Monday, July 28, 2008

I am not a good traveler

My recent travels between Hawaii and Australia have led me to realize that I am not a good traveler. My husband travels about 30-40 weeks a year. I don't know how he hasn't landed himself in jail yet because if it were me, I probably would have been pulled out of line at the airport for making some snarky, smart-ass remarks about airport security because I cannot stand the ridiculousness that is airport "security" these days. What the hell difference does it make if I have a 3-oz. tube of toothpaste or a 6-0z. tube of toothpaste that has been squeezed down to less than half? What's that? All the reasonable people in the world say, "I don't know. There doesn't really seem to be much difference."? That's what I thought too, but if you read the TSA web site, you will see that you are not allowed to carry a 6-oz. container of toothpaste (or mouth wash or deodorant or whatever) even if the contents are clearly down to 3 oz. or below because this would be...WHAT???? Dangerous? A slippery slope-where do you draw the line between 3 oz. and 3.25 oz? If someone could please give me an actual, based-in-common-sense answer to this, I would be fine with it, but they don't. They just make up all these arbitrary rules, and I'm pretty sure they do it just to piss me off. Seriously, do any of you barefoot people in line feel any safer now that your toiletries have been trimmed down to a safe, single layer of 3-oz. containers? Lighter, and less loaded down with crap? Sure. But safer? Me neither.

Did you know that you can't take a box cutter on a plane? Of course you did, you're not an idiot. That's a dangerous instrument, and you could hurt somebody with that. But did you also know that cork screws are ok? Are you telling me that a cork screw would inflict less damage than a box cutter? If I had to fight someone on the street, and I had my choice of a box cutter or a cork screw, I think I'd take the cork screw. Arbitrary rules, man. Arbitrary.

Anyway, none of this has actually been an issue for me, but it pisses me off every time I have to pack my 3-oz. bottles in my clear plastic baggie. Why? It just does, ok?

What WAS an issue for me was the additional security features brought on by international travel. At the Honolulu International Airport, when you arrive at your international gate, they tell you, "once you enter this holding area, you will not be allowed to leave and come back in. Are you ok with that." That is very nice of them. They could just get you trapped in there and then laugh at you when you get up to try to go back out for a Starbucks. Upon hearing this information and being sort of hungry and kind of wishing I had stopped at the Starbucks we just passed, I peer into The Holding Area, and see a doorway with big letters that say, "GATE 30 SNACK BAR." So, I say, "Yes, I am ok with that," and wander into The Holding Area where I get a better view of the Snack Bar area:

Hmmmm...this does not look promising at all. I decide to investigate further and discover this:

That's right, there's no snack bar here. MWAHAHAHA! I'm not sure what sick bastard is in charge of this operation, but I think s/he needs to contact somebody about updating the airport signage. ASAP. I don't know about you, but I get bitchy when I get hungry. I don't mean to be, I just am. This is no fun for me, and it definitely is not fun for my poor husband, who usually ends up taking the brunt of my bitchiness. I know there are other men out there who can sympathise with this. So, if you are traveling internationally out of HNL, be sure you have some snacks hidden in your pockets to fend off your bitchy travel companion (or somebody else's bitchy travel companion whose boyfriend/husband/brother/father did not read this post and went in unawares) when she gets trapped at Gate 30 by the misleading "SNACK BAR" sign.

Flying back from Sydney was similarly frustrating. First of all, the Pope was in town for World Youth Day, and as a result Sydney had a lot of extra people on hand. I'm not sure of the exact number, but I think it was somewhere between 150,000 and 200,000. Turns out all those extra people decided to return home on our flight. All of them. They may have even had the Pope with them. We arrived at the airport 3 1/2 hours before our flight, thinking we would have plenty of time to check in, sit down for a bite to eat, and then mosey on over to our gate, pretty much in that order. An hour-and-forty-five-minutes later we were finally checked in. I had given in and hit up the vending machine for a $2.50 bag of peanut M&Ms earlier because I was starting to get mean. I try to take evasive action when I can. We finally make it through security and into the terminal to find that there are only 2 (two) places to eat, the place with the nasty looking sandwiches and the place with the nasty looking pizza. I go for the nasty sandwich place because they also have coffee. I buy my dry-ass $7.50 toasted cheese and tomato sandwich-even the cheese was dry-and sit down to eat. Seriously, people, didn't Sydney host an Olympics, and wasn't it fairly recently, like the year 2000? Is this really what they greeted all of their high-falutin international guests with?

I've choked down my sandwich, I'm drinking my coffee, and the pilgrims behind me are singing and somebody nearby is trying to play...a harmonica? A dead wombat? Ah, perhaps a didgeridoo. Either way, it sounds terrible. There are times when I would be able to be happy about the pilgrims singing-youth celebrating in a non-destructive uplifting way, enthusiastic and having fun. This was not one of those times. I wanted to grab the dead wombat didgeridoo and beat the singing pilgrims with it. Instead, my husband talked me into walking over to our gate.

At our gate, the security guard informed us that we WOULD be able to come and go, but that our bags would have to be searched each time. This, of course, sent me into another blind rage. Why? WHY?? We've already made it through airport security. Presumably, we are in a secure location. It's not like we're leaving the gate and going back out onto the streets of Sydney and coming back in with drugs, guns, and hookers. Although, technically, I don't think hookers are on the "things you can't bring on a plane" list. Anyway...if you are worried about what I might buy at the Duty Free store or the souvenir shop, should I be worried? I go to the bookstore which is over by some other gate where the gate agent has gathered everyone around and is yelling boarding information because, "we don't have a PA system." Oh, for the love of God! Are you kidding me? Seriously, people! 2000! It couldn't have gone that far downhill in 8 years!

After that, it was fairly non-eventful. I bought a book at the bookstore which, to my knowledge, was not selling any "Build Your Own Bomb" kits, made it into the gate area hassle-free, and then sat around with the 200,000 other people that were on our flight, waiting for our shouted-out boarding instructions. To Sydney airport's credit, they did have a soda machine in the waiting area.

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