It has been several years since I flew – in general when we travel, we drive where we are going, but driving from Northern Nevada to Austin, Texas and then south to Houston in mid-June did not sound like either John or me so I decided to fly alone.
After boarding three different aircraft and two leave; one in Salt Lake and then a second further in Dallas, I have become familiar with the art of flying. The actual feel Flight is unchanged: people rush, race, in some cases drive to the next flight only to find that the plane has not yet boarded, the very worst kind of stress. Men, women and children in a variety of races, languages, dresses – a microcosm of the world – try to get from one part of their world to another as quickly as possible; Their faces reveal expressions that range from anxiety, frustration, boredom to impatience as they wait and wait and wait.
The airlines have made some significant changes in attempts, I suppose, to streamline processes and reduce costs. Among those made immediately apparent to me are the strict weight limits for careless passengers who thoughtlessly add one and then five books along with other non-essential and quite heavy items resulting in a "surplus fee". A $ 100.00 surcharge for the infringing three-pound surplus works exactly like a speeding ticket: I know I'll stay under the fifty pound ceiling the next time I fly.
Gone are the people who struggled to get a suitcase too big to fit in a shelf too small with the not so patient confidant who helped in the pointless attempts to make the impossible happen while the minutes ticked by. The rules are clear and enforceable. Aviation personnel detect and then stop the few people with oversized luggage before getting on the plane; effectively, the large piece of luggage is whipped away so that the process of boarding moves a few hundred people into the aircraft in twenty minutes or less.
The presence of mobile devices with free WiFi at the airports and on the aircraft allows instant communication for everyone from anywhere. People who write, text and talk on smart phones about the latest business disaster as the man behind me at Dallas Fort Worth Airport exhaustively shared their need for the unexpected resignation of an important top player to a listener assumed to feel the same way.
I've been on my third flight since 6:30 this morning when I finish this post. A quick and unscientific survey of the hundreds of people seen during this long day revealed only two others who had a real book to read. Many passengers use their mobile devices to avoid the gaze of a stranger and ear plugs in place.
The young woman who sat next to me on the final leg of this tour is one of the three people I have seen with a book – a real book and expresses gratitude when I hand her the novel I had completed.
"Do you like fiction?"
Smiling she replied: "Yes I do, I travel all the time and am always on the lookout for books that will pass the time. Is that good?"
Smiling back I replied "It's OK, it will pass the time."
Captain Samantha Martinez, a member of the Texas Joint CounterDrug Task Force Operations OIC, is the coalition of many agencies working together to stop the suffocation in the global economy cartels. She loves her job because she knows she makes a difference.
She listened as I explained that a character in my next book is a member of a Texas Coalition Task Force that I thought I had invented, and answered confidently when I asked if I could use her name in the novel and gave me her business card that we went along with the plane and on the way to baggage claim.
One of the unexpected gifts of spending eternal time on planes was meeting a young woman as Captain Martinez; working to make this world a better place: God bless you, Samantha. And thank you very much for your permission to use your name for one of my characters in the next book.