Airport lineups

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.

16 thoughts on “Airport lineups

  1. And, did you arrive much earlier in Montréal?

    I’ve travelled too often in Eastern-Europe when that was still communist to let my blood pressure rise while waiting in lines.

    It. Just. Does. Not. Help.

  2. Mare, I know it doesn’t help, and that’s part of the reason why I don’t explode. It’s just that I have a thing in general about making people wait unnecessarily — as in, it drives me crazy when a bunch of people have to wait because someone is slow and disorganized.

    Regardless of all that, can you believe the nerve of those dim-wits? Just because granny’s in a wheelchair (NOT because she’s sick or due to any emergency — just because she’s old) they think they can just step in front of me. WTF? I could see it if she were suffering or uncomfortable. But she was just sitting there as happy as can be. I’m sure if anyone had asked her she would not have minded waiting FORTY FIVE SECONDS for me to go first SINCE I WAS THERE FIRST ANYWAY. I’m sure she would have felt bad making me wait probably TEN MINUTES for her and her dim-wits.

    LSC: share the love!

  3. Never underestimate the ability of other people to have issues. I’m like you; seems like every time I go to the ticket counter, I pretty much hand over my ID and my bag, and I’m on my way in no time. So why does everyone else have to renegotiate every aspect of their stupid flight when they get to the airport? Boo to that.

  4. We flew to SF when our son was like 18ish months old. I wrangled him. My wife handled everything else. The only time we were at the counter for more than 60 seconds (for all three of us) was when Air Canada’s plane left on us because Canada Customs had decided that the Easter weekend and the end of spring break didn’t require any extra personal.

  5. As per the immortal words of my idol Indianna Jones: «It`s not the years Honey, it`s the mileage». You know I travel over 200,000 miles a year, if I left that stuff affect me , I would be dead by now.
    I suggest that you develop some kind of dance that will make your gall stones act like internal Baoding Balls. Baoding Balls are supposed to help you relax, aren’t they?
    I am leaving in the morning for Ljubljana, KL and Manama, with layovers in Toronto, Vienna, Bangkok, Dubai and Frankfort, see what I mean. Back in 13 days.

  6. lines. rude people. bleah.

    this new year’s eve past. long line at LCBO. it stretches back through the store. near the cash it divides into two lines as people feed into the cashiers. There is only room for one line behind the feeder. A guy wheels a cart load of vodka and liqueurs up behind us and says loudly, “There are two lines here !!!” Then he procedes to push past the lady behind us and takes the next cashier. She had one bottle, he had 30. I hope she had a biker waiting for her outside the door.

  7. I throw those people in the same boat with those numbnuts who idle in front of the grocery store for fifteen minutes waiting for someone who is “popping in” for a quick item. Not that it inconveniences me, but they could shed those extra pounds by walking 100ft to the car.

  8. Grrrrrrr, don’t EVEN get me started. I inherited from my father some bizarre streak of efficiency gene which makes my blood boil whenever I see someone being inefficient. Count the fucking pennies BEFORE you get to the register, grandma . . . or at the very least, get your purse out of your handbag! (I know I’ll be old eventually but I will not be INEFFICIENT) and don’t fucking babble with the staff ON MY TIME.


    Patience is a sin, not a virtue.

  9. Sales Guy; that’s easy for you to say, you with your platinum executive Aeroplan card that lets you skip lines and hang out in the executive lounge full of free drinks and all. It certainly is easier to assume a zen-like pose when you’re sitting up there with a free double of single malt clutched in your mit while you quietly peruse the papers. But we low-lifes, we hoi-polloi down there in the trenches have to endure the unwashed and ignorant masses and all their inefficiencies.

  10. Oooh, don’t get me started on Dulles(t) airport! I hate the check-in line-up with a passion. No matter how early I get there, it’s always clogged and the clerks always take endlessly long to check in every third passenger. At Norfolk airport on freaking boxing day, there was one clerk. One. To serve 3 different flights. Aren’t they ever concerned that people might miss their fracking plane??? I guess not. I almost gave myself a… something bad and stressy on the way back from VA this Christmas. I think they purposely move slower and then they’ll disappear, walk back slowly, chat with their co-worker, come back, say “now where were we…” and I stand there, leg all a-twitch thinking: oh my fucking GOD, MOVE IT PEOPLE!!

    K, I feel better now.

  11. I’m glad you got that off your chest. ;-)

    The thing is, I go through Dulles two or three times a year, and I never have a problem with lineups. Maybe it’s because I’m almost always going for the 9:30 PM flight to Montreal (but that means checking 7:00-ish, which should be busy) but it never seems very busy when I’m there.

    There is, however, that issue with the Mirabel-like shuttles to get you to the departure gates. But if you’re not in a hurry, that’s no problem either. There is one concourse, however, that is terrible. Just a big old room full of chairs with a crappy food kiosk and newsstand on one end, and open doors stinking like jet fuel here and there. Forunately, I’ve only been stuck there once.

    The last few times it’s been concourse C, which is reasonable enough. There’s a pub of sorts, and a very swishy wine bar at one end.

  12. What you need is a small child. Whenever we travel with Jack, we get sent to special check in desks, go through special security areas, and get to board the plane first. I think they would rather get us the hell out of there, rather than risk being exposed to toddler tantrums.

  13. Oh, Gordon, don’t get me started on the Bus/Metro riders. (Your post is bang-on, BTW.)

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