I've been on too many airplanes, coming and going, fussing and fuming. In the first five years of the ‘90s, I logged over one million air-miles, in my role as a consultant for one of the Big Ones.
That pace of travel is insane, and I have the war wounds to prove it. I was stranded in Orlando on 9/11, watching the silent sky and praying. I've flown on planes shaped like little cigar tubes. I've sipped Cokes and munched stale peanuts while flying over every continent except the frozen one.
But the biggest war wound is my sense of loss caused by the new realities of terrorism. That's the one that stings the most. 2012 is so radically unlike 1990.
In 1990, I was late for a flight from Memphis to Atlanta. One of my fellow consultants - who was on a later flight - pulled the rental car up to the airport exactly one minute before the plane was to depart.
I jumped out of the car, raced in, zipped through security and made the flight. That kind of thing happened all the time. I used to drive to the Atlanta airport from Marietta, and if I was on the south side of downtown Atlanta, at least 30 minutes before the flight departed, I knew I'd be fine.
Yes. 30 minutes. Often, I'd be the last one walking on the plane, and frequently I'd be walking on as the staff shut the door behind me. I was a regular in the ‘90s. They knew me. They didn't cancel my seats. That was my life. That was normal. That's all gone.
Now, in 2012, if I'm not in the airport at least two hours before the flight, I get jittery. Forget walking on as the plane door closes; now I'm at the gate long before the door opens.
Maybe I've matured. Or maybe I'm weighed down with security protocols that make me strip off my belt and shoes and empty my pockets in the name of safe flying.
Whatever the reason, I know it will never be the same. No more last minute racing to the gate. No more rental car heroics.
Now, I'm just a little mouse in a big maze, following orders so I'll get my shoes and belt back in time to get in the big safe metal tube and eat my peanuts.
David McCoy, a notorious storyteller and proud Yellow Jacket, lives in Covington and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org