Don’t fear airplanes, fear airports

By Jim Lee

A couple of weeks ago, I flew for the first time (on an airplane) since 9/11.
I expected to enjoy myself about as much as a giraffe with strepthroat, but I looked forward to finding something to complain about.
It all started with my deciding to attend a Kiwanis district conference. As a club president, I felt obligated to show up, even if it did require air travel.
By the way, I have no fear of flying — I’m just afraid of airports.
Airports lurk darkly in difficult-to-find areas surrounded by a moat of cryptic direction signs requiring sudden lane changes in heavy traffic every nine seconds.
This is traditionally followed by the parking festivities and trying to find the terminal while carrying three tons of baggage across several miles of defiantly parked SUVs and mini-vans.
Next is the hilarity of standing in line for hours with arthritis and an attitude, after that, the security brigade of snarling goons shaking down passengers with a metal detector and arrest warrants for reckless walking and attempt to crawl.
Yes, I knew what to expect of them. They didn’t have this guy fooled.
Pictures of sadistic airport bureaucrats with cattle prods danced the Himmler Tango in my mind as the departure date relentlessly drew closer. I’m sure glad I didn’t have a negative attitude to make things even more scary.
At last, the dreaded airport day arrived. Fortunately, I remembered to wear my socks without the holes in the toes in case I would be commanded to remove my shoes. When I stumbled into the terminal, mentally sharpening cynical responses to insulting remarks from employees, I wondered why the airport called the building “terminal” while bragging about how safe it was.
Oh well, time for step one of the ordeal: the check-in line for the boarding pass. I got there more than two hours before flight time so I wouldn’t be left on the ground in the dreaded airport terminal in the unlikely event it boarded on schedule. Surprisingly, only a few people stood in line in front of me. No chance to complain yet, so I looked forward to bantering with a rude airline person behind the counter. But the person was courteous and efficient. I managed to shrug that off because surely an opportunity for some really cynical observations would come my way in the security line.
Sure enough, the next line looked considerably longer. It wound between those ribbons one sees sealing off crime scenes, except these weren’t thin yellow plastic. The line moved steadily and quickly. Drat. Was I to be deprived of yet another excuse to complain? What had this world come to for goodness sake?
I took off my shoes upon request and double-checked the state of my socks; they were different colors but had no holes. I put my coat with the shoes on the conveyer belt, along with my keys, pocket change, and secret decoder ring. For an instant I wondered if the platoon with “TSA” shirt patches would remain so courteous if I included a Confederate cannon and Samurai sword with my shoes and pocket change.
I didn’t have time to further consider the idea because it became my turn to step through that arch kind of thing with the scanner and proceed to the boarding gate.
I still don’t have anything to complain about, but I’m not above lying if it causes problems. Wait a minute! Maybe I actually do have something to complain about: I was forced to kill nearly two hours in a comfortable chair. See, I told you airports are rotten.

Jim Lee is news director for KENW-FM radio. He also is an English instructor. He can be contacted at 359-2204. His e-mail: