Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Up in the Air

I'm spending the balance of the week in Scottsdale, Arizona (where the landscape is like a Roadrunner cartoon come to life), which means I spent today enduring the "glamor" of modern air travel: having to remove my shoes and belt like a new prisoner about to be deloused, stepping into a full-body scanner that gave me a close-up look at the polyps in my urethra, being subjected to the charms of U.S. border agents, and having to show my boarding pass every few feet to another bored bureaucrat. Finally, after being "processed," I retreat to the safety of the bar in the departure lounge, and take a glance at my ticket:

Sorry for the fuzziness (that's the best still my Flip camcorder can capture). So what's the error here? This ticket stub indicates that the departure time is--get this--2:29 p.m. That's right--not 2:30, not 2:45, but precisely 2:29 p.m.

The aircraft, as it turns out, was actually taxiing* to the runway at about 2:40--a fact I could verify by showing camera footage of the clock on my cell phone, were it not for the fact that activating a cell phone and camera on take-off would get me swiftly tackled by overzealous air marshals and subjected to "enhanced interrogation techniques" involving an unlubricated mop handle.

Anyway...I'm not complaining about the late departure--I was in no particular hurry, and in any case we arrived on time in the desert. I'm just bumfuzzled by the hubris of airlines announcing these oddly-specific departure times, as if we were counting down to a space launch, when in fact any veteran flyer knows that you're lucky if you come within 20 minutes of the declared wheels-up time.

*Just wondering: is there another English word, other than skiing, that features a double i?