The flying experience has changed since my childhood years when I, along with my family, boarded airplanes from Karachi to Lahore. Now the lines are long and the “security” is nerve-wracking. This morning, my husband and daughter drop me off to IAH for a flight to Portland so I can meet up with other NAMAC arts representatives for a leadership retreat at Silver Falls State Park. We are 15 minutes late as we leave, and once we reach the airport – and even as I leap out of the car – I know that I have a 50-50 chance of making the flight.
Inside the terminal, the line to enter the departure gates is long and slow. I hold my phone in my hand and keep checking the minutes, hoping that my departure gate hasn’t changed. Once I reach the checkpoint, I have to do what everyone does: remove jewelry, unzip laptop, remove sneakers and belt and somehow hold on to my ID and boarding pass . I’m asked to go through a full body scan and body pat down. Each minute is more delay and I force myself to remain calm. I can’t protest now.
When I finally reach the gate for my flight, passengers are on standby, and I’m the last person allowed to enter the airplane.
The woman next to me reads my exhaustion: “That was awful, wasn’t it? I’ve never been through such a stressful departure.”
We both agree that even though the time is only 9:20 am on a Sunday morning, we feel as if the entire day has slipped away.
Sitting on the flight, I watch fellow passengers purchase sandwiches, and I remember the glamorous PIA air-hostesses (as flight attendants were referred to long ago) on those flights of my youth and realize, once again, that the pampering one experienced on flights is another experience that has long gone. And just like the rotary phone that Minal has never seen, she will only know associate airplane travel with long lines, increased “security” and stress.