Exciting! I have finally arrived – I mean, not in any philosophical sense, but at a more earthly destination, the airport! Where do you think I am headed (choose one):
- Business meeting
- Family reunion
- Running away from a misdeed
What I am about to explore, I mean experience, remains the same for any of the above choices.
There are very few people at my gate, given that I have arrived 3 hours before the flight departure time, as stipulated by the airline. I position myself on a seat closest to the podium, now empty, but soon to be occupied by the powers-that-be who will usher me in. I hold my boarding pass (printed paper, I may add) correctly turned with my name facing the beholder and my tiny hand luggage with the wheels properly aligned for being dragged behind me. I am ready to go!
More and more people trickle in as the hours and then minutes go by – not least the smiling ladies who rightfully ascend the podium and turn on their computer screens. I flash my warmest smile at them in an attempt to register my presence as an eligible passenger. They of course ignore me and concentrate on large sheets of paper that constitute various administrative procedures that need to be completed before the flight can be cleared for departure.
People start peering through available glass surfaces to announce the arrival of the incoming flight, a positive sign that energizes everyone around with the indication that our own departure is now imminent, if not inevitable. The long stream of arriving passengers tackles its way past departing travelers firmly holding their positions in the passageway – reminding you of running backs in an NFL football game.
When the announcement is made that the flight is almost ready to board, I am up on my feet and perform a self-check – boarding pass, check; handbag zipped, yes; coffee cup closed and covered, yes; reading material in front zip packet, yes. All set from my end. But the other party has other ideas.
There is a long announcement about the bewildering sequence in which people will be allowed to enter the aircraft – from the most elite to the downtrodden and also-rans. First class and business class followed by platinum plus, gold minus and various other noble metals from the Periodic table are invited to board through the red carpet lane after removing unsuspecting bystanders like me from the area. I continue a losing battle to stay in front as suit after suit, mixed with dazzling colorful shirts and skirts, who have obviously done their homework to slot themselves into one of these premier classes of citizenship, pass by me with many sneering at my impudence to stay ahead by checking my boarding pass for a non-existent status indicator.
Finally, when just about everybody else seems to have boarded, I hear the magic words, “all others are welcome to board”. With a sense of relief, summoning my courage, I approach the airline lady at the gate, no longer smiling as all the important categories have already boarded. She lets me know, in a robotic voice, that my tiny bag will need to be checked-in as the overhead bin space is no longer available to lesser mortals like me. She even gives me a condescending look that seems to say, “Did you really expect to be allowed to take that silly handbag with you on the aircraft?”