A National Emergency

This is a tale of traveling woe, for sure. It’s also much more than that.

My fiancé was flying out from Boston, connecting in Newark, then home to me in Indiana. She arrived extra early to accommodate the potential backup getting through TSA due to the government shutdown. She was also traveling with our new cat, the 12-year old Hazel, who had never been on a plane.

Her flight from Boston was to leave at 7 PM and arrive in Newark at 8:45 PM. Her connecting flight to Indiana was to depart at 9:45 PM.

The first flight appeared to have a slight 14-minute delay. She’d have to hustle to her connecting flight in Newark, but no worries. However, as 7:20 came and went, our concern grew. When she finally left the ground, it was 8:15 PM.

I checked the airline web site and her Newark to Indiana flight was running on time. I called United who promised to hold the plane a few extra minutes to give her and several other passengers time to make the second flight. When she and Hazel arrived on the ground in Newark she hustled off the plane, luckily was able to hail a cart, who then hustled her to the other end of the terminal, to where a bus was waiting to take her to her new terminal. After making it to the new terminal she found that not only did United not hold the flight, but they left 8 minutes early. The last flight of the night to Indiana.

After much railing and some cursing, we were left with two options:

  • Stay overnight in a Newark hotel (with the cat) and fly out in the morning.
  • Or, try to catch the last flight that night to Chicago and have me drive down to get them.

We considered the turmoil that might be caused by leaving the airport to go to a (hopefully) pet-friendly hotel, with no litter box, and then returning to the airport in the morning, dragging the cat through TSA again, for a flight that would not necessarily be on time either.

We chose Chicago.

But— the last flight to Chicago left in 45 minutes, and the gate was back where she had just come from. You know, to make the flight they said they were holding for her.

So, she again took up the cat carrier and got back on the bus, which took her back to the other terminal, where she took another cart all the way from the C gates to the A gates. If she had walked, she would not have made this flight. When she arrived at the gates, the flight was already boarding.

This Chicago flight was only available because it was running over an hour late too. Lucky for us.

By the time my fiancé and her frightened, jostled, screaming cat landed in Chicago it was 2 AM. We finally walked through the door of our home two hours later. It had taken a full day, twelve hours, to travel from Boston to Indiana. It only takes two hours more to drive.

At this point, this is just a horrible travel story. Everyone has them. Other people have far worse travel stories. Many of these travel horror stories have United Airlines in common, as did ours. United was not only unhelpful, but anti-helpful. As in the case of saying they would hold a plane, thereby causing us to try to make a flight in another terminal that had already left.

United is, on the best of days, unhelpful, bordering on incompetent at every step. But this time they had help.

From Donald J. Trump.

The reason the flights were delayed in the first place is because of the Trump Shutdown. The trouble was and is, that the air traffic controllers are in the same boat as the TSA: they are working without pay. And while they are considered “essential personnel” by the government, and therefore required to come to work, many of them are calling in sick. Why? So they can pick up some work.

The kind of work that pays. Some are doing odd jobs, handy work, driving for Uber, or trying to pick up hours in retail or in service. Because even if Trump says creditors and landlords will “make adjustments” that doesn’t mean they will. In the real world, a world Trump has clearly never lived in, the bills don’t stop coming just because the paychecks do. So, what is a person to do?

Whatever they can, obviously.

Trump wants us to believe that people crossing the Mexican border, on foot, are bringing drugs and guns, committing rapes and murders, and are involved with terrorists. The Trump administration claims that over 4000 of these potential terrorists have been stopped at the border. The actual number?

Six. Six potential terrorists. Which if you are doing the math at home, is only six more than zero.

Most people living illegally in the U.S. travel here legally and then overstay their Visas. And their preferred mode of travel, by far, is by plane.

So, how is this for irony? Besides the inconvenience to American travelers and the desperate financial circumstances being created for TSA workers and air traffic controllers, the Trump Shutdown is actually making us less safe.

We are understaffed at our airports due to the shutdown, which causes those that do show up to be overtired and overworked. Because of this we are more susceptible at this very moment of something getting past security at the place where we are most at risk. Airports.

Remember those 9/11 hijackers? They flew here. And yet, here we are, with a president pretending there is a national emergency at the border that a wall could solve.

Last night, this foolish man went on national television and tried to explain to us why we need his wall. It’s “a national emergency,” he calls it, threatening to invoke presidential powers to force a plundering of the defense department budget. And all of this to build a barrier that is costly, would take land from ranchers, and most importantly, will not make our country safer.

This country is in a state of national emergency, but it’s not at our southern border.

It resides in the White House.

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