The Glamorous World of Air Travel

A couple of months ago I took a trip and found that my boarding pass said “TSA Pre-check”.  I didn’t notice it until the official at security told me I could take the fast lane. It meant I didn’t have to take my shoes off or pull anything out of my bag and I could wear my jacket. I breezed through security. It made a difference. I had known about it for a while but people told me I had to apply for it and it took forever. For some reason they just gave it to me without asking. I didn’t question it but I did wonder why.

Last week I took a trip to Wisconsin. At O’Hare in Chicago we sat in line on the tarmac waiting our turn to take off. We were out there for about half an hour when we were told we had to return to the gate because they had discovered there was something wrong with the plane. Really? Didn’t they check that stuff before we got on the plane? After getting off that plane and waiting around for an hour, we boarded a different plane. I arrived at my destination two hours late.

On the return trip I was waiting at the gate and nothing was happening. I discovered they had changed the gate without announcing it. I ran to the new gate sure I was about to miss my plane only to find out that it was now two hours late and that was a guess. They sent me to another airline to re-route me onto a direct flight since I would miss my connection. I thought that was awesome. What luck!

We boarded our plane and sat on the tarmac for an hour. A storm was brewing so all airports in Washington DC were closed. We returned to the gate and everybody got off. We sat in the airport for an hour before we were given the all clear to proceed. We all got back on the plane again. I ended up getting home four hours late.

This seems to be the norm these days. Maybe the criteria for TSA Pre-check is having survived air travel nightmares year after year.


When I was little, air travel was glamorous. We wore our best clothes and were pampered by beautiful stewardesses. We were served decent meals with real silverware and glasses. I always got a coloring book or something to keep me busy. On PanAm and TWA I always got my “wings” – a pin with the logo and wings on it.


When we crossed the International Dateline I got a certificate. It said

“Know all peoples that Kathleen Gamble, once earthbound and time-laden, is now declared a subject of the Realm of the Sun and of the Heavens, with the freedom of our Sacred Eagle… That with the speed of Our Winged Chariot this subject did fly the Pacific skies over the International Dateline, which mortals designed to mark off in the limit of days Our Eternal Course through the skies… That by so crossing this divider of days, the Today of mortals at once becomes the Yesterday and all is confusion… That this subject is commanded to hold ever close this Celestial Decree so that in the final accounting of earthly days, the balance will stand true forever more…”


It was signed by the Captain and Emissary Plenipotentiary of the Pan American Clipper Intrepid. The Intrepid was a Lockheed L-049 Constellation airplane.

The Intrepid
The Intrepid

As a teenager I noticed things started to change. The planes got bigger. The seats got smaller. The food got worse. The stewardesses hated teenagers. I was lucky if I got their attention long enough to get a coke.

I was on one flight that left Paris at midnight headed for West Africa. I had been traveling for about 16 hours already and I was tired. I missed my flight in Frankfurt and had to be re-routed. A group of school girls boarded in Paris going home for the holidays. They were French and ranged from about 8-10 years old. They sat all around me. The first stop was to be Lagos, Nigeria and then the plane was continuing to Accra, Ghana. My destination was Lagos, theirs was Accra.

We made our approach to land in Lagos and at the last moment the pilot pulled out of it and we circled around. He came on the loud speaker and said there was a dense fog in Lagos and he was having trouble seeing but he would make another attempt. We made three attempts and all three times he pulled out at the last minute. Finally he said we were running low on fuel and we would go on to Accra to wait for the fog to lift.

The school girls were scared. They didn’t know what was going on. The stewardess was nowhere in sight. My French was limited but somehow I managed to communicate to them that everything was all right, we were just going to Accra instead of Lagos. They were happy. I was not. I sat in the airport in Ghana for four hours before we returned to Lagos. I was lucky my mother had camped out at the airport to wait for me to show up.


When my child was little we often flew from Moscow to Western Europe or the US. On most international flights they had a packet of goodies for him with things to keep him busy. On KLM he would get a coloring book. Some things had not changed. But it was difficult to travel with a small child in those cramped spaces with no help. The flight attendants were overworked and people were grumpy.

One time I actually became that person you hate who lets her child run wild on an airplane.  My son met up with another horrible two year old who was sitting across the isle and they disappeared.  Normally I would be concerned and go look for him and make sure he didn’t do anything to bother anybody.  But in this case, I just couldn’t move.  I pretended it wasn’t happening.  I had a blissful 10 or 15 minutes where I imagined I was travelling on my own.

And then I saw the flight attendant walking up the aisle with a child in his arms asking people who he belonged to.  I hesitated for just a second ….  Yes I did … but then I came to and reclaimed my child.  Ah, yes, my adorable little monster!

Traveling has always been unpredictable and continues to be so. Even with all the hassles, cramped space, and delays, I just can’t stop doing it.


One thought on “The Glamorous World of Air Travel

  • June 2, 2014 at 10:42 PM

    I know, what is it about traveling? I’m always excited about taking that next flight. I remember having that same experience flying from Johannesburg to France and Belgium (where my parents are originally from). I still remember the little bag with a spare toothbrush, socks (10 hour flight, often you would get cold feet!), a wet wipe that they would hand over to us. I always got so excited about the movies they would play on your own little TV. I think as a kid that experience is priceless. And those many flights as TCKs also means we so look forward to flights out of the country. It’s a bit of an escape really! I recently wrote a post about my fascination for airports (definitely a Third Culture Kid/Global Nomad thing)

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