Featured Column
Week of 4.11.2005
Airports and bus stations!
           Years ago my favorite aunt used to fly from her home in Brooklyn to visit our family in California. Every summer my father, mother, sister, grandmother and I would drive to Los Angeles International Airport to welcome her. We’d stand by the large windows to watch her American Airlines flight land and taxi to the gate. Back then a cross country flight was a special occasion, so from the time we spotted her plane and watched it taxi to the gate we were all filled with anticipation and excitement.
           One of us would usually shout “There she is!” And there would be Aunt Rae, walking towards us, dressed to the nines, sometimes wearing a stylish hat and often gloves that would match her classy traveling suit and high heels.
            Fast forward to last week when I flew from San Jose International Airport to Lindbergh Field in San Diego. In San Jose my first act was to position myself last in line to check in at the airline ticket counter along with four or five dozen other travelers, most schlepping backpacks, rolling suitcases, canvas sacks, shopping bags and converted diaper bags. Half an hour later I reached Xanadu; the check- in -counter. Following the confirmation of my reservation and agreement that the person on my driver’s license was, indeed, me, I was told to proceed to another seemingly endless line. This queue was created so that an unbiased party could verify that I had a ticket and that I was again, indeed, the same person as shown on my driver’s license.
           Passing that inspection I came upon the much dreaded security zone. Here is where an honest voyager must remove metal objects from their person. Off with the belt buckle, off with the shoes, empty the pockets, remove the ball point pen from the shirt pocket, dump the keys.”Is that a roll of mints encased in metal foil?” “Do you keep a spare car key in your wallet?” “Please remove them and place them in the filthy plastic container and push them towards the x-ray machine.” I hear “Sir, please remove your jacket with the metal zipper and are those brass buttons on your shirt?”
          The line moves and I am next to be x-rayed. There is a certain sense of victory when the mysterious intrusion of rays pass through my body and clothing and I am accepted into the paradisiacal confines of the terminal waiting area.
          Now I am barefoot, jacketless, without wallet and my pants are sliding down my hips. I re-dress and behold, I am in nirvana – behold gate A-3.
          I find a vacant seat, place my hand carry luggage on the floor where my legs would normally go and prepare to sit down. Luckily I look down and find a large grease spot and some olive shards, obviously left over from a pizza-eating-traveler, long departed for his or her destination. Not having a bar rag on my person, I find another seat, this one reasonably clear of food remnants
          The holding area for gate A-3 contains an interesting mix of humanity. A full quarter of the inhabitants are speaking into cell phones, each bearing the numbed look of a distracted soul – there, but not there. A young mother is actually nursing her child, making sure that her nursing parts are hidden from our view. A group of college students are sitting on the soiled carpet by the gate entrance enjoying pizzas, oatmeal cookies and soft drinks. The majority of the pre-teens are playing electronic games on miniature devices, of which I am not familiar. Many of the younger travelers are holding I-Pods in one hand and their cell phone in the other. The majority of youth at gate A-3 have some tiny electronic speakers inserted in their ears.
          Children are crying. Citizens who are not speaking into their cell phones periodically check them, hoping against hope that they will receive a call from someone and thereby validate their popularity amongst their peers.
          I spot two men wearing business suits. One is fiddling with a computer positioned on his knees, the other is carrying a computer in a fashionable leather carry on.
          T-shirts and jeans are the dress of the day for most. Some wear sweat shirts. Some are in short pants. Flip-flops are common. One lady is wearing a skin tight top, exposing a large portion of her sizeable belly and large bosoms. The top probably fit her a few decades back. An elderly gentleman is wearing army fatigues and a black beret, his eyes peering through dark glasses. After seeing him, I was glad the airport has installed tight security measures. Backpacks, luggage, and over-stuffed carry-alls fill the aisles and walkways, making it difficult to walk freely without tripping over a strap or two.
          Finally, it’s time to board the plane. There’s a rush for position with the young and able- bodied shoving past the older boarding passengers.
          Finally, the plane is fully loaded and ready to taxi and take off, but that’s another story.
          While settling in my seat, I thought back to those days, once a year, when Aunt Rae would visit us. I can still picture her walking towards us, smartly dressed, smiling and relaxed.
          One thing is for sure – if my classy Aunt Rae had to fly today she probably wouldn’t be smiling and she wouldn’t be relaxed. Not the way airports are in these times.
Flying is so mundane now
      Ron was born in the Bronx, New York. He was raised in Southern California and lived in Honolulu, Hawaii for three decades. He attended Inglewood High School and U.C.L.A.. His youthful goal was to become a major league baseball player. In Hawaii Ron played on a series of championship softball teams. He is an active tennis player.
      Ron’s career began at the Inglewood Daily News where as a youngster was enrolled in a publisher training program. He served as an advertising salesman, circulation manager, writer and layout and design staffer. He has been a newspaper publisher at the Oregon City Oregon Enterprise Courier, the Beloit Wisconsin Daily News, the Elizabeth, New Jersey Daily Journal and This Week Magazines (Hawaii).
      Ron lives with his wife, Marilyn, in San Diego, California. His two children, Douglas and Diane also live in the San Diego area. Ron’s interests range far and wide and are reflected in his columns diverse topics.
Ron Cruger