Tag Archives: United States

Another rant about our awe-inspiring TSA agents. Hope I don’t get arrested for it…

20 May

I’m pretty confident in my midsection, but in front of 100 people in the security line at DIA at 6:30am?! C’mon.  I’d rather be flashing it on the beaches in Miami.

I recently got molested by a vertically challenged, tsa agent with daddy issues in a uniform 2 sizes too small who’s sexuality is questionable.  I’m not sure who should have been on the receiving end of a cash exchange for “services” , but I can say its been a minute since I’ve been felt up like that.

Last time was when I was in Germany pre-9/11 and being touched that much by a frauline was something new for me and would have been new for most Americans at that time!  Today we eagerly jump into clicking full body X-ray machines and then get groped more than high schoolers in the back of the bus on a field trip when the teacher wasn’t looking.

TSA, especially through Denver, is nothing more than grown up kids with fake badges, inferiority complexes and false senses of power. Those are ingredients for an “I’ll show you who’s boss now” situation.  I recently heard a comedian say that TSA is one of the only places he felt he could just walk in and be the manager.  The level of intelligence and competence of these people is ridiculous.

But be careful!!  If you are too outspoken or if you grope back, you’re in trouble!!  According to this site that talks about the mistreatment of the TSA agents, they are now considering outspokenness about contempt for the agents or the system to be an act of terrorism.  There’s even a story of a Colorado woman who grabbed and twisted, with both hands, the left breast of a TSA agent when she got frustrated with the security groping protocol.  Unfortunately this woman is facing a felony count of sexual harassment.  She’s 61 years old!  That would have been quite the scene to witness.

I wish I had some answers on how to deal with the  frustration I feel when I pass through the airport security line.  I get that security is necessary because bad people do exist…thanks terrorists!  And another special thanks to the underwear bomber in 2009 who was the one who prompted the full body x-ray machines to be installed in all US airports.  Awesome.  I do know that I refuse that machine at all costs; is that the only choice I still have?

Life really is a trip when the acts of a few completely damage the liberties of the rest!

Em

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Guat the hell is that?? Stuck in Guatemala City (Part 1)

24 Aug

Guatemala City, aerial view, night, 2009

Guatemala City

After finishing one of the most amazing backpacking trips to Costa Rica with my friend, Dawn, we were finally headed home.

Or so I thought…

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I travel on stand-by passes. As glamorous as it sounds to travel relatively inexpensively, pass travel is both a blessing and sometimes a curse.

Dawn and I headed to the airport, sunburned and bags a little heavier from souvenirs. I was flying United Airlines on passes and she was flying Continental with a confirmed seat. Everything was routine; get up, pack the last few things, taxi to the airport… you know the rest.

I bid Dawn adieu as she boarded her flight, I then headed to my own. I had one stop to make in Guatemala City before my flight continued on to Los Angeles where I would connect to Denver.

This seemingly flawless travel plan was anything but.

The thing about pass travel is that I only travel if there is a seat available. Now the glitch I encountered during the stop in GUA was that more passengers got on the plane than got off. This was a huge problem for me for the following reasons:

1. I did not obviously plan on getting off the plane.

2. There were no seats available on any other flight heading to anywhere in the US the rest of the day

And the KICKER…

3. My wallet had gotten stolen in Costa Rica the day before we left so I was without money or credit cards!

AND…

4. Western Union was broken down and unable to transfer money.

 

This presented the biggest problem because I was basically a sitting duck at that point. What to do?

Note: I’m 19 years old in this story.

Ok, so back to the Guatemala City airport, which offers a fantastic combination of people in old school indigenous clothing with those in new school business attire. It was very interesting.

I was faced with the task of surviving a night in Guatemala City and making it on board a flight the next day.  A bit daunting, butI started to chip away at my options.

Now, this wasn’t the first time that I was stuck alone in a city without a plan.  My first experience was when I was 16 years old and stuck in Madrid alone in a similar situation.  That’s a story for another day.

Guatemala was not familiar to me and the airport was extremely small, which made it nice considering all the walking back and forth I was doing.  I quickly made friends with the Information Lady.  After all I was using her phone for the Millions of dollars of collect calls home I was making.

After a few hours of marking things off my “options” list I finally needed to make my way into the city, where I was staying for the night.

My mom was able to book a hotel room at the Best Western in the city.  This was tricky because they were very hesitant to take her credit card over the phone.  Not only that, but she also requested that they put the cab fare from the airport on the room tab.  This really put them out.

In other cities, especially in Latin America I have noticed, cab drivers don’t necessarily need to be working for a legitimate company to be able to accept money in exchange for a ride.  The Information Lady, who was a friend at this point, advised me not to take a cab from the guys outside the front door.  Instead, she took me down the stairs and out a back exit of the airport – yes, it was a little weird, but I trusted her.  She had called a friend of hers to take me to the hotel.

Once I arrived and argued with the desk clerk to pay the cab driver, I finally got to my safe little room.  And I mean little.  Since I had been rationing a small package of cookies all the hours I spent in the airport – no money- I was starving!!  I ordered dinner on the room tab and brought it back to the room to eat.  In Madrid I ate in the restaurant of the hotel without worry, but this city was different.  I watched some TV and just as I was starting to relax it started…

Explosions…  in the street…  in front of the hotel!

Oh God, what now??

