Getting To The American Dream Summit OR Alternately, The Airport Experience

So, I arrived in Austin, Texas yesterday for the American Dream Summit. It was a long, strange trip.

I’ve never been a big flyer and believe it or not, this was my first post-9/11 plane flight.

It encompassed three flights. One, from the Myrtle Beach Airport to Charlotte. The 2nd from Charlotte to Houston and the last from Houston to Austin.

The first two legs of the flight were with American Airlines which, I am happy to say, exceeded my very low expectations. The planes left on time, everyone was friendly and competent, and generally they made things as pleasant as possible.

Continental, on the other hand, handled the last leg of my flight and when I arrived in Austin, I found that my bag hadn’t arrived with me. Nothing like meeting new people for dinner without a brush to use on your hair, a chance to brush your teeth again, and in the same clothes you wore while you flew across the country…but, I digress.

The whole “airport experience,” despite being better than I thought it would be in many ways, makes me understand why people are so reluctant to fly these days. There were the two connecting flights, a lot of “hurry up and wait” activity, airplane seats that are too small, intrusive security searches, and of course, the lost bag.

Also, at times the whole experience was a little Orwellian. There are security guards everywhere, they’re actually screening your shoes, they’re making announcements about — and I didn’t catch all of this which made it even more alarming — how they may arrest you if you make a joke about being a bomber…it’s just not a pleasant atmosphere to travel in. Moreover, I suspect that my return trip, which features hour long stop overs for each connecting flight and is scheduled to take more than 8 hours total, isn’t going to turn me around on the whole experience either.

Now you may say, “Hawkins, come on, they have no choice other than to run it exactly that way because of the fear of terrorism and to make money.” That may be true, but it’s also not the problem of their customers. Austin would have been too far to drive, 20+ hours, but I gotta tell you, anything 5 or 6 hours away by car, you’d probably be better off driving. It’s cheaper, more comfortable, no annoying security, no walking around strange, cavernous airports trying to figure out where the gate for your connecting flight is, and as a general rule, given how early you have to get to the airport just in case they decide to single you out for special security screening and the stop overs, I’m not sure that it would be significantly slower to drive for shorter trips.

Update #1: This post was mostly written last night before I went to bed (I went out for BBQ and drinks with Emily Zanotti from The American Princess, Sean Hackbarth from The American Mind, and the guys from The Sam Adams Alliance. My bag did finally arrive, while I slept, at about 3 A.M. However, for whatever reason, the front of the bag was sopping wet when I received it this morning. Thank you, Continental Airlines.

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