Terminal illness

Airport arrivals and departuresThere may still be a divide between coach and first class — but you have to make it through the airport first. And these days, air travel makes fools of us all.

Check-in
Okay, not a problem. Deceptively easy, in fact. The attendants at the counter barely glance at me or my carry-on luggage that will — at a much later and more inconvenient time — be determined too large to take on the plane.

Security
There's a reason they employ intimidating people in uniforms to holler "Have your passport and boarding card ready!!" without making eye contact. I accept that. I dig mine out and kick my suitcase ahead of me to keep the line moving, while attempting to use my free hand to take off my jacket and shoes and place them in the plastic bins. I watch helplessly as the purse containing all of my most valuable possessions sails along the conveyor belt and disappears inside the little security cave. I strain to keep an eye on it as I walk through the scanner — hoping no one else picks it up while I'm being detained for the metal on my belt buckle.

Customs
This is too painful to talk about right now. Maybe years from now, after the shock of being denied my roast beef sandwich into the United States has worn off, but right now it's too fresh.

The Gate
I approach the desk at the gate to make sure I am in the right place, and then take my seat and watch for the next two hours as other people do the same thing. They too must be familiar with the reality that gates can change without a moment's notice or announcement — and even if you are in the right place when you get there, you have to keep checking the screen to make sure that hasn't changed.

The Flight
By this point I am just so grateful to have made it, and for that complementary granola bar laid out on linen in a basket, and for the fact that it's not winter — and I was spared the frustration of trying to lift my carry-on into the overhead compartment wearing a puffy coat that restricts my arms from lifting above my ears.

The Arrival
Nothing is quite so humbling and anti-climactic as arriving at your destination, especially if you're returning home, only to find that the person picking you up isn't there yet.

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