Not Quite Kansas: Cattle Call

Last year I flew to Ireland and because of my stupidity in reading the time of departure I actually whisked through the airport in minutes. But basically, in either direction, it was stop at the ticketing counter, check baggage and get boarding pass, go through electronic scans and then give your pass to the airline attendant. It was relatively quick on either side of the boarding or disembarking.

Today, as I tried to board my Delta Airlines flight to Kansas via Salt Lake City, there were as many checkpoints as getting in Nazi occupied territory. I arrived about 11:10 am for my flight at 12:51 and lined up in front of Delta. There were less than a dozen people with three ticket counters open. It took about twenty minutes to get through. Oh and a US customs declaration card must be filled out before you go to the ticket counter. On some flights you do it on the flight to give to customs on the other side.

Ahah! But here we have customs on Canadian soil. So I checked my bag but had to keep it with me. Then I was shunted through the duty free shop along a corridor where they ask if you have your card filled out. Through another corridor there are lines for greeting the customs agents who stamp the declaration form, look at my passport and ask how long I’ll be in Kansas and whether it’s business or a pleasure. But they don’t take the card.

Then I go along another corridor, with my luggage (You think I got to check it yet?) where I hand the card to another customs agent standing before the big cattle clash. Now there are big glass doors, perpetually open and what looks like it’s where I would get screened as well as my carry-on. But not yet. Everyone tried to get in nice lines but we were told to bunch up in a large mass so that we could then funnel back down to a line to drop off any liquids bigger than a dormouse. Then we trundled our luggage over to an area on the right and flopped it on the conveyor belt.

Then we squish together again into a large mob moving to the left, and in the middle of this the guy with all the luggage carts wants to get through, but only whispers his request. One woman chose that moment to bend over and open up her carry-on, effectively blocking everything. Then we bundled up again like a passive Canadian gang and funneled into a thin line to go between the red ribboned rows. These rows first took us all the way back to those glass doors then changed to go left to right and zig us and zag us up toward the screening machines.

It’s interesting to note that while in that long sinuous line you can look down on baggage carousels with luggage arriving from different areas. To my left was one from Tokyo; the other was from somewhere in Canada. The baggage on the Canadian carousel was tossed willy nilly onto the conveyor belts, upside down, sideways, at jaunty angles. The baggage from the Japanese carousel was lined up neatly, each parallel to the other, on the long side, handles sticking up. Every single one.

As I neared the front of the line, somehow managing to suppress the urge to bleat, another customs agent pink markered my boarding pass and then I branched off to a particular screening lines. Where of course one has to take off shoes, disembowel bags or purses of little clear bags with liquids in them, take off chains, coins, jewelry, watches, false teeth, limbs and eyes, remove fillings, pop out brains, splay laptops and wander through.

The corridor for the E gates is long, it goes down a flight of steps where the escalator has a sign saying it goes fast but it would take you five times as long to get down than the steps. Then there is a short, fastish moving flat escalator. Then there are steps and escalator going up, which disgorged me into the waiting area, where I find…my plane is late because of headwinds. I wonder how the connecting flight will go.

And the connecting flight went…without me. And many other people. Salt Lake City is Delta’s hub after all, so EVERY flight goes through here. But guess what? Their last flights out are all around 5:00. Whoops. I arrived and got to the gate but they wouldn’t let us board, mostly because I would have had to sit on someone’ s lap. They do give away the seats after a certain time. But the guys there said, oh the planes left late for Vancouver because of maintenance problems. Hmm… Headwinds or maintenance problems or both?

Anyways, I get to spend a night here. I had to get them to dig my luggage out of limbo and I nearly said, Oh you guys should throw in a bottle of booze when flights are delayed, but then I remembered I was in Mormon country. I just had to kinda laugh through all of this. There were a lot of irate people around me but what are you going to do? Me, I’m going to go use that whopping $7 food voucher that Delta gave me and find something to eat here at the Airport Hilton (woooo). And then I’ll probably drink too.

Connecting flight (hopefully) tomorrow at 8:40 and Kansas at noon.

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