Up in the air

It is not uncommon for people to mistake me for George Clooney, then soon after the alarm clock goes off and I stop dreaming. However having recently watched George’s latest Oscar nominated Up in the Air, I began to see some similarities with the character he plays ( I am writing this in Vancouver Airport). In Up in the Air the Clooney’s character is addicted to travelling around the states. He has all the frequent flyer points he needs, the lounge memberships and all the right moves to get through an airport quickly. This is a wry look at a life that many including me often life. For me the rare the occasions when I can step off a plane and not have to hang around for luggage are cherished. The elation at walking straight out without spending an extra five minutes is amazing and also totally ridiculous. Get a life. Well precisely.

There is a whole token economy going here from priority booking, to getting the right seats, or pleading or queueing for the upgrades in the lounge, and then which lounge, surely not the regular lounge – what if someone sees me. This is of course completely and utterly insane. But the whole process of going through the airport is odd. Indeed as I type this I hear over the tannoy “anyone who has a middle seat who wants to sit in the emergency isle see me on gate 83” – eh? They are creating a market trading seats and privileges. What on earth is all this about?

Well the process of going through an airport is alienating and dehumanising. You are searched, questioned, virtually stripped courtesy of I.T. You remove your shoes and belt and empty your pockets, a bit like Jimmy Cagney being processed into jail. You no longer exist, you are a passport number and a flight number, and then a frequent flyer number. In this bizarre role the only status are the miles you have, the status credits on your card. You can tell a lot about a man from the colour of his luggage tags.

I have to go now, because I heard over the PA that there is a chance of an upgrade if I run to gate 84, do a hula dance in my socks and show my platinum Chairmans Club, titanium Board members privilege card. Of course I am above such things, but could I live for the whole flight knowing some undeserving type has secured the prized seat near the door when it could have been mine?

Flying used to associated with freedom, now why do I get the feeling that I am rehearsing to become one of Pavlov’s dogs?