Topic: "Travel Sucks" (4)
Never has the distance between Virginia and Kansas been so completely chronicled as it was by the shutterbug Frodo on his first airplane flight. Frodo will never forget the thrill, nor will he ever be able to explain why something once so exciting is now so unbelievably mundane. On the morrow, Frodo and Sam once again tempt their tempers as they confront the growing cancer that air travel has become. Even the prospect of Bilbo's 90th Birthday offers little to salve the wounds that oil, at more than $100 per barrel, has cast upon those who traverse our nation's skies.
Frodo and Sam will drive more than one hour in order to arrive two hours before flight time (9 AM, or so the schedule alleges). They will park in a satellite lot, tip the driver, and be ferried to the boarding gate. Their bags will be checked through to Phoenix (at a cost of $3 per bag + another tip), and they then confront passenger screening. Frodo dresses simply, removing almost everything, and placing all inside his carry-on. Sam insists on wearing jewelry, shoes with bits of metal aside, and sunglasses. Frodo usually waits while Sam's body cavities are searched.
Once the TSA stormtroopers are convinced that Sam is harmless, the Hobbits are allowed to make their way to the gate. At this point the location of the nearest bathrooms becomes a critical determination. Realizing, subsequently, that they are about to spend four hours in cramped, airless, quarters absent any food service whatsoever, it becomes Frodo's fate to stand in an endless line at the world's slowest Wendy's in order to overpay for a soggy, coolish biscuit.
Eventually, the Hobbits are summoned to discover the location of their seats, but only after every person in front of them first puts a carry-on, a hat, a coat, and something that appears to be breathing into the overhead compartments. Only then does Frodo realize that he is seated next to the only infant on the entire airplane. What Frodo learns, much to his surprise, is that this will not be the cherub's first flight. It will be however, alleges the mother, his first in which he sleeps the entire way without disturbing anyone. Frodo notes the first opportunity to bet large sums of money against that prospect. There are however, no adult takers anywhere in his vicinity.
When finally off the ground, well beyond schedule, Frodo commences an assault on a "beach book," and pretends that the cramped space he occupies is his, and his alone. Frodo has always been a very silly Hobbit. Every passenger heading to the bathroom violates his space, and every person with a head cold or some form of typhus, coughs into his face as they pass. Frodo considers that first vodka and tomato juice, for $5, at exactly 10 AM (well, it has to be 5 o'clock somewhere, doesn't it?).
When they arrive at Sky Harbor, Frodo and Sam will walk at least the equivalent distance between Canada and Mexico before they are in a position to retrieve their luggage. Along the way they pass the lines of refugees waiting to be strip-searched by the TSA stormtroopers before they depart. Knowing that the Hobbits will pass through in that direction in just a few days prevents them from feeling any solace whatsoever at the absence of such activity for arriving passengers. Frodo does consider hiding Sam's jewelry, shoes, and sunglasses.
Luggage in tow, the Hobbits wait for the limo, and wait, and then they wait a little more. Eventually, once the fee for the round-trip ride, including tips, is paid, they are on their way. It is, by that time, rush hour in Phoenix. Frodo has never figured out where all those people are going. They should be sitting by the pool, drinking a "Dos Equis," or planning which golf course to play that day. Instead, they all seem intent on following Frodo's route, at varying rates of motion, and blocking every effort by his driver to bring a hasty conclusion to the final phase of air travel, step one.
Frodo is convinced that passage by rail is, at last, enhanced, not by what we do to encourage it, but by the sheer dynamics of what we have done to better it. Air travel is soaring beyond the budget of people everywhere, along with their mortgages, the cost of food, and fuel for individual transit. It is also one of the most unpleasant ways possible to lose an entire day.
Frodo thinks he will ask Mark the Magician (a Series 7 license and a lot of lucky guesses) what he thinks about putting a few dollars into railcars?