Done with Covid? Longing for the joys of air travel? Excerpt from Poutine on the Orient Express: An Irreverent Look at Travel

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The Airport: Easy check-in, Security and Other Joys

Before you fly, you have to get to the airport.  For that matter, after you fly, the airport is also still a desired location at which to terminate your flight.  I have noticed a few things of interest about airports.Unlike that last scene in Casablanca, where Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart say their farewells on the tarmac of the airport, in the shadow of an airplane, most of us these days have to go through a series of steps before we even get near the aircraft.

Easy check-in

Firstly you must check-in, generally online these days.  You enter information following the prompts.I always like the one about whether I’m bringing along dangerous substances in my luggage, such as blow torches.  I would prefer to answer that one with an explanation, saying something like, while on vacation, some of us bring along golf clubs; I like to catch up on my welding.

Also, what I have noticed at airports is an assortment of what appears to be people who do nothing.  I am referring to those people in uniforms who carry a walkie-talkie but never appear to be doing anything.  If you ask them something about your flight, they will point you in the direction of the departure screen and tell you it’s all there.  I have never seen one of these people do anything useful.

I am convinced their job description is short and to the point: Just hang around in the departure area and carry a walkie-talkie.  I imagine a cluster of these people have a supervisor.  This person’s job is to be in charge of these walkie-talkie carriers, and if they have any questions, they pose them to their supervisor.  For example, they might pace around for a while, and then some situation comes up.  They would then get on their walkie-talkie and say, “Number 23 to supervisor.  I haven’t done a thing for the past hour and a half.  How do you want me to manage this crisis?The supervisor would respond, “Hang in there number 23.  Keep walking and pretend to talk into your walkie-talkie.  Ten-four.”

As well, if you look out the window onto the tarmac area, you will see an assortment of little vehicles running around every which way, like ants.  They can’t all be relevant.  I know that for sure because you usually see a couple of these where the driver is holding a walkie-talkie.  I believe this is where those earlier guys I mentioned get promoted, based on seniority, after a while of doing nothing inside the terminal.  They then give them a vehicle in which to do it in.

These guys no doubt are unionized.  This is perhaps a good thing.  The union controls and retains a monopoly on this job function of doing nothing.  Ergo others are not allowed to do nothing, or they will be deemed to be scabs.  Therefore, all others do something.


No discussion about airports would be complete without a comment about airport security.Unfortunately threats of terrorism have created the need for unprecedented security.  I get that.  However, very often the security issue loses sight of what it is intended to prevent, and its response is sometimes ridiculous.

I am talking about the ban on liquids on your person.  If you carry a bottle of water, they will make you toss it out if it contains more than about two ounces.  I had an occasion where the security lady saw my full bottle of Kirkland (Costco brand) spring water.  She gave me the option of tossing it out or drinking about three-quarters of it in front of her.

I elected plan B and drank about fourteen ounces of the suspect liquid Actually, I drank some and stopped, pleading, “Enough?  I’m drowning.”She said, “Not yet.  Keep drinking.” Eventually, after over-irrigating myself, she was satisfied that my threat level was low and that I could stop.

My question is, what was that supposed to prove?  She was about three feet away from me.  Did she expect me to explode?  That would not have been a good thing as I noticed just near me was one of those walkie-talkie guys.  Probably after flooding myself, the walkie-talkie guy reported, “Passenger drinks fourteen ounces of Kirkland spring water.  I wonder if Costco has a sale on a case of the stuff this week.”

And you have not even boarded the aircraft yet.  I like Casablanca better.

End of excerpt

Poutine on the Orient Express: An Irreverent Look at Travel, is available in eBook and paper versions on Amazon, Apple books etc., and wherever books are sold.  Please click on books page  to check out links for some of these sources.