I recently took a trip to Cincinnati. Arriving at the airport in Hartford I was instructed to check in with one of the little robots that today replace the nice uniformed humans that in the past looked over my ticket and passport, sent my bags on their merry way and directed me to my gate. The robots look at some identifying card and then pop up all my travel information which I only need to confirm by poking my finger on the screen. It really is efficient as heck, although I always walk away shaking my head in wonder.
I got on the plane and in 1 ½ hours landed in Cincinnati. There I whipped out my cell phone and contacted my daughter who was waiting in the baggage claim area and off we went.
In 1959 I flew to Germany to join my husband who was serving his two-year stint in the military. The travel agent had suggested I use Luftansa Airlines because a lot of U.S. Army dependents did.
I arrived at the airport dressed in an outfit typical of what one wore when traveling abroad those days: a suit, the appropriate confining undergarments, very high heeled shoes, white gloves and a hat.
The flight, in a rickety looking prop plane, was to be 16 hours long with quick stops in Gander, Newfoundland and Dusseldorf, Germany, before landing in Frankfurt. I climbed aboard and found my rather small seat and soon realized the woman next to me did not speak English. I gulped a handful of Dramamine and off we flew.
The noise was a persistent, deafening roar. And every time the roar varied in pitch or intensity, my fellow passengers grabbed the arm rests and moaned. At one point my ashtray (yes, ashtray) started to rattle and I was sure an engine was falling off. But, when I took hold of the thing it quieted down; I made the second half of my trip grasping it in a death grip.
And so, between the noise, queasy stomach and the tightly clutched ashtray, I barely dozed a few minutes for the entire trip.
My husband met me in Frankfurt and we took a bus, a train, and a cab to our new home. I was a wrinkled but stylish mess.
Two years later I came home on a chartered flight for Army wives. That meant a plane load of women, most of whom were either pregnant or carrying an infant. I was both. This time the flight was only six hours long, thanks to the advent of jet travel. We made one stop, in Brussels, where men in tuxedoes walked around with trays full of orange juice in paper cups. It was kind of weird.
Approaching New York, word went out that one of the passengers had gone into labor and we would not be allowed off the plane until she was loaded into an ambulance. The rest of us were an unsympathetic bunch; we were almost home and we had to wait for this woman who selfishly needed to get to a hospital.
Finally we dragged off the plane; it was 3 a.m. The custom officials knew a testy crowd when they saw one and waved us on through. We could have been hauling diamonds and dynamite for all they knew.
Today the ashtrays are gone and I travel in sneakers and sweats. I still detest the little noises the plane make but I’m getting used to it.