This was an interesting trip to Florida. Everything went wrong. Everything went right.
The trip to Bradley Airport was just fine. We pulled into Roncari, dropped off our car and hopped into the van. Because we were going to Florida, we left our coats in the car. Because it was just sitting, the van’s engine and heater were off. Bad time to be coatless.
It wasn’t a particularly busy Saturday afternoon. We wheeled our bags in, checked the one that held the always suspect and always dangerous toiletries (can’t carry those on anymore) and headed toward security.
Even on a light travel day, if you only have two of the four screening stations open, there will be a line. There was a sizable line. Still, we were early – no sweat.
A man wearing a white TSA shirt with those weird epaulettes yelled instructions vaguely in the direction of the line. He held up a one quart plastic bag. He said something about laptops. He was the vocal equivalent of the hodge podge of Scotch taped signs carrying most of the TSA’s rules.
Hint: Dirty, sometimes ripped signs, affixed to pillars with tape, is not the way to make people think you’re a top notch safety and security organization. They will think of you as the DMV with arrest powers. Better still…
Do this. Don’t do that. Can’t you read the signs? – “Signs,” Five Man Electrical Band.
Remember, these people thoroughly screen all the pilots even though they will be at the controls of the actual airplane!
I emptied my pockets, removed my shoes, put my laptop in a plastic tub – flat. This wasn’t my first time to the rodeo. I knew the drill.
I walked into the phone booth GE claims will sniff out explosives. Little puffs of air poked at my clothes. I waited. I waited some more. The door opened and I stepped out.
Next up was the metal detector. I was told, unless I was wearing a “country trucker” belt buckle I’d be OK. I walked through
I looked down at myself. Oops. My Bluetooth headphone was sitting on my shirt. I handed it to the guard… a guy who remembered me from when he worked at Sears Optical.
I’ll bet you didn’t know this. The TSA has a two strikes and you’re out policy. I needed to be patted down.
I’ve heard stories about how terrible this is for women. Get in line. It’s demeaning for everyone.
The guy was doing his job, I know. I just don’t want anyone feeling me up. And, in essence, that’s what being patted down is.
Before he went to my most sensitive parts, he told me he was going to use the back of his hand. it made no difference.
These guys are doing their job. Of course. Does this job make us safer? I don’t think so.
Our plane was due at Gate 4. As is the norm with Southwest it unloaded quickly, but before we could board, there was an announcement. On the way in, the plane had flown through a flock of birds and struck one with the leading edge of the left wing.
They didn’t think the plane suffered any damage, planes are designed to survive, but maintenance would have to look and make sure… and they don’t work for Southwest… and they’ll have to drive over from wherever it is the folks who work maintenance Saturday afternoons are kept.
Within a few minutes the pilot decided the plane would pass, so we might as well board anyway, even though the inspection hadn’t started. And we did.
So, we’re sitting there on the plane, and Helaine is staring at a guy wearing shades, looking at the wing, when the pilot comes on the P.A. He’s still expecting a passing grade on the wing, but now TSA was telling him there’d been a security incursion at the airport and until the two people who wandered where they shouldn’t be were located, there would be no landings, no security screening and no departures!
Did I mention we were flying to Tampa, with a 45 minute layover before boarding a connecting flight to Palm Beach International?
The minute hand on my watch began moving fast enough for me to see. Five, ten, fifteen minutes passed. Then it was a half hour and forty five minutes.
I saw the pilot, standing near the door, and explained our plight. He said he’d check.
As the one hour mark approached, we were cleared to go. Michael, a ground agent from Bradley and Dominic, a flight attendant came over to where we were seated. They understood our predicament… one shared with 13 others on the flight… and would make sure word got out.
I’m not going to make you sit through the second-by-second details, but we landed too late to make that connecting flight. Except Southwest held it at the gate!
I know I’ve slobbered endlessly in the past about my great affection for Southwest, but you tell me if this is the outcome you expected? And it wasn’t because I was TV-boy.
We walked the three gates to our outbound flight, handed over our boarding passes and started to walk down the jetway. Along the way, I thanked EVERY Southwest employee I saw. I wanted them to know this was the decision they needed to make, and I appreciated them making it.
“Avoid eye contact,” Helaine said as we boarded the plane. These folks had been sitting aimlessly, waiting for us.
As I walked down the aisle I looked up and to no one in general said, “Thank you for waiting.”
After all this tumult and grief we landed in Palm Beach about ten minutes late! My parents were waiting for us.
It was a very bad day to be a bird flying low over the Bradley Airport approach. It was a good day to be the Foxes. We’re in Florida.