Why my baby soul doesn’t like plane trips…

After 18 straight months of touring and flying almost every week, I found that plane flights made me feel “displaced” for days afterward. Like I’m partially in the last city and partially in the new city. The writer William Gibson – and others – say this feeling is caused by your soul traveling separately from your body and needing to catch up. The further you travel, the longer it takes for your soul to catch up. We call this feeling jet lag. Given that I get jet lag most severely when I travel east I can only assume that my soul catches head winds going that direction. The past couple of weeks of driving has reminded me that road travel doesn’t do that to me. I guess my soul can keep up. I see the terrain pass by me, I watch the weather change, I feel connected to the transition instead of being in one place and ending up somewhere vastly different without knowing how the change happened. I think it’s not travel that wears me out but the way that I travel. Today I got on a plane for the first time in 2 months because I’m headed for Cabo San Lucas for the weekend and am remembering all over again why plane travel exhausts me. Problem 1: Human error. I’m meeting a friend in Mexico but he’s flying out of California whereas I’m flying out of Nashville.  Thus we expected that he’d be in Mexico many hours before me. Except he missed his flight. White at the Nashville airport, I got a text from him that he didn’t know if he’d make it as there was only one more flight and he’d have to fly standby. After a bit of back and forth while I stood at the boarding gate, we decided I should go for it and get on the flight without knowing if he’d get there. I already had a ridiculous flight pattern of flying east to North Carolina, and then west across the entire country to Phoenix, AZ and then south to Cabo, ensuring that I’d be on a plane for most of the day. By the time I got to NC it seemed he’d make the standby flight, which was good, but I still had 8 hours of flying to go. We left the gate late in North Carolina and towards the end of the flight we knew we were arriving late as well. I only had an hour lay over in Phoenix before my Cabo flight, which isn’t much, and the girls sitting in front of me were headed to Puerto Vallarta on a flight leaving around the same time as mine. We 3 determined we’d be catching our connections in a different terminal than the one we’d land in so we needed to be off the plane and running to make it. Problem 2: airline “problem solving” capabilities. Now that airlines are charging a ridiculous amount to check baggage, people just pack large bags and bring them on board. This solves all problems of waiting in baggage claim and paying fees except now the overhead bins are so crowded that people walk up and down the aisles looking for space to put their bags and when there isn’t enough room, they gate check them. Once the plane’s on the ground, people swim against the tide of deplaning passengers to retrieve their bags or they fill up the jetway waiting for their gate checked bags. I fully expect the airlines to start measuring and weighing carry-ons at check in and either charging for them or refusing to let them on board over a certain weight or size. Knowing that this was the case on our very full flight, the Puerto Vallarta girls approached the flight attendants to ask if they could help us out, to which the flight attendants responded: Oh, we can’t tell people to stay seated and let connecting passengers off first. I mean, we can do that but no one listens to us. Oh no, we can’t contact the tower and tell them to hold your connecting flight. We don’t have that capability. Oh no, the connecting flight won’t wait for you. US Airways doesn’t do that. Oh, don’t worry, they’ll just book you on another flight if you miss it. Oh, Mexico? Oh, sorry. There won’t be another flight today. You might just have to wait until tomorrow. In other words, we’d like to be as politely unhelpful as possible. Thanks for flying US Airways where we do our best to make the “convenience” of getting you somewhere quicker as inconvenient as possible. Those girls were having none of it. They were getting to Puerto Vallarta tonight if it killed them. As I commiserated with them one girl said “I teach second grade, I need this vacation! I’m getting on that plane if I have to knock people down to do it!” I told them that I planned to follow in their wake off the plane and the second grade teacher said “You do that. I may look little but I’m a linebacker! And I’m used to yelling. We’re going to make those flights!” Problem 3: terminal size. I had three flights today and each connection required a sprint of probably a mile across the airport to the correct gate. I knew we’d have a rough time getting to the right terminal this time and we had to be there sooner rather than later. The last time I got to a gate with 10 minutes to spare, the cabin doors were already shut and they told me I’d have to catch the next flight. I weaseled my way on the flight but it wasn’t fun and it was too close and I’d rather not do it again. As we contemplated this, our plane touched down so the girls and I grabbed our stuff, unbuckled our seat belts, crouched down and got ready. The minute the plane stopped moving that little second grade teacher was out of her seat like a shot, grabbing her friend by the arm, towing her behind and yelling “Get out of the aisle if you don’t have a connecting flight! We have a plane to catch! Do you have a connecting flight? Can you sit down so we can get by? Sorry sir, I can’t let you get past me to get your luggage, I need to get off the plane!” I just followed behind nodding and smiling and saying “Thanks so much. So sorry. Thanks! Sorry…” until we barreled onto the jetway and started running. I ran – in heels – from one end of the Phoenix airport to the other, and arrived panting at my gate only to discover that there was a gate change. Had to run back by the second grade teacher and yell “check your gate! Mine changed!” and made it to my new gate just in time for the last zone boarding. Last I saw the girls were going to make their flight too, but only by minutes. Thank God for fellow travelers who wrangle children for a living! So I’m tired and sweaty but I’m going to Cabo! However, I’m in an exit row and the handle cover fell off the exit door. And my seatmate’s back of the seat pocket ripped off in her hand when she put something in it. And there’s no water in the bathroom to flush toilets or wash hands. So what I mean is, I’m going to Cabo if the plane makes it and we don’t contract cholera. Let’s think optimistically and say: beach pictures tomorrow!

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