Getting away


The second time I went downhill skiing was in New York City. I make no claim as to the glories of our slopes, but one could rent boots, skis, and poles, get instruction, ride a lift, be rescued by the Ski Patrol, AND ride the subway from Manhattan.

I am writing this much closer to better ski areas. I am 8700 feet above sea level. I am in a county larger than the combined areas of the states of Delaware and Rhode Island and the District of Columbia but with fewer residents than my block in New York. It also has no traffic lights.

We come here often. On Christmas Eve, we went to a party thrown by the local merchants association. Many people wanted us to tell them what it was like in New York.

To get here, we took two American Airlines flights. Both were booked beyond capacity, and volunteers for later flights were requested.

There are a number of airports in the New York City area. On Friday, the check-in and security waits at La Guardia Airport reportedly exceeded four hours, causing many travelers to miss their flights. Saturday and Sunday, American Airlines reported long delays at both La Guardia and Kennedy Airports.

We were flying out of Newark Airport on Sunday, and, even so, we were advised by an American Airlines agent to arrive two-and-a-half hours early. We did. We made it from the curb to the gate in less than 15 minutes, including checking three bags.

The pilot of our first flight wanted to assure us that it was perfectly all right if we were scared to get on the plane, because he and his crew were also scared to get on the plane. We did not find that message particularly reassuring.

On landing, the flight attendant who made the announcements welcomed us on behalf of all of her colleagues who had been killed on American flight 77 on September 11. The pilot’s final comments were deep appreciation for our flying with him that day and the usual “We look forward to having you on an American flight again in the future.” That was followed by “It’s fine if you’d rather fly on one of our competitors. Just keep flying, please.”

The day before, someone had brought explosives onto an American Airlines flight in his shoes, so there was a new wrinkle at security. We all had to remove our shoes, place them in the x-ray machine, go through the magnetometer in socks, stockings, or barefoot, and retrieve our shoes on the far side of the x-ray.

Drug smugglers have often hidden their contraband in body cavities. I shudder to think of what airport security will be like if explosives are discovered similarly cached.

TTFN, Mark