Sunday, December 19, 2021

Travel Mode

The second time I traveled by air I almost missed my flight. I was eighteen years old and had flown from London to Dublin for my first visit home since moving to England for work, as every Irish teenager did back then.  

It was 1964. The return flight was a morning flight. I don't remember exactly what time, probably about 09:00 AM—I guess that time because the reason I almost missed it was both my mother, who was driving me to the airport and I, slept in. Ah, the good old days when I actually slept in.

My mother woke me in a panic and we made a mad dash to the airport. She got me there with literally minutes to spare. Luckily, back then, there was no long delay going through ID verification and security checks. If you were at the airport twenty minutes before your flight, you were good to go. 

Dublin airport was very small and easy to navigate in the 1960's. My mother dropped me at the front entrance, I grabbed my bag, ran in the door and a few feet away was my gate, where my flight was boarding. I climbed up the stairs into the Vickers Viscount and within minutes the door was closed and we took off. I stared out the window at the twin propellers on the wing to my left. The flight over had been on a Dakota which had only one prop on each wing. I felt sure that two props on each wing was somehow safer. I sat back and lit up a cigarette. I was in the smoking section of the plane. A lot has changed since then, for one thing I have quit smoking. 

I have since flown millions of miles and the only flights I have missed were connections missed due to delays beyond my control. There have only been a few of them. Apart from the many more times I flew between London and Dublin, I have flown all over Europe on vacations and between London and Canada where I lived in the late1960s. Since moving to the US apart from flying all over the States for work, I have made the trip across the Atlantic so many times I have lost count. At least one hundred times. Once to India—one of the occasions I missed a connecting flight. Almost all of my travel, with only a few exceptions, has been on my own so no one else has had to tolerate my neurosis.

The reason I don't miss my flights, or even come close to it I believe, is because I go into travel mode. Usually the morning of a flight, no matter what time that flight is scheduled. Because of this, I try to fly in the morning to avoid wasting the entire day in this state.

Travel mode is, obviously, a stress related condition—I wouldn't compare it to a panic attack, but close—I get tunnel vision in so far as I can't concentrate on anything other than getting to the airport at least two hours earlier than required. I am not afraid of flying, in fact I love it. I am obsessed with time, and being on time. I am very afraid of missing my flight. I don't want to talk to anyone, I certainly don't want to do anything that might distract me, as though concentrating on it will ensure I get there on time. All I can think about is getting to the airport. Once in the airport, and through security, I relax and I have no difficulty waiting for hours. This condition also requires that I ensure any connection time is at least twice as long as necessary. Even then, as I said, I have missed a few of them.

In order to eliminate as many delays as possible, I have Global Entry for international flights, TSA Precheck and Clear. These memberships allow me to jump the queuing for security and passport control. Where possible, I avoid having family or friends drive me to the airport. Inevitably they will want to come in to 'see me off'. Most people who know me well are now prepared to drop me at the airport and drive of—quickly. 

An associated travel issue I have is that I am always convinced that my luggage will be mislaid en route. It hasn't happened very often, possibly three times out of all of my trips, and each time interestingly, it has been when traveling through Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris. On each of these occasions my bag was recovered and delivered to me within 24 hours. But still I assume it will be lost and I wait at the carrousel watching the bags go round, expecting to eventually have to go to the lost baggage office and report my bag. And on every occasion when it does pop through the flopping curtains on the baggage delivery belt, I am amazed.

I used to travel to Seattle one week in six or so, when I was working for Amazon. With COVID that stopped. I also couldn't take my regular trips to Ireland, England and France to visit family. I am now retired, but COVID is not. It is two years since I visited Seattle and two and a half years since I have visited any of my family in Europe. I am hopeful that I can return to Europe in Summer 2022, but not holding my breath. Through all of my travels, my husband has been unable to accompany me because his mother lived with us and someone had to stay home and care for her. However, we have planned a visit to my son and his family in Seattle over the holidays. As Mildred passed away last February, finally Larry does not have to stay home. We are all double vaccinated and boosted so very hopeful that we will remain safe. On the other hand, as my husband is accompanying me, he is going to be exposed to my travel mode. Luckily, he knows about it, and hopefully, is prepared to just ignore it. I will control it as best I can.