.
He glares at me ( I glare right back) as he scoops up all the removed items and dumps them in a plastic bin, which goes, along with the bag, back through the machine. And, alas, the X-rayer is still not happy.
As I am clearly getting agitated (partly because I don't want to miss my flight again), a gloved woman is brought over to join her plastic compatriot in further removal of offending items: a travel Neutrogena Rainbath, hotel soaps, shampoos, conditioners, Body Shop all-natural deodorant, Olay cooling moisturizer, Garnier eye-depuffing roller, toothpaste, cleanser, sunscreen ... I was hoping, a la Mary Poppins, that a floor lamp and parrot-topped umbrella would miraculous come out of there too.
Normally I land-travel with this bag and these beauty item just live in it because I don't know where else to put them. The latex twins look at me accusingly.
So what? "I'm a beauty writer," I say, scowling deeply, for once thankful the Botox wore off. Again through the machine. Again not happy. Again with the gloves and removal.
My scary scowl had added a security guard to our happy little group, who would never in a million years make it past the walk-through metal detector. I resisted the urge to drag him over there and make him go through 47 times just to hear the repeated ding Ding DING! Meanwhile, a twee little man who could be in the cast of The Office explains to me, "If we make an exception for you...".
In the end I was given a choice: check the bag (for a fee) or dump the stuff. On the plane I was wedged between a portly woman whose paperback and perfume insinuated themselves into the left side of my seat, while on my right a young girl with very long nails clacked away on her electronic device.
Back home, after waiting for hours in baggage claim, I dumped out the contents of my bag. Each and every bottle and tube was 3oz. or under (why didn't I think to check this at O'Hare?!). Except the original tube of curl matrix; 5oz. -- half empty. Honestly, couldn't there be a simple test to see if my mousse is radioactive?
Next month, I have to go to North Carolina to see my recuperating mom. Guess what? I'm driving.
A variant on this post first appeared on StyleGoesStrong.com