An entirely way too long post about my trip back

1 Feb

The last time I flew out of the Cincinnati airport (which is located in Kentucky) was almost five years ago. According to a Cincinnati Enquirer article, CVG offered non-stop flights to 129 US cities in 2004, but by 2010 that was cut to 63. CVG was never as hectic as mega-airports like O’Hare or Heathrow, but it saw a steady flow of traffic. Now it’s a dead zone. It’s almost creepy how deserted the place is.

I arrived yesterday, two suitcases in tow, ready to connect in Newark on my way to London.
“Oh man, I hope you can get to Newark,” the guy tagging my bags told me. “The 4 o’clock flight was canceled and they’ve already canceled flights leaving Tuesday.”
I told him I thought the big storm wasn’t coming until Tuesday. The stupid storm was the whole reason I was flying out a day early.
“Yeah, you may be alright,” he said, assuring me that if I could get to Newark, I would get to London.

I headed to security. There were four people ahead of me in line for the one metal detector and … body scanner. In all the flying I’ve been doing — through O’Hare, Heathrow and beyond — I have yet to encounter a body scanner. Figures I would encounter it in Cincinnati.

I nervously pushed my belongings through the x-ray machine.

“Do you have any pockets?” The security officer asked me. I was wearing a pocket-less skirt. I hoped this meant that I would not have to be scanned — there was no possible way I could hide anything in my form-fitting turtleneck, skirt and leggings. But apparently rules are rules. When the officer instructed me to go into the scanner, I told him I wanted the pat down instead. He acted surprised, as if no one had ever asked for it before. He radioed a female officer and the humiliation began. I was watching an episode of “Pawn Stars” the other day in which The Old Man went on about how flying used to be sophisticated and now, well, now it’s just downright degrading. I understand that they can’t just let me through on account of there being no young white female terrorists, but there’s gotta be a better screening process than choosing between a stranger seeing you naked or feeling you up. I had to stand there with my arms out as this officer touched me everywhere — everywhere — with her gloved hands. And then once she was finished she made me stand there while she went to put something into the computer, as if she had to run a test to make sure I was clean. Eventually she let me go. Maybe that’s why few choose the pat down — the scanner is much quicker. I guess you have to choose what you consider the lesser evil. Thanks a lot, underwear bomber.

I made my way through the empty gates and found a seat in front of the TV by the tiny bar. It was not the best decision. I sat there trying to read, but all I heard was “The storm of the century is coming!” and “Airports are already starting to close.” All the TV played was sensationalist weather news. Meanwhile I kept looking out the window at my plane that wasn’t there. More and more time went by and more and more people started to congregate. Everyone scheduled for the inexplicably-canceled 4:00 Newark was bumped to my 6:40. They all seemed to be business people, chatting away on their phones or typing on their laptops. Desperation was in the air. I kept checking my watch, calculating the latest I thought the plane could leave if I was going to catch my 10:05 to London. 6:05, the scheduled boarding time, passed and nothing happened. I was getting more nervous and weather-paranoid with each minute. If this flight were canceled, I’d probably have to wait until the end of the week to fly out. Eventually the plane arrived and we boarded around 6:20. I excitedly went to seat 1A where I quickly realized that 1A is not the best seat on the plane — it might be the worst.

“You got the cold seat!” a lady told me as she headed to the back of the plane. It didn’t dawn on me that being the first seat meant I would be right by the door — the open door. The only cool thing about being up front was that I could see into the cockpit when they had the door open. I was right across from the flight attendant storage area, so I got my drink and pretzels first, but I also had to deal with the flight attendant running back and forth and the ridiculously loud hissing noise coming from the emergency exit across the way. In short, seat 1A is only good if it’s a big plane and you’re in first or business class. Don’t sit there on a tiny express jet. (Although I did get to be the first person off the plane, which has never happened.)

The flight from Newark to London was over half empty. That surprised me as I thought more people would try to catch the last flight before the storm hit, but I guess nobody goes to London on a red-eye in February. I could go into more detail about the trip, but this entry is already too long. I am happy to be back in London but am struggling to keep my eyes open (even after a one- turned four-hour nap). I’ll get you next time, jet lag.

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