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Oh, oh, big ol’ jet airliner ... leavin’ on a jet plane

Staff Writer
Brownwood Bulletin
Brownwood Bulletin

In the United Airlines terminal at DFW International Airport last month, it was my turn to step up to the TSA brah who represented the first of several security stations. (Brah — the cool way of saying bro.)

Each passenger was required to produce a driver’s license.

This ought to be interesting, I thought as he looked at the photo on my driver’s license. The image depicted a brah with very little hair and no glasses staring at the camera with something of a deer in the headlights look. I wasn’t without my glasses because I lost them. The DMV lady had instructed me to remove them before taking my photo. I’m sure there’s a reason for that, although I have no idea what that reason is.

The TSA brah looked at my driver’s license photo and looked up at me. I had my glasses on (I can’t go anywhere without them, as I can see only about a foot, maybe 13 inches tops, without them). The glasses obviously confused the TSA brah. It couldn’t have been my long flowing locks.

He looked back at my driver’s license photo, looked back at me and shook his head in what I interpreted as disbelief. My bags were packed, I was ready to go, but maybe I wasn’t going to be leaving on a jet plane.

The brah returned my driver’s license and motioned me toward the next security stop, where I think I was examined for explosives and other contraband.

What is my purpose in relating this hilarious anecdote? I’m not sure there is one. Other than to lead into my surprisingly reasonably quasi-pleasant experience while flying commercially for the first time in probably a dozen years. Have I mentioned previously that I visited Colorado last month with Wife, Julia the yootette, Yoot the elder the his fiance Tiffany?

I love the slipping the surly bonds of earth part of flying, but my experiences with the airlines had become increasingly frustrating. It seemed that the airline employees barked at everyone who came into their yard. Woe unto the passenger who couldn’t move fast enough in figuring out all of the secret handshakes at the self-check-in kiosks. I hated being crammed with the other sardines into a jet packed with rows of seats so close together you could barely move.

I would often recall, with some degree of disgust, a happier time to ride in an airliner. Even the unwashed (id est, coach class) were practically treated like royalty as they were welcomed aboard a roomy and comfortable Boeing 707 or 727), fed pretty good meals and not charged extra for having luggage or breathing the air. I had started to conclude that the airlines had come to hate their passengers and separate them from every dollar they could.

But on this August morning, the experience was surprisingly different. Airline employees were friendly and helpful, entertaining (and almost playful) when they made announcements on the PA. Even the TSA brahs and gals were reasonably friendly, although definitely not playful.

About those kiosks: I had no idea how to work them. Yoot the elder’s fiance Tiffany got my ticket and boarding pass for me.

And one other observation, which has nothing to do with the airlines. There was a time when people dressed reasonably decent when they flew commercial. Even I have some standards, and I dressed up in some good jeans and a T-shirt with a collar.

But casual is the word now. I was amazed to see passengers strolling through the terminal in their underwear, in pajamas, in halter tops, in hot pants. At times, I murmured oh my, I didn’t need to see that.

At the other end of the spectrum, I watched the flight crew members walking through the terminal, wearing their sharp plane driver uniforms and pushing wheeled containers in front of them, which I’m sure, were filled with airplane stuff. I wanted to tell each one of them, “you’ve got a neat job. How do I get that job?” I didn’t bother them though.

Once we boarded our Boeing 737, I was again pleasantly surprised to note that the rows of seats actually had some space between them, and the accommodations were quite comfortable. As we jet-sped across the skies toward Denver, my only disappointment was that everyone in the window seats wanted to keep the shades pulled, as it was rather bright outside, but I wanted to see out.

I had an aisle seat, so there wasn’t much I could do about that. At one point Tiffany, in a window seat across the aisle from me, lifted the shade briefly to humor me, and I was stunned to see a giant field of clouds that looked like giant mounds of snow a few hundred feet below.

I wondered if the drivers up in the cockpit still found such a sight thrilling — or had they seen similar sights so many times it became blase?

The seat back in front of me contained a screen with various movie selections, and I selected a movie called “Just Mercy” — based on real events — and plugged ear buds into a receptacle on my seat’s arm rest.

The movie was already playing when I began watching, but it was pretty easy to figure out what was going on. Before the movie was finished, we landed in Denver. If you’re not familiar with that movie, I don’t want to give it away other than to say it is a very powerful movie that will provoke passion, anger and pity in the viewer. I’m going to watch it all the way through on Amazon — although there are some scenes that are so intense, I don’t want to view those particular scenes again.

So, we landed, got off the jet and retrieved our luggage. The system had worked quite well for us that morning. And the return flight a few days later? It was a 737 operated by a different airline, and this one was much more crowded with rows of seat that were too close togethr.

But, nobody barked at us. So overall, leavin’ (and returnin’) on a jet plane last month was a pretty good deal. As the Steve Miller band sang, Oh, oh, big ol’ jet airliner.