It's been several years since I've flown- generally, when we travel, we drive wherever we are going but driving from northern Nevada to Austin, Texas then south to Houston in mid-June did not sound all that appealing to either John or me so I decided to fly, alone.
After boarding three different planes and two layovers; one in Salt Lake and then a second longer one in Dallas, I have become re-acquainted with the art of flying. The actual feel of flying is unchanged: people hurrying, racing, in some cases running to their next flight only to find that the plane has not yet boarded, the very worst kind of stress. Men, women and children of a variety of races, languages, dress- a microcosm of the world- trying to get from one part of their world to another as quickly as possible; their faces revealing expressions increasing from anxiety, frustration, boredom to impatience as they wait and wait and wait.
The airlines have made some significant changes in attempts, I assum, to streamline their processes and reduce costs. Among those that were made immediately handsome to me are the now strict weight limits for careless passengers who thoughtlessly add one and then five more books along with other non-essential and fairly heavy items result in an 'overage fee'. A surcharge of $ 100.00 for the offending three pound extra works exactly like a speeding ticket: I know I'll remain under the fifty pound ceiling the next time I fly.
Gone are the people who struggled to make too large a suitcase fit into too small a overhead bin with the not so patient steward assisting in the futile attempts to make the impossible happen while the minutes ticked by. The rules are clear and they are enforced. Airline personnel spot and then stop the few folks with over-sized luggage before they get on the plane; efficiently, the large piece of luggage is whisked away so that the process of boarding moves a few hundred people into the airplanes within twenty minutes or less.
The ubiquity of mobile devices with free WiFi in the airports and on the planes permits instant communication for everyone from everyplace. People writing, texting and talking on smart phones about the latest corporate catastrophe like the man standing in back of me in the Dallas Fort Worth airport exhaustively sharing his distress about the unexpected resignation of a key top player to a listener claimed to feel the same way .
I am on board my third plane since 6:30 this morning as I complete this post. A quick and unscientific survey of the hundreds of people seen during this long day revealed only two others carrying a real book to read. Many passengers use their mobile devices to avoid the gaze of a stranger, ear buds carefully in place.
The young woman sitting next to me on the last leg of this trip is one of the three people I have seen with a book- a real book and expresses gratitude when l hand her the novel I had completed.
"Do you like fiction?"
Smiling, she replied, "Yes, I do, I travel all the time and am always on the lookout for books to pass the time.
Smiling back, I replied "It's OK, it will pass the time."
Captain Samantha Martinez is, a member of the Texas Joint CounterDrug Task Force Operations OIC, coalition of many agencies working together to stop the choke hold of cartels on the global economy. She loves her job because she knows she is making a difference.
She listened as I explained that a character in my next book is a member of a Texas coal drug task force that I thought I had invented, replying sure when I asked if I could use her name in the novel and handed me her business card as we walked together off the plane and on the way to baggage claim.
One of the unexpected gifts of spending forever on planes was meeting a young woman like Captain Martinez; working to make this world a better place: God Bless you, Samantha. And many thanks for the permission to use your name for one of my characters in my next book.