While Waiting for a Late Plane

Shuttlecock

Shuttlecock

Strangest thing I’ve seen; I think it’s nuts.
Airplane seats get smaller to fit bigger butts.

While Waiting for a Late Plane

While in Cleveland, waiting for an incoming plane which was late and destined to be our outgoing plane, it occurred to me that waiting at a gate in an airport is like almost nothing else. It seems different than waiting for a bus or a train, though clearly all involve going onto a public conveyance to travel somewhere. It’s a little like waiting in a doctor’s office, but I really think it is the most similar to waiting in a dentist’s office.

There’s a trepidation, a worry about what to expect. We’re sure it will involve discomfort, both physical and mental, and that we will be oh so glad when our torture session is completed successfully. We think we might even prefer to jam sharpened bamboo under our fingernails. Both involve fear of the unknown, every time, even though we know what to expect after the first time. Our heads know we will survive, but the rest of us doesn’t agree.

Yet hope springs eternal. It’s like being hungry, but not finding what we want to eat. Every time we open the cupboard or refrigerator, we hope that something scrumptious has magically appeared. At your gate, they’ve just announced that your plane is full, overfull, as they offer money to any volunteer, to pay for the airline’s mistake. Yet, our mind says, we hope we don’t have anyone seated next to us, so we’ll have a little room to stretch out in the torture devices they call airplane seats.

I’m sure there are many people who equate dentist’s chairs to the electric chair. In both, we will have pain inflicted upon us, but at least with the electric chair it’s over quickly. The dentist starts by inflicting pain, shooting us with sharp needles to take away our pain. They force us to hold our mouths wide open for extended periods while they poke and prod at us with sharp metal tools. It is difficult to swallow and we are blinded by a bright light. Worst of all, their high-speed drills reverberate in our heads like whining mosquitoes. Heaven forbid should the painkiller wear off at the wrong moment.

On an airplane, we are herded down a narrow aisle and crowded from behind, waiting impatiently for the thoughtless traveler in front of us to stow their luggage and get out of our way. We are forced to sit in seats two or three or even five across that barely accommodate your average teenager. We must sit with our arms and our shoulders pulled in to leave other passengers equally inadequate space. We dig for seat belts that are hard to find, usually under our seatmate, and may be barely long enough to buckle, though we are required to wear them at all times. And if we are on a aisle seat we will get whacked somewhere every time anyone goes by us. Finally, the steward or stewardess, recount all of the many things that can go wrong, reminding us that we might meet a fiery end. They tell us what we should do, other than kiss our ass goodbye, should any of these occur. Mostly, I think, so we don’t panic and get in their way.

And for these privileges, the dentist and the airplane ride, we are charged staggering amounts of money. So while we wait, we attempt to distract ourselves. We listen in on the conversations of strangers. We look for something to read, no matter how inane. Yet when we are called, we go. What choice do we have to maintain proper dental hygiene, or travel long distances quickly?

Still, I wager we all vow never again. We will take better care of our teeth, or we will never travel in economy class again. We mean it. We’re good for a while, until the next time comes around.

Never again.

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