At the end is where I shall begin today, with the beginning coming at the close of this column. There is a reason for this, as you will see.
Also, there is a reason for the chronicle of complaints to follow — a list almost as long as a TSA security line. Yes, this tale is about the headaches and frustrations of traveling by airplane.
While my recent flight from LAX to New York’s JFK International had no thrown punches or any passengers dragged off because of overbooking, in many ways it still typified why air travel can seem as pleasant as a kidney stone.
Working backward, we start at baggage claim. After a long walk through the terminal and waiting another 15 minutes at the designated carousel, the bell rang and the lights flashed and the merry-go-round for suitcases finally began moving.
Around and around it slowly turned, but no luggage emerged.
Another 10 minutes passed before our flight’s baggage finally began to appear — on a different carousel.
This carousel quickly stopped. Not so quickly it restarted. My suitcase eventually appeared, about in the middle of the pack, about 40 minutes after we passengers had arrived at baggage claim.
Departing the massive jet was like 100 boxing matches held inside 100 shower stalls. Instead of flying fists to duck, one needed to dodge carry-on luggage being yanked from the overhead storage bins.
A duffle bag far too large to qualify as carry-on landed a punch to the back of my head. No apology was offered. Instead, the culpable woman tried to push her way through the Space Mountain-like line in the aisle ahead, announcing: “I have to get to a connecting flight!”
As if she were the only passenger in a rush. By the way, we were two rows from the back of the plane. Her rudeness was rightly met with scorn.
Like Usain Bolt at the blast of the starter’s pistol, the instant the captain announced we had stopped taxiing, 97 percent of the passengers bolted out of their seats. They instantly battled to retrieve their carry-on bags like NBA players boxing out for rebounds.
The landing at JFK was so smooth that had a cup of water been secured outside on the wing, it would not have splashed. Inside the plane, however, it looked like a tornado had passed through, with trash, blankets and food strewn everywhere, especially in first-class.
The man in front of me reclined his seat the entire flight, giving himself a few extra inches of extra comfort while rendering my video screen dark from the tilted angle.
A baby cried, and loudly, for half an hour.
A couple across the aisle from me complained to the flight attendant about this, that and the other. Their complaints grew ruder, and louder, the more wine they drank.
My seatmate wore a tank top and had armpits like a pelt. I know this because he kept raising his arms to adjust the air-vent nozzle.
My seatmate unpacked a huge salad that he ate with the same gusto the Beast in “Beauty and the Beast” attacked a bowl of porridge. Lettuce shrapnel struck me three times.
After boarding the plane on time, our takeoff was delayed 35 minutes.
Now the beginning. Our captain greeted us over the P.A. system with an apology for the delayed departure and then shared this eloquent message:
I know air travel can be frustrating at times. I think it’s well to remember that the Wright Brothers made their first flight just 113 years ago. We’ve come an amazing distance, very quickly, since then.
That historic flight covered just 120 feet — the wingspan of this Airbus A330-300 is longer than that.
That first flight also lasted only 12 seconds and reached an altitude of about 20 feet — our altitude will be 36,000 feet and our scheduled flight time is 5 hours and 41 minutes.
So keep the Wright Brothers in mind and have a nice flight.
Thanks to that wise perspective, I indeed had a wonderful and enjoyable flight.
Woody Woodburn’s email address is WoodyWriter@gmail.com. His book “Strawberries in Wintertime: Essays on Life, Love and Laughter” is available at www.WoodyWoodburn.com.