I do not fly. I do not consider flying on an airplane, and I don’t think about it, either, unless one of my recurring nightmares about being on an airplane happens to recur. My dreams include someone trying to get me on a plane on which I do not want to ride. I dream about being on airplanes that become shuttles into outer space that I cannot get off of. I have dreamed of being on a plane that would not take off, and I was stuck there forever. I have dreamed of being on runaway planes, planes with no fuel and planes that are so large I couldn’t see the beginning or end of its width or depth. I have also dreamed of being on a plane that is so small there was only room for me and a phantom pilot. I always wake up from these nightmares absolutely terrified and never more grateful for being on solid ground.
Not only do I not even consider flying, my unwillingness is so sincere, but I don’t like airports, either. I don’t like the smell. The glazed and lost look on the faces of people trying to figure out where they are makes me feel insecure. But most of all, it’s the airplanes. The sound of them taking off and landing unnerves me. Seeing these airplanes all static and waiting hell-bound on the runway is too much for me to comprehend, even when they are not in the air they are terrifying.
Dear Reader, am I aware that this is not normal and that my anxiety around airports is absurd? Why yes, I am. Does this change the fact that my eyes rolled like a wild horse’s while going through a security check point this morning? Why no, dear Reader, it does not.
My aunt, visiting for a week, had a return flight home this morning at six thirty. I was designated to take her to the airport because I’m usually up anyway – sort of. I go to bed between four and five in the morning usually, so it’s not a stretch that I’d be lucid enough make an airport drop-off around five thirty. But it’s never just a “drop-off” now, is it? Not when the drop-off-ee has a seven month old baby.
So I deposit my aunt and cousin at the entrance and then I park. I park and get out of my car while my cell phone rings. It’s my aunt, reminding me to bring in my driver’s license. I’m not entirely sure why I need my driver’s license, I’m not the one about to fly the plane, but okay. I’m the first to admit my ignorance to this whole business of airports and flying because I don’t want any part of it; it is my phobia.
I walk from the parking lot, which somehow resembles a cross between a Disney landing zone and the mall. I cross a pedestrian cross-walk, and as I stop and start for on-coming traffic, I remember that I am not wearing a bra. In fact, as I file in behind two pilots it occurs to me that I am, in fact, in my pajamas. One of these two pilots stops in front of the sliding electronic doors. He gestures with his hand in an after you gesture and says, “After you, young lady.” I catch my reflection in the glass doors before they slide open and I am thoroughly horrified with my appearance.
I take the escalator (never the elevator unless the circumstances are dire) and look for my aunt. She walks out of the elevator towards what I think is called the “terminal”. After she laments having to remove some items from her suitcase because of a weight discrepancy, we sit down so she can wrangle the left over items into her carry on. While she eats a banana she removed to make room for a pair of flip-flops, a monotone voice comes over a speaker and talks to everyone about something or other. What I hear is, “you are all trapped here and now you have to get on an airplane if you want to be able to leave.” Which is absurd and also what I heard.
So when my aunt tells me, suddenly and with no little waving of her hands, that I need a boarding pass so I can help her through security I feel the first stirrings of a panic attack I’ve felt in a quite a long time. We all know I’m a little squirrely, that I exist with a low-level of anxiety all the time, but I’m usually able to maintain.
Not this time. My heart leaps into my throat. My eyes are grainy now from being up way past my bedtime. And now my aunt is trying to get me on an elevator so I can go downstairs to get a boarding pass. Back down the escalator I go. I meet my aunt at the mouth of the elevator so we can scoot to another series of desks where they take my driver’s license and issue me a piece of paper. We go back up-stairs by our respective means. Then I walk through security. In my pajamas. With no bra on.
There is a smiling face waiting for me. It’s a friend who comes to my yoga classes waiting to check me through this gate that I don’t want to pass through. She seems so calm and peaceful about this business, I figure she wouldn’t let me go to my death. She wants my driver’s license. She says that even though she knows me, the camera needs to see her check everyone who comes in. A likely story, I think. I bet she is an imposter and someone has been able to contrive a drone with the likeness of my friend to lure me into a false sense of security. I am only a wee bit relieved when she says, “You better not be going anywhere, we have yoga tomorrow.”
I get further into the belly of the beast when my aunt retrieves a grey bin that looks like it holds discarded body parts. She tells me I need to put my shoes in there. I immediately bellow, “My shoes!” much like Ma Kettle.
What this means, of course, is that I have to take my shoes off to put them in the body part bin. So now I’m in airport security, in my pajamas and no bra, and I am barefoot. I feel my pupils dilate. My aunt slides on through a body imagining machine that will no doubt try to steal my soul, but luckily my soul is strong enough to withstand the electromagnetic pull of its sinister X-rays, if that’s what they’re calling devil pictures nowadays. I square off a man about my size. He waves me through something I’m sure just radiated my belly button.
On the other side, where my aunt has already deposited the baby back in the stroller, I wait for my shoes and purse. Someone finds my purse objectionable. I see this lady who I do not know manhandle my purse. She shakes it and slogs it around in the body part bin and then sends it back through the machine to see inside. By now, they have decided there is something highly offensive in my purse, so they take command of it.
I have not had the sense to put my shoes back on. Rather, I am standing there slack-jawed at the mishandling of my things while they sift through my personal belongings I didn’t sign on to have sifted through. Now, a supervisor is getting involved and everything I’ve seen on 6o Minutes is replaying in my mind.
My aunt tells me to quit looking so crazy, that this happens all the time. I think I’m handling myself very well. I can only imagine what I really look like. I feel my face flush white, if you can imagine it. My eyes are glazed with a combination of tears and sand, and my feet are pressing into this cold dirty floor beneath me.
Of course, they’d found my wine key with the small blade on it. The wine key is for work and incidentals, but they don’t care. They do tell me I can come back and get it after I see my aunt off. I slide my shoes back on my feet. I tell them that won’t be necessary, I’m leaving now. The man is perplexed. He tells me I can walk her to the gate and then come back for my wine key, but I am completely finished off and ready to go. I hug my aunt there and then again when we part ways fifty feet away. I tell the man, “You should have confiscated it, that’s a good wine key.”
What I mean to say is, “You’ve been very nice but get me the hell out of here, have a nice day.”