02 December 2011

Just Getting to Being On My Way | NZ ii

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

I arrived at the airport maybe three hours before my flight. That was down to two hours by the time I actually got to the gate. First I had the wrong terminal. The first leg of my trip was domestic. So I went to the United Airlines counter in the international terminal. My mistake. I'm sure if I'd taken some time to think about it, I would have realized I knew better. But I was just so excited. 

Once inside the proper terminal, I hoisted my luggage onto the scale. I typed in my info. I scanned my passport. I waited for an attendant to verify my bag would be checked through to my final destination. This is where I started to lose that spring in my Auckland-bound step. I (and the other luggage hoisters) must have waited for 15 minutes, with attendants watching and not helping. Those people on the other side of the counter knew what we hoisters were hoping to get from the kiosk tapping. They knew we had bags for their conveyor belts, zipping by just beyond our collective reach. They knew guaranteed safe passage for our suitcases was the only thing standing in the way of an awkward trip through security and the start of vacation. They knew. Of course they knew. And they just stood there, one by one meeting my eyes and looking away. The lot of them, vacation-stalling cowards. Eventually a guy in a tie told us to hoist elsewhere. And so we went.
The next area had two agents, though one was only there as a translator for the family with six overweight bags bound for Mexico. Once ensuring la familia understood weight distribution, she left the rest of us in the care of another, who was in no rush to actually do her job. I was saved by a lovely (and efficient) fella fresh off his break. He was quick, and restored a bit of faith that there are people at that airline willing to do what they're paid to do. I promptly went through security, where my carry on items backed up the conveyor belt.

You may recall I did a deep condition that morning. That meant my hair was covered. It actually meant my hair was wet, though soft and tangle-free. But the "covered" part is what started the stall. At first I thought I was being selected for additional screening. This made me smile, because I had no pockets, no belt, no rivets, not even an underwire in my bra that could have caused a metal-detecting disturbance. In my mind, I was in for a quick delay. Also, the "you've been selected" area at SFO is a fascinating glass enclosure between security lines. There are doors on either side. But once you're in, you're boxed in, and very clearly away from the rest of society. Another woman came in after me, and then a third. The box was getting crowded. It then occurred to me were all women. And we were all brown. There is a difference between feeling selected and feeling profiled. Can you imagine the letter I started writing in my head? At minimum, there was going to sensitivity training. I could only hope to get a voucher of some sort. Fortunately (for Mr. TSA Agent) I had it partially wrong. They had to touch my head. We were women. We were brown. We also had our heads covered (though I was just wearing a bandana). We (therefore) had to have our heads squished. Ms. TSA Agent was very delicate in the squishing, and I was back on my way just in time to get the conveyor belt moving again. I was going to New Zealand! 

I bought some money. I ate lunch. I called my parents and settled near a window. I later relocated to a garbage can that had been covering an outlet. Eventually we boarded what was to be a quick flight to Los Angeles. There was an empty seat next to me. The guy on the other end of the row was the right amount of chatty. I felt it was time for all the fortuitous events of my trip to show themselves. Once again, I was wrong.