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  • Nan Harvey

Flying

Updated: Jan 31, 2020

I couldn't believe my eyes. I looked again. Yes, the airline ticket was in my maiden name. I had changed all my government IDs to my new name. My flight in two days, I could see, would be a series of wretched encounters with Transportation Security Agency employees doing their jobs protecting our beloved country from terrorism by searching through every corner of my bags, a middle-aged white-haired lady, and adding hours of unwanted scrutiny to each step of the way.


I tried making a correction on the internet. Unfortunately, the ticket payment was largely from a credit left over from a flight I had had to cancel from the year before. The original ticket had been purchased on the internet but the one to Iowa was from the left over credit from the earlier flight. To use the credit I had had to phone and make the reservation, with additional fee required of course, by talking to a Giant Airlines representative.


I tried calling the Customer Care number. In the endless loops of options I have to choose among are Get a Frequent Flyer Account, Make Changes to An Existing Reservation, and Purchase an Upgrade but nothing remotely resembling Make This a Painless Flight. I punched "O" and finally got an overworked woman with a foreign accent who, I think, eventually understood what my concern was. Her solution - to go to the airport early the day of my flight - didn't really seem to correct the problem, just embrace the inevitability that I would be spending way more time with Transit Sedition Autocrats than I cared to. But, I had to agree, going to the airport and talking face to face with an airline employee seemed to be the only effective thing to do and I had the luxury of a day before the flight.


My husband dropped me off at Arrivals, a handful of legal document copies gripped in my hand. The Richmond airport is never very busy largely because there are no direct flights out and it seems nobody ever flies to Richmond but there was a small clot of milling people in front of the bank of Giant Airlines kiosks which generally require the assistance of somebody who has taken the Kiosk Users Workshop judging from the confusion they generate. A Middle Eastern looking man had had such trouble entering his data that the airline assistant had taken his passport and was manually entering it from her own computer keyboard though she couldn't understand his accent and it appeared couldn't read his passport. His patience seemed to me to be divinely inspired. There was a general air of hurried irritation.


An employee asked if I needed help but when I explained the trouble she said only a uniformed employee could help. At that time there was only one uniformed employee because it appeared I had the misfortune of arriving when the shifts were changing. I queued up in front of my presumed savior.


"Can I help the next customer?"

I stepped up to the counter with my marriage certificate, my new Social Security card, my old Social Security card, my old passport and my new passport.


"Are these domestic or international flights?"


"Domestic."


"Why do you have your passports?"


"I want to make sure I have every piece of documentation Giant Airlines could possibly want."


...my string of paperwork from the original ticket, my old Frequent Flyer card with my maiden name on it...


"We can't change the Frequent Flyer name here. They're a separate company, like an accounting company. You'll have to probably go on-line..."


"No, I tried to do all of this on-line, that's why I'm here-"


"Did you just figure out that your name had changed?"


"We haven't been traveling, my husband's in graduate school-"


"What, did you just get married yesterday?" looking down at the copy of my marriage certificate.


So, eventually I got the ticket changed and the woman even provided suggestions about how I should make sure my miles were added to my account - as if I would ever be able to redeem my Frequent Flyer Miles! - and when the next day I went through security and dutifully, for the protection of our country, removed my flip flops, took my laptop out of its case with my quart ziplock bag of 3 ounce toiletries and asked obsequiously whether I needed to take the electronics cords out too, just to give the Terminal Sedentary Alliance goons something to be especially superior about, when I had redressed and repacked and gotten to my gate, I thought of the people I know who still say "I love to travel!" I don't. I used to and have traveled around our country, to every continent and circumnavigated the world twice but since the George W. Bush Unhappy People Full Employment Act which ensured that airports will be manned by legions of underemployed, tyrant wannabes, the trials that used to come from impassable roads or surly mules, impenetrable jungles or raging rivers now come from public undressing, shuffling your belongings along temporary tables set up to annoy terrorists into submission and the addition of national security to the airlines' job of transporting their customers guaranteeing that they are eternally understaffed. The overall mood degradation insinuates into every part of the process, nothing is immune. I think I'd rather just sit on my back porch with an iced adult beverage.


But first I have to get home.





#reading #writing #lessons

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