I like going places, but there are some things about airports and airplanes that really try my patience. For example, why do I always end up with slow-pokes in front of me at the check-in? I’m able to zip through the check-in really quickly, but I always end up with a pod of manatees in front of me – a cluster of slow-moving creatures hovering around the check-in while the check-in clerk taps things into the computer, checks a list, taps something in, checks a list. On and on it goes, minutes dragging by, while no progress is made.
What’s worse is when the slow-pokes are jovial. They laugh and guffaw and crack jokes while the clerk types and checks, types and checks. I want to yell shut the fuck up and move through! but an airport is not a good place to make a scene. Finally, all the bags are tagged and the boarding passes blessed, but the jovial slow-pokes need one or two more laughs before they move on, so I watch, my blood pressure rising, my patience worn to its last thread, while they crack another joke with the clerk, who obliges by saying something back, which prompts another joke while the slow-pokes take their sweet-ass time stuffing things into their pockets and fussing with their carry-on bags. By now I’m ready to scream “There’s a lineup here you motherf**kers! Move it or you’ll be eating that goddam carry-on!”
Last night at Dulles airport in D.C. there was only one clerk at the Air Canada check-in, but that was OK since there was no lineup. Lucky me. There was, however, a cluster of slow-pokes around the clerk. So I stand there, waiting my turn. As the slow-pokes are uttering their final dispatch of unwanted jokes – indicating they will move on within a minute or two – a couple of dim-witted guys come up behind me pushing their 300-year-old grandmother in a wheelchair. Instead of waiting behind me, one guy removes the ribbon on the corral and pushes granny through so she is in front of me. They join her and re-attach the ribbon.
Uh… hello? OK, Granny’s got a few miles on her, but she looks happy and content, and she’s sitting down for Pete’s sake. She’s in no hurry. So I say to one of the guys, “Hey! I was in front of you.” He looks at me and motions towards the crumpled but grinning heap of bones and says “wheelchair.”
Oh, the rage! It is all I can do to contain myself. But like I said, an airport is not a good place to make a scene – especially not Dulles, the origin of American Airlines flight 77 which crashed into the Pentagon on September 11/01, and the setting of Die Hard 2, Die Harder.
But then a miracle happens. As the slow-pokes shuffle away from the clerk, and the dim-wits wheel their petrified matriarch over to the counter, the clerk gives them a snarky look and says “If you don’t mind, I’ll serve the gentleman behind you as he’s been waiting.”
Score! Now start the stopwatch: I approach the counter with my E-ticket printout in hand and the reference number highlighted. My passport is already open to the information page. We exchange pleasantries while she goes zip! zip! zip! with my documents, and then the printer goes bzzzzt! and she hands me back the documents along with my boarding pass. “Boarding at gate C-18. Thanks for your patience sir.” Total elapsed time: about 45 seconds.
I step away, shooting lightning bolts out of my eyes at the dim-wits, along with a nice smile to Granny, who smiles back with a mouthful of surprisingly bright precambrian choppers.