Last week I discussed the odd fact that flying on a commercial airline is very tiring, even though all we as passengers actually do the whole time is stand in various lines and sit down a lot. That shouldn’t be very tiring at all. But the fatigue is caused by mental stress rather than physical exertion.
In that column, I only talked about the flight my wife and I took down to Florida. I didn’t mention our return trip home for a couple of reasons. First, I ran out of space, as that 600-word limit often catches me by surprise. The other reason is because I was so exhausted from the flight to Florida, I didn’t have enough energy to write anything. No, that’s not really true. It’s just that being in the Sunshine State, surrounded by palm trees, white sandy beaches, and multitudes of ladies in swimsuits (relax, most were in their 80s — we stayed in a retirement village), did not inspire me to grab my laptop computer and start typing away.
All I wanted to do was lay out in the sun like a slug, and think about which restaurant to visit that evening.
So, now that I’m back home in cheery New England (temperature when we landed: 19 degrees; temperature two days later: minus-5), let’s talk about the return flight home. People nowadays frequently use the word “privilege,” as in “white privilege,” “male privilege,” or “economic privilege.” But there is one privilege so stunning that it’s completely unfair: TSA precheck privilege.
I don’t know why the airline’s computer spit out our boarding passes with “TSA precheck” printed on them — maybe because I fly a lot for work or because neither of us has attempted to hijack a commercial airliner for many months now. But whatever the reason, we were SO glad. The line to get through security at the Ft. Myers airport was the longest I’ve ever seen. I think the end of the line stretched all the way back to Interstate 75. However, the TSA precheck line off to the side only had a couple dozen people in it. My wife and I walked past hundreds of stressed-out folks in the regular line to get in the TSA precheck line. To be perfectly honest, I felt very embarrassed about it.
I quickly got over my embarrassment when I realized that if we were not in the TSA precheck line, we would miss our flight and be forced to stay in sunny, warm Florida. (Oh wait, that wouldn’t have been so bad, would it?)
The other impression of our flight back home was the “reverse Wizard of Oz effect.” You know how in the movie, Dorothy walks out of the house — filmed in black and white — and when she steps into the land of Oz, everything suddenly is in bright and vivid colors? Well, that’s kind of what it’s like going TO Florida in January.
But the return trip is the exact reverse. After a week surrounded by festively colorful flowers, trees, birds, and key lime pies, we touched down at Bradley Airport. I glanced out the plane’s window and said, “Did the pilot accidentally fly to Siberia?” Everything was dull and drab and icily sterile. It was like Dorothy’s black and white Kansas, only with more snow and less dust.
We arrived home just in time for that delightful “polar vortex,” which hit half the country in late January. I wonder if I’m getting close to that 600-word limit? Well, let me tell you one last hilarious story about our flight home. Right after we got off the plane, we—