Thursday, October 18, 2007



Last Thursday, I printed out a boarding pass for Friday's flight to NYC.

When I noticed it had a seat number on it, I called ATA to request an aisle seat.

After making the change, I could not print out the boarding pass. Nor could the person on the other end of the line.

I was told to check in at the airport.

But when I tried to use the kiosk at Midway, the machine spat out my card and told me to see an agent.

While waiting in line I ran into my friend C. It turns out she was on the same flight. Sadly, we could not get seats together.

When we got to the security checkpoint, the agent pointed to a long line of S's on my boarding pass, and told me that I'd been flagged for an extra security check. He directed me to a different line.

I said goodbye to C, explaining that "If this is anything like the last time I was flagged [in December 2001], it will take forever and I'll be the last person on the plane."

I joined the others in the special line; a handful of home-maker types and a (tall, bald, female, Caucasian) Tibetan monk.

The line branched into two, and I got into the nearest one. When it was my turn I took off the shoes and belt and jacket and pulled out the laptop and the cell phone and baggie full of toiletries.

When I finally made it through, they asked me if I was an employee. Nope.

"Then you have to go through the other line."

"I have to go through AGAIN?" I protested. The line was loooooooong. And my flight was boarding.

The agent, who was holding my boarding pass, thought for a moment. Apparently I was making a face, because he agreed to move my stuff to the other side and not put it through again. He told me to get into the line in front of a glass structure that resembled a phone booth.

I padded over in my stocking feet and got into the line. I didn't have my shoes or ID or wallet or boarding pass or phone. Talk about feeling helpless.....

I waited.

And tried to keep an eye on my valuables.

And waited.

And watched the minutes tick by.

I must have still been making that face. A handsome man in a uniform - a pilot? - patted my arm and said, "Don't worry. It'll be over soon."

The monk, who'd also been wearing airport-friendly Merrill shoes, was far more mellow than I during the long wait.

Finally I was told to get into the booth, where puffs of air would be shot at me (in order to check for explosives). I was told not to leave the booth until the green light came on.

The puffs came quick, and made me jump a bit.

The green light took some time to come on - sort of like at the car wash.

Then I had to reclaim my stuff. I did a quick inventory; it was all there. An agent brought it to a table, where she wiped each piece with a white cloth and then had it analyzed in a thing connected to a computer.

After some time, I was finally set free.

I put my clothes back on and put my stuff away.

Finally, I ran - ran! - to the gate. It was the farthest one of course. Three walkways away. At the very end of the terminal.

Yet several people were still waiting in line to get on the plane.

Phew! I thought

But the line didn't move.

After about 20 minutes they announced they were going to stop boarding the plane, and told us to sit down.

Ten minutes later they announced there was an equipment problem, and said they'd make another announcement in half an hour.

I ran to the bathroom.

I filled the water bottle.

I bought a little something to eat.

My attitude changed about the security delay; because of it I was free to run around, while C. and many others were stuck on the plane, held hostage in their seats.

Finally, they told us we had to change planes, and that we'd depart some two hours after the appointed time (6AM). From another gate.

So much for taking the noon class at Dharma's, I thought. So much for getting up at 3:30AM.

I waited some time for C to get off the plane.

We went to the new gate and had a wonderful time catching up while we waited. I told her that no matter how bad this was, it couldn't be worse than my trip to India last year, when it took 24 hours and five planes just to get from Chicago to Frankfurt.

Finally, we boarded, and were given $50 vouchers off our next flight, plus $10 in free phone calls and airport food.

Once we got to NYC, we flew around in circles for an extra 20 minutes before finally touching down.

When we finally stopped at our gate at La Guardia, everyone stood up and started talking on their cell phones.

But the jetway could not get to the plane; another mechanical failure.

We waited and waited.

Finally they told us to sit back down.

I wondered if perhaps I should have stayed home.

Then we taxied to a different gate. This time the jetway worked, and we got off the plane.

While waiting for our luggage, I learned that the monk was in NYC to see the Dalai Lama. C. was there to do a silent retreat with zen master Thich Nhat Hahn. I was there for Dharma Mittra's monthly three-hour class. Not a bad group.



I caught a cold after Dharma's Monday class. Detoxing.

Detoxing so much in fact that I missed the Tuesday class, Oh, well.

I still had the cold when it was time to fly back home on Tuesday. My friend E. told me to use the neti pot just before I left, so that my ears wouldn't hurt from the cabin pressure.

It was still just a cold at this point, so I packed Airborne gummies and a box of Kleenex in my carry-on bag and hoped for the best.

While checking in, I was not surprised to see a long line of SSSSSSSSSS's on my boarding pass. Flagged again. Just what you want when you have a nasty cold.

This time, though, I knew what to expect.

This time, though, the x-tra security line was short, the agents were efficient and there was no phone booth machine.

This time, I wasn't late to the gate.

After getting on the plane, I used the WC right away.

Smart move. We waited on the tarmac for over half an hour before finally taking off.

While gaining altitude, I felt shifting and gurgling in my sinuses and ears. But no pain.

The cold worsened during the flight I used half the box of Kleenex, discreetly pulling out each tissue from beneath the seat in front of me.

The woman next to me was wearing a tank top. I had on two jackets, a scarf and a hat.

I tried not to breathe on the people near me.

The descent was a nightmare, despite the neti and gum and earplugs and frequent yawning.

My ears hurt more and more until all I could think about was the pain.

I looked at my watch; a half hour until touchdown.

More throbbing. I thought my head was going to explode. I thought I couldn't stand any more pain.

Then I felt a thin line of pain pierce the corner of my left eye. Like a thread of lightening, it slowly shot up towards my forehead.

I thought, "Wow, I'm having an aneurysm." I wondered if anyone would notice, or if I'd just die quietly in my seat.

I made it down of course. And collected my baggage.

After some confusion about the parking lot, I made it to my car and started calling for subs for the next day's classes.

Of course I got lost on the way home. There's nothing like driving around the South Side while shivering nad incoherent. Archer Avenue, anyone?

When I finally got home, I used the last bit of my strength to schlep my two suitcases up three flights of stairs.

Then I took my temperature: 101.

I spent the next two days horizontal, calling subs and watching the first two seasons of Project Runway.

And now, at last, I feel halfway human again.

Not to mention toxin-free.

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