Travel Notes: Flying Isn’t Nice Anymore

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[My Own Travelocity Gnome]

I’ve only been dealing in one liners for the last twenty four hours, having only myself to talk to. Headlines and Slogans like
Airports I Have Known
Futility Thy Name Is Windshield Wiper
What Is It About Great Hunks of Metal Hurtling Through Space

I thought that last one on the bus, long before I even made it to the airplane.

The thing about international, and really all travel, that I had forgotten, is that it stinks. You think it’s going to be wonderful, because once a long while ago it was, but then you find yourself in the middle of going somewhere and realize a great change has overtaken it. Now it’s ghastly.

And really, its not me just being nostalgic. Long ago, flying some place was a great rush of freedom, the pure indulgence of leaving one world behind, going into the Airport, which, for me, is always where I’ve felt most at home, and then coming out the other side into another realm. The transition, through the airport, from one place to another, was like dying and being reborn. It was thrilling.

But truly, if modern man–because there’s no way I’m blaming this one on the women–has managed to ruin anything, it’s air travel. Now you go from one place to another and are persecuted at every turn. In the dying part you are made to face, more than ever before, your precarious and terrifying mortality. You have to disrobe. You have to be shouted at by women in badly cut uniforms and men in dingy vests. You have to surrender, as if you yourself were a low common criminal. When the submissive posture of surrender doesn’t do the trick you have to be groped by a large overpowering official in gloves. Then you have to scuttle to regather your clothes and property like some sickening rat fleeing into the darkness. You crouch, struggling to regain your shoes and composure, and hope they won’t come yell at you all over again. Then you wander to your gate through a low, dim hallway into ever increasing gray. You find a chair. You sit for a while. And then you file like cattle into a long heavy metal tube full of petrol. Oops, sorry, I said that one already.

So anyway, they, whoever they are, wouldn’t let us take off from JFK on time and I missed my connecting flight here in Amsterdam. I have Jacques Brel ringing in my too conscious mind, raving on about les Ports d’Amsterdam, something something. How does it go?

I’ve also sat next to a Mr. Bean impersonator, speaking some language I could not make out, no matter how carefully I listened, who enjoyed his one am dinner of meatballs and mashed, what was that exactly, potato?, very much. I’ve been mocked by a Dutch KLM official who, when I mentioned I had missed my flight, said, “Oh No,” very sarcastically. And I’ve been pushed by the cleaning lady who was ready for me to stop using the sink because it was time for it to be cleaned.

What I’m trying to say is that modernity, which invented the great and wonderful miracle of flight, has now gone and broken, has ruined its own beneficent creation. Instead of leaving one place behind and going into the mystery of another, what with globalization, we are all of us together all the time, and we’re all awful. We all have a cell phone, speak English, and have purchased the squishy neck pillow. It’s too bad. It really is.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to read one of the six hundred books I brought. Gosh they’re all really heavy. Pip pip.

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