Not all airports are created equal

The trip home from the honeymoon.

We get in line for airport security in Santorini. Without a word of explanation another traveler pushes and shoves through the entire line until he reaches the front. A woman in line behind him starts shouting at him in another language. He starts shouting back. Two security guys just stand there.

More shouting. The security guys decide to step in. They send the guy to the back of the line and they take the lady into a closed room. We resume moving through security. My hair is piled on top of my head in a ballerina bun with a million hair pins. I set the metal detector off. The security guy motions for me to take my hair out.

Take my hair out? I just spent 15 precious minutes early this morning putting it up. I stare at him. He motions again for me to take it out. I really don’t want to. He sighs. Comes around from behind the scanner machine and scans my entire body with one of those wands, muttering to himself,

“Tall lady. Very tall lady.”

He never scans my hair.

We make it to Athens, but for some reason I wasn’t able to select our airplane seats online for the flight home. They were randomly assigned: 50E and 50F for an eleven hour flight. Doesn’t sound great. I approach the counter at our gate.

“I’m wondering about our seats.”

The woman takes our tickets and grimaces,

“Looks like the back of the plane.”  She types on her computer for a minute. “Yup, last row in the middle.”

“Is it possible to move them?”

“Not if you want to stay together.”

I walk back toward Captain. He asks,

“How’d it go?”

“Not great. We’re in the last row, in the middle of the plane.”

We board and now I understand the airline counter lady’s grimace. Not only are we the last row of the plane, but we’re sandwiched between two bathrooms. We sink into our seats. I ask a flight attendant about moving seats. She tells me,

“This is a very full flight. You’re lucky you’re sitting together.”

Two things:

One: A full flight is a full flight. What’s a very full flight?

Two: Maybe I don’t need to spend the next 11 hours with my husband and two toilets. Maybe 11 hours with no husband and no toilets should be considered.

We end up staying together. I glance at the back of my seat. There’s no individual movie screen. I look down the length of the plane, there are no screens anywhere. What sort of bargain international flight did I book? No seat selection, no movies… there better be food.

There ends up being a minimal amount of food for “free” and no food for purchase even though I’m starving and they’re being stingy with the pretzels.

One bathroom breaks, so a line starts for the remaining toilet a foot away from Captain. Every once in awhile a flight attendant goes in the bathroom and sprays some air freshener, but that combined with farts, combined with the airplane meatball sandwich smell, is not pleasant.

Several people around us have taken to covering their faces. The flight attendant asks them,

“You can smell that?”

Everyone nods. Why does the flight attendant think we couldn’t smell that? The only way to be closer to the toilet is to be sitting on it.

We land in Toronto. We have just under two hours to make our connecting flight to Boston. Seems doable, but we are in the back of the plane and I have a sinking feeling we need to go through immigration.

We arrive at Toronto airport’s passport control for the US. There’s a giant board that says this is a 3 step process. I see huge lines for Step One and Two and I can’t even see Step Three. What is this? I’ve been through a lot of bad border control situations. This is shaping up to be one of the worst.

We scan our passports and plane tickets and proceed to Step Two. We’re supposed to wait for our names to come up on a screen and then proceed to Step Three. Our flight leaves in one hour. I drag Captain to Step Three. We wait in line for 15 minutes. The guy checks our passports and his computer screen. He tells us,

“You have to go back to Step Two. Your names aren’t up on the board yet.”

“Our flight is boarding soon.”

“There’s nothing I can do. We’re waiting for your bags to clear customs. Air Canada might be able to declare your bags missing and then you could go.”

I’ll declare my bags missing, I don’t need Air Canada and their smelly bathroom seats to do that. We rush over to Air Canada. We get permission to go to Step Three.

Now finally we’re in line to go through passport control. Our flight is boarding. I go to the front of the line and ask a security woman,

“May we cut the line? Our flight is leaving soon.”

She looks at my ticket and says,

“No. You’ll be fine.”

Another lady comes rushing up to the security woman. She seems even more desperate than I am to catch her flight. The security woman shouts at her,

“Get a direct flight next time.”

Wow. I get back in line with Captain. We make it through passport control, only to be stuck in line for security again. Our flight is departing in 15 minutes. I leave Captain and his bad knee behind and sprint for the gate. I’m hoping I can convince them to wait for him and if not, then he can get on a flight tomorrow with our bags.

He lucked out and made it and amazingly enough so did our bags and the pink stuffed turtle I bought in Greece. Don’t worry, I declared it.


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