The Agony ( and the Ectasy ) of Air Travel

I just got back from my two day getaway to Fort Myers – and I’ll blog about some highlights from that trip in the coming days. However, I wanted to share with you some thoughts on the method of transportation I used to get there – and get back. That necessary evil we all know as air travel … and I hate to fly.

Anybody remember what air travel was like before 9/11? For sure it was not a walk in the park, but in the days since the tragic events of September six years ago, it has only gotten worse. From the time you arrive at the airport until the moment you get your bags and get to your car, it’s one of the most painful and frustrating experiences you will have on this planet in your lifetime.

From the security lines where now you are forced to take your shoes off not to mention every piece of metal on your person and that may still not save you from the random search – to the lines of people waiting to get on board flights. The airport terminal has become more like the bus station of the past and less like the stream-lined, modern marvel air terminals were supposed to be.

Then, there’s once you board the flight. Despite a kind smile and wave from your stewards when you board, and those commercials promising more leg room, you are still slammed together like sardines and there is always someone who wants to carry on a two week’s supply of luggage that takes up the entire overhead space. Even once you get seated, there’s that little kid behind you who has decided for the first time this season to practice his goal kicks and assumes your seat is the proverbial soccer ball. And let’s not forget the tension this builds among all the passengers – especially when you have a full flight. It’s enough to make you think that someone on board maybe one over-salted bag of pretzels away from “going postal”.

I won’t even mention turbulence once you are airborne. The thought alone is enough to make me cry.

To be fair, I’m not blaming the airlines, the TSA or any one person. This is the system that exists and, like it or not, it works better than anything we have going at present. I don’t think it’s the intention of those who run the travel industry to make our lives miserable when we travel. It’s just the way things are in a world where security has become first and foremost. I even ran into a TSA worker who apologized to me for the delays getting through screening. Seems despite all the warnings, one passenger failed to get this simple message: You cannot take a knife in your carry-on luggage.

So is there anything about traveling worth celebrating – aside from the moment you are actually at your destination with bags in tow? Yes. It happened to me as we broke through the clouds early Thursday evening on apporach into Pittsburgh International Airport. As you look out your window ( yes I did get a window seat ), you can see western Pennsylvania. I could begin to make out roads and highways. I saw the end zone markings at various high school fields and I could make out “Bethel Park”, “Chartiers Valley” and “Upper St. Clair”. I could see the skyline of Pittsburgh all lit up. The streets and cars below me looking like props from a model train set. It’s that feeling of calm and serenity as you fly over our hometown. It let’s me know I’m home – and that this is truly where I belong. I guess that’s the reward for undergoing the agony of air travel.

Author’s note:
I’ll see you this evening for live coverage of the installation of the new Bishop during our broadcast starting at 2pm today. I’m coming back early because I was asked .. and I thought it was important to be part of this historic event.

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