Sometimes travel means UGH
TRAVEL STOPPED BEING A PLEASURE.
Taking your shoes off, rushing like a maniac, having people breathing down your neck, hearing their sometimes obnoxious cell phone conversations, being poorly treated by impatient airport employees has taken away all the fun.
Since childhood, I always dreamt about going to exotic places, visit the unusual sites, and exploring cities and towns slowly, taking my time to meet locals and find the out-of-the-ordinary locales. And that’s how I travel.
But when you need to put yourself in auto-mode, after having rehearsed your dressing and undressing character at the airport, all that pleasure gets completely diminished. It’s like getting excited with an attractive lover who ends up being a disappointment in bed.
During a trip to Buenos Aires I found my suitcase open, damaged and wrapped with tape. I went to the airline customer service desk to complain and I was told that since the piece of luggage was locked it had been opened by the “American people” in the United States, and that the airline was not responsible for it. I wasn’t too happy about it but, how secure is your luggage if you do not lock it?
A friend who was traveling along told me that some of his clothes were gone when he opened his suitcase at home, which he had left unlocked.
In another trip to Lima, I was happy to travel first-class (thanks frequent-flyer miles!) After my previous experience, I asked if I could take my luggage to the place where it was to be inspected and in case they needed to have it open I would unlock it for them. I had done that before. But this time they had moved the “multimillion scanner machine to the basement” at O’Hare airport, which was not open to the public, so I had to “take my chances” if I chose to lock my luggage. I know that if I send my suitcases unlocked the possibilities of items disappearing from them was extremely high. Do I risk to have the US Air administration employees break the lock (and leave a nice printed piece of information saying that “it had to be opened”—inside the case) or take the risk of not finding the Christian Dior cologne I bought for my dad or the black Clark shoes for my brother?
I decided to take the risk.
Then I went to the security area. Shoes, wallet, keys, cell phone, belt, coins off. A step closer and I am naked. Gee, I made the mistake of not having placed my laptop on its own tray— “solo para siempre,” (alone forever—according to the security officer, when he realized I speak English with an accent.) Dude, speak English—you do a better job and I can understand proper English. “Solo para siempre” does not mean “only by itself.” And please, if I ask a question do not say: “I am not talking to you.” I know you are the authority here and I have to shut up because I don’t want to tell you how rude you are and then start a soap opera that is going to cause me problems and delay my trip. Elio, just bite your tongue.
Yikes, I had made another mistake. I stupidly placed a raspberry jam jar in my carry-on. Raspberries are “exotic” fruits for my folks, who live in Peru and like them. It was taken away from me by this nice lady who asked me categorically “not to touch” my carry-on while she was doing an inspection. I cringed but at least I knew that was my fault. I hadn’t placed any explosives inside the jam jar, but I understand that security is paramount.
Why has the travel world changed so much? We all know why, but what a mess it has become.
I took my first flight when I was 10 years old. It was a propeller plane and it took over three hours to get to my destination (nowadays it takes 55 minutes.) But traveling was so exciting then, especially to the rain forest and the Amazon river. My first international trip happened when I was 15 years old. It was a Boeing 727: Lima-Quito-Cali-Panama City-Miami. So many stops but so much fun, landing and stopping in so many airports. Of course, I was a kid and I was just simply fascinated with all those layovers.
Years went by and traveling was still a pleasure. The anticipation, the counter at the airport, the boarding. People seemed to be nicer and attentive. Now? Not at all. I can’t wait to get to my destination. I don’t want to deal with upset counter employees with fake smiles, impatient folks at the security area, other stressed-out travelers who are missing their shoes, their cell phones, laptops, keys, wallets standing in line, feeling their identities are being examined by x-ray machines and prying eyes. (Photo Marek Ślusarczyk)