My room faced the opposite side of the hotel so I couldn’t see where the explosions were coming from.  After the first few, I was a bit concerned.  After the next 40 I was panicked!

I finally called down to the front desk and in Spanish asked, “Por favor, que son los explosiones en la calle?”

In Spanish she responded, “Oh, it’s just fireworks for the church festival”

Really??  

Ya, apparently there are no laws about setting off 500 gram repeaters in the streets of Guatemala City!  Good Lord!

The explosions eventually subsided and I was able to get some much needed sleep.

To be continued….

Wanna get away? How about Frankfurt for a day??

22 Jul

Have you ever had one of those “Wanna get away?” moments? Well I have, and the last time it was a strong enough urge that I acted on it…in a pretty big way!

How about Frankfurt for less than a day and then back home? Well, that’s what it took to make me feel better. I tasted new food, smiled at new people and, most importantly, I breathed new air.

OK, so I am a “stand-by” girl. The jig is up, that’s my secret. My mother taught aircraft systems for United Airlines for years and I still have travel benefits from her. YES!

So, you can imagine, it’s fairly easy for me to hop on a flight and jet off somewhere…loads permitting. Stand-by can be a complete nightmare or it can be a dream when everything goes smoothly. In this particular situation I was quite antsy to get outta town, and luckily this trip was more on the dreamy side of the spectrum.

Now, some background information on my family…

We are an aviation family and between my mother and her 9 other siblings there are 7 pilots, 3 of whom were/are captains for United. Only one of my uncles still flies the line as a captain on, and check-airman for, the Boeing 747-400. His name is Chris.

I called Chris on a Tuesday in April and left a message that went something like this, “Hey Chris, um, I was wondering if you have any trips coming up soon (he typically has one per month), and if you do, do you think I could tag along?” His response to me was, “Yep, I’m doing a check-ride on Sunday for a 23 hour turn-around to Frankfurt, meet me in Chicago!”

OK!!!

So 5 days later I was on the plane heading to O’Hare from Denver. I met up with Chris and his first officer, Roman, on the C Concourse and found that our flight was delayed an hour and a half due to an aircraft change. It always amuses me when the passengers get all disgruntled about their flight being late for those kinds of reasons. My thoughts?? The airplane was BRO-KEN, aren’t you glad they figured it out while we were still in the terminal? Broken plane = delay … get over it. I swear, people anymore just want something to complain about!

Sorry – where was I? Oh ya, Concourse C…

C Concourse O'Hare

After finally boarding and settling into my economy seat we were on our way. Now, don’t go thinking I’m stuck up because I had to mention that it was an economy seat, it’s just that typically when traveling stand-by internationally there are more First and Business Class seats available. Just sayin’.

We arrived in the morning the next day, took the crew bus to the Marriott, dropped our bags off and headed to the train station for breakfast. Appropriately, our breakfast consisted of beer and brats… a hearty German start to the day!

From the left...Roman, me and Chris having the breakfast of German champions!

After a seemingly 20 minute nap back a the room, it was actually 2 hours, I met the guys in the hotel bar called Challengers. Their slogan was, “…for a real American experience”. Well, I didn’t come to Frankfurt on my “wanna get away” whim to have a real American experience so we slugged down our beers and went to this cute little restaurant called Pielok… for a real German experience.

The first thing we experienced though was the German smell leaking out of the place. Holy shit, what IS that?? I’m sure it was some kind of warm cheese plate, but it smelled like dirty, sour laundry! I’m not sure if it went away or if our nostrils just assimilated. I’m assuming it was the latter.

Yes, it was that bad!

I mean, don’t get me wrong, the Germans make some fantastic cheeses, its just that this one in particular seemed to offend our little American noses…. a lot.

Chris and I couldn't stop laughing about the pungent cheesy stench!

Unlike the smelly cheese trough, my dinner was to die for! This was comfort food at it’s best…. A burger patty – a real mouth watering burger – topped with 2 thick slices of salty, greasy bacon with sauteed mushrooms and onions and a side of roasted potatoes! Delish. I was feeling better already!

Salty, greasy, meaty German goodness!

We all took a little stroll after dinner and noticed the small differences that definitely lent the foreign feeling I was craving. What a gift. The bicycles, the people, the little shops, the small streets, the flower boxes, the trains, the housing flats, the fresh food. It was perfect for my little getaway!

I present you...Frankfurt

Once back at the hotel, I was asleep by 10 and up by 6. After a more breakfasty breakfast of coffee and danish we were on our way back to the airport with the whole crew.

Airports and airplanes are sometimes my favorite parts of traveling. I think you really get a chance to see who people are when they have to pack a little, tiny piece of their lives and take it with them as they navigate the uncharted terminal territory… I find it very interesting.

After people watching for about an hour while sitting at our gate, I was escorted to the plane with the crew by one of the Lufthansa gate agents who was working our United flight. I loved it when another agent we passed by tried to stop me, because clearly I wasn’t in uniform, and tell me that I couldn’t go that way. Chris simply threw a quick head nod her way and said, “Uh, she’s with us.” HA! Royal treatment when you’re with the captain.

This time, as we returned to Chicago, the travel itch was out of my system. I was loving my lavish upper-deck business class seat, sipping my wine and enjoying the added pride that my uncle was flyin that bird. Thanks Chris for helping me get away.

What a trip!

Em