Wednesday, April 6, 2011

PRE-BOARDING A PLANE

People watching is a favorite past time of mine.  If I am stuck someplace like a waiting room at the doctors office or the Department of Motor Vehicles I find that watching people is a good way to pass the time.  It is at times like this when I am so thankful that everyone is not alike.  How boring the world would be if we were.  The people watching hobby would get thrown out the window.

It is  the differences in people that make the observation of them so interesting.  People develop habits that they must not be aware of otherwise they wouldn't be doing them.  People have different ways of standing in line.  There are your shifters who shift their weight from one leg to the other every thirty seconds.  There are the watchers who strain to look ahead to see how long it will be before they get to the head of the line.  You have the nervous type that always are carrying something in their hands and while holding the item in one hand they tap the other hand with it.

This is the story of waiting to board a plane and just a few of the people I saw that night.  When you read it you no doubt will think I am mixing several different events into one because quite frankly, I do have a habit of exaggerating stories somewhat.  I admit that freely which should allow you to have faith that all of these people were observed by me over the course of about an hour and a half one evening at the Kansas City Airport.

Person number one was a middle aged man with a long scraggly beard.  He wore a long black overcoat and carried his luggage on a two wheel dolly behind him.  His luggage wasn't what you ordinarily think of as luggage.  It was a black box and looked like a miniature trunk of sorts.  It had a heavy lock on it that kept it securely closed.  He walked past the gate several times back and forth looking each time to see how long the line was for checking in.  Finally he pulled his dolly with the single box on it to the gate.  He told them he had one piece of carry on and when the guard saw the black box with the heavy lock he looked a little suspicious. He motioned for the man to walk over to the side so that he could examine the "luggage".  The guard leaned over to pick up the box and suddenly his face turned red.  This box was so heavy the guard could hardly lift it.  This caught my attention as I watched the guard question the man on what was in the box.  "Tools" the man said.  Apparently he was going on a work related trip and he needed his tools with him.  The guard asked the man to unlock the box which didn't happen.  The man refused this request and so he was told that the box would have to be checked because of the danger the weight of it could wreak on other passengers.  He protested a bit but eventually let the guard take the box to get checked into the baggage area of the plane.  There is not a doubt in my mind that they x-rayed that box and maybe even tried to open it before it was put on the plane.  The man went and found himself a seat in the gate area and seemed to sulk about not having his tools with him.

Person two was the mother of a small family who apparently were from the middle east or at least practiced a religion from there.  She was dressed totally in black from the top of her head to her toes.  The only part of her that was visible to me was her eyes.  Her face was covered with a black veil and she had black gloves on her hands.  Her husband and two children went through the metal detector first without causing the alarm to go off.  When she walked the the metal detector you would think there was a three alarm fire in the terminal.  I have never heard a metal detector alarm be so insistent about finding metal.  The conversation went something like this.  She had a lot of bracelets and anklets on and that was what was setting off the alarm.  No they could not take her jewelry off nor could they check her by pulling up sleeves because that would go against a woman's need to be humble in their beauty or something like that.  Now, this was less than a year after September eleventh so people were a little edgy on this particular style of dress that they were not allowed to inspect.  The security agents told her they had to inspect her or she would not be allowed to get on the plane but she firmly and resolutely refused to allow it.  Finally a deal was struck.  Some female security agents took the lady off to an enclosed room where they apparently searched her for guns, knives, box cutters and fingernail clippers.   She must have passed inspection because she was returned to sit with her family and boarded the plane ahead of me.

Persons three and four were arriving in Kansas City on the plane that I was to leave on.  As always it takes forever for a plane to get empty and the long line of passengers trickled out into the gate area.  To get out of the gate are they had to jog a little to the left and then walk between some of those black leather ropes to get out into the corridor and head for baggage claim.  The plane was almost empty when I saw them come walking through the doors.  He was a good sized man with long hair that needed combing.  He had glasses on his nose that we use to call coke bottle glasses when I was younger.  They were very thick and from where I sat looked a little smudgy as well.   His eyes were squinting as he tried to figure out where the people in front of him were going.  Following him was what I assumed to be his girlfriend or wife.  She was holding onto a small string tied to the gentleman's back belt loop with one hand while in the other hand she was tapping a cane made for blind people.  I watched with interest as these two made their way toward where the path would lead them off and over to the corridor.  He missed the turn.  He had lost track of the people in front of hi and so when he bumped into a chair he turned to his right.  They came walking over in front of me, she still holding on to the string and tapping her cane and they walked a complete lap around the gate area.  When they got to the leather ropes that would lead them to the corridor they missed the turn again and began another lap around the gate area.  As they came to the black ropes the next time one of the airline employees directed them in the right direction and got them out to the side walk to hail a cab.  I sat there and pondered what I had just witnessed.  I have heard this cliche' my whole life but I had actually just witnessed the blind leading the blind.  I am sure it happens frequently but how many people actually witness it?  I consider myself one of the few who have.

Person number five now arrives on the scene.  She was a middle aged lady who was terrified to fly but had to get somewhere on an emergency basis.  I assumed it was a death in the family or something of that caliber because otherwise there would be no way they would have been able to drag her onto the plane.  I remembered seeing her just as I was checking in and she was talking to one of the airline employees who was giving her directions.  The directions, it turned out, was the closest bar to the gate.  The only way this lady could bring herself to get on a plane was to be totally drunk and as close to passed out as possible.  As we waited for them to announce that it was time for us to board the plane I saw two employees of the airline come walking down towards the gate from the direction of the bar.  The lady had an arm around each of their necks and they were holding her up as they walked her to the gate.  Her feet were moving as they walked her but not in step with her handlers.  They walked her onto the ramp and they disappeared towards the plane.  By the time I got to the plane and shewed my ticket to the steward I saw her sitting on the front row of the plane.  Her head was padded by a pillow between her and the window which had the shade pulled down on it.  Her eyes were closed and she was motionless.  She was totally passed out and had no idea she was actually on a plane.  She would not find out that she had been on a plane until we reached our destination and they woke her up and help her to walk off into the airport where there were what I assumed to be family members to take her off to one of their houses.

It was an interesting observation evening.  A black locked box that was too heavy to lift and apparently needed to be carried on.  A lady with nothing showing but her eyes setting of metal detectors as far off as they could detect that much metal, The blind leading the blind in a few laps around the gate area, and a lady so scared she had to be knocked out to get on the plane without knowing it.

One night in a terminal at Kansas City International.  One very strange and odd night.  This is probably one of the least exaggerated of my writings on this blog.  Think about THAT.

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