The Overwhelmingly Sad Story of Airports

September 16, 2012
“I bought my ticket months ago, so just look back at your little screen and find my name…Withers, Mindy. That’s right.” I scratched my left shin with my right foot and pushed my bangs out of my eyes. What was supposed to be a simple task had turned into a painstakingly slow process. I had gotten to LaGuardia at five a.m. for my eight a.m. flight and it was now 5:37. I was still standing in the entranceway, talking to a frustratingly unhelpful employee of American Airlines. If they had just planned for the massive crowds when they were building this hellhole I could have gotten to the gate at 7:55 and still gotten on the flight. But of course no one had thought that far ahead while designing this microcosm of New York City.
“I’m sorry miss; we have no ticket for a Mindy Withers. Perhaps you’ve gotten your flight confused with another?” the oblivious woman behind the counter told me. Oblivious to the fact that I was getting entirely pissed off with her repeating the same sentence for twenty-five minutes. She had an accent that led me to believe she was a Spanish speaker. I sighed and put my Louie Vuitton suitcase on the ground beside me, realizing this may take longer than it should.
“No, no I did not. I don’t know how often you fly but I’m assuming you flew here from wherever the hell you came from. And I’ll just assume you were rather excited to arrive in America? Thrilled, maybe. So thrilled that you checked and rechecked your ticket in the days leading up to your departure. Let’s call this my trip to America, okay? So I’m pretty sure I know when my ticket is for. And it is for this fine morning.” I voiced, knowing I was being rude, but too annoyed to care. Not that I had actually checked my ticket since the day I bought it, but I was sure she was wrong. The woman’s smile faltered just a bit, but she looked determined to not let me upset her.
“Ma’am, I’m sorry. I can request my supervisor to come help you. But I’m telling you, you’re not in our flight registry.” She pushed a small button on the desk, I’m assuming to call the supervisor. “Are you sure you were flying with American Airlines? Many confuse us with American Eagle Airlines.”
“I’ve answered all your questions. I have a ticket for 8:05, flying from New York City to San Francisco, with American Airlines. My name is Mindy Withers. I’m 27 years old and I work for Saks Fifth Avenue. And because of my troubles, I would like to be moved up to first class.” I was entitled to at least first class, they’re lucky I didn’t request free tickets for the future, which my father always managed to do by hassling the flight attendants enough.
The people behind me were getting restless, as they had been waiting for a good fifteen minutes. The smart thing to do would be to move to another line. But, alack, alack…people are not smart. They’d rather stand in line behind me, in hopes that my problem will be a shorter fix than the mile long line beside us. And honestly I don’t care if they’re wrong in their estimation of time or not, so long as I get my ticket. I stood there waiting for the supervisor, mulling over what I hate about airplanes: the lines, the crowds, the fact that I always get stuck between two fat business men, the half cups of soda they give out, the terrible movies they play, the lack of cell service and wifi, the safety instructions that take twenty minutes to explain, the lack of male flight attendants, the babies that starts screaming 100 miles up and don’t stop until you touch back down, the person who wants to get to know you, even though you’ll never see them again, the choice between peanuts and pretzels (why can’t I just have both? I’m paying good money), the swelling of the feet, the checking and rechecking and rechecking of my bags. I could go on for days just complaining about airplanes. I mean, I’m glad we have them; I’d hate to drive across the country. But I wish they could just cater them to fit my needs… though I’m not sure who “they” are.
I was considering making a scene, just as the supervisor approached me-
“Hello, ma’am. I’m so sorry about all this confusion, especially so early. What seems to be the problem?” This woman was obviously a New Yorker, so I instantly felt more comfortable.
“Well, you see. I purchased my ticket to fly to San Francisco about three months ago. My cousin is getting married, you see. And this woman,” I pointedly glared in the first employees direction, “is trying to tell me I don’t exist and I am somehow supposed to accept this and leave.” The worker began to protest but the supervisor cut her off-
“I’m sure this is all a misunderstanding. What is your name, miss?”
“My name is Mindy Withers. I’m on the 8:05 flight.” She excused herself, to go check my information in her office. I stepped to the side, so the woman could help the people behind me now that I was being taken care of. I thought about what I had told the woman. I had lied. My cousin was not getting married. But it sounded like more of a reason to get on a plane than what I was actually going for. My brother was in trouble with the law in California and his court date was this weekend. But then people would have thought I was some sort of criminal and I can’t have that. I had to seem like a good person and more importantly, look like a good person.
The supervisor came back and told me the same as her employee. I sighed and got to my knees, unzipping my bag.
“I guess I can check my itinerary.” I hadn’t wanted to unzip my bag and find my phone, buried. But the situations difficulty was forcing me to. She looked surprised that I hadn’t already done that. But really it was their responsibility to keep track of their customers. I opened my email and scrolled down until I saw my confirmation email from Orbitz. I read aloud, showing my iPhone’s screen to the lady at the same time. “8:05…blah, blah, blah…American Airlines, blah, blah, blah, on August 29th, 2012. See?” I protested. Now I was sure I would get first class and free flights for the future. This was unbelievable. “I cannot believe I was so mistreated and doubted and you lost my information. How does that even happen! I want on my flight, and I want first class!” I rose my voice, so others would know how badly mistreated I had been.
“Miss Withers, can you open that email again?” she asked. I opened it and held it out. “This says your flight leaves from JFK. That’s the other New York City airport.” I snatched my phone back, scrolling quickly.
“I know what JFK is, I live in New York. But I never fly out of JFK. I always fly out of LaGuardia. You’re wrong.” I argued, even as I saw the three consonants at the top of the email. Realizing I was wrong, I had to find a way to cover for my humiliating mistake. I looked at my watch. 6:03. I was going to be late if I didn’t go catch a cab right this instant. I looked at the woman and said: “I will never fly out of LaGuardia again. This is has been the worst morning of my life” ignoring the fact that it was my fault it was the worst morning, not theirs.
As I paid my cab, flew through the entrance of JFK and arrived at my gate, breathless, I realized I had twenty minutes until my zone was boarding. I watched as the wealthy first-classers boarding the flight before the pregnant women, young children, and the elderly. And even though I knew that wasn’t fair, I wanted so desperately to become the elite few who were privileged enough to board the flight first.

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