SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska
Column - Commentary

Off The Rock Again


July 26, 2021
Monday AM

Ketchikan, Alaska -
Wow, I just traveled South and back, and boy am I out of shape.

jpg  Dave Kiffer

No, this isn't the old joke about flying in from Seattle and "boy are my arms tired."

Although that it is part of it.  When you don't travel for a while, you forget how tiring it is.

No plane ever seems to leave Ketchikan a decent hour. More often than not you are rousing yourself in the pre-dawn darkness so you can get to the ferry - and wait - and then get to the terminal - and wait - and go through security - and wait some more - before your flight. Zzzzzzzzz.

Yes, this isn't as bad as having to get to the airports down South or up North waaaaaaaay early because you have no idea whether the TSA line is 10 minutes or 10 miles long. There is really no such thing as a long TSA line in Ketchikan. Although going South this time, I did find myself in line behind some people who were having trouble accessing their not so "smart" tickets on their phones. And the TSA process itself was a little slow because they were training a new guy and so I ended up taking EVERYTHING out of my carry-on for a hand inspection.

At least that wasn't as bad as the time they were teaching a newbie how to do a pat inspection, which involved me getting three inspections. One by the older officer, one by the new officer and then a final one by the older one to show the younger one what they needed to do differently. By the time it was over I felt like Arlo Guthrie. In other words, " injected, inspected, detected, infected, neglected and selected."

But I digress.

When I "slipped the surly bonds of (Ketchikan) earth" a couple of weeks ago, it was the first time I had "traveled" since the previous March, a span of nearly 15 months. Since I moved back home in 1992, that was the longest time I had spent shackled to Ktown. Usually, I was able to go either north or south every three or four months. But thanks to COVIDWorld, my feet were firmly planted on Tongass Firma all that time.

So, it took me a little while to get my "sea legs" back.

For example, when I got to the Ketchikan airport, I went inside and got in the short (see above) check-in line. People were staring at me. I checked to make sure I was dressed (pants have been generally optional for the past year or so). Then I realized what the problem was. I had left my mask in the car. Quelle horreur!

So, I had to slink back outside and get it because you may not need pants to travel, but you dang well better have your mask!

Then came the near complete disemboweling of my carry-on (see above). I tend to carry a lot of snacks when I travel. It's just that when I was an impressionable youth, I read I book about a plane crash in the Andes and if my plane ever goes down, I am going to have plenty of snacks on hand.

Then it was time to sit around in the sumptuous Ketchikan Departure Lounge and wait for the flight. No, I am not being sarcastic. Compared to many other "departure lounges" in Alaska, the Ketchikan one is relatively sumptuous. Unlike the ones in the Nome and Kodiak, you actually have uncomfortable seats to sit on rather than your carry-on luggage.

While you are sitting also have the pleasure of listening to everyone else's cellphone conversations.

"No, we are still at the airport."

"No, we haven't gotten on yet."

"No, I am never coming back. I am leaving you."

I didn't hear that last one this time. But I did hear that once in the Juneau Departure Lounge. Boy howdy, you could have heard a pin drop after that came out. Everyone in the Departure lounge was waiting hear what came next. Unfortunately we were only getting one side of the conversation.

As always, it shocks me when people glare at you when you listen in on their cell phone conversations. Isn't any public cell phone conversation by nature supposed to be public?

I guess not.

Later when I was waiting to board a different plane in Seattle, a woman standing next me said "well, she's single now and looking for a little fun. You're always up for a little fun aren't you" to whomever she was talking to. I guess my reaction showed on my (masked) face, because she immediately spun away from me and lowered her volume to an irritated hush.

But I digress, again.

When I got to SeaTac for my connecting flight, I was taken aback by - well by being around a large group of people again. It felt like Times Square on New Year's Eve or Walmart on Black Friday or a porta potty at the ballpark on Chili Chewsday.

There. Were. People. Freaking. Everywhere!!!

I had heard that air travel had been down, but clearly that was the day that it was officially back up. Especially in the C Concourse, where there is one chair for every 114.5 Horizon flight passengers. It was as though the last year had never happened and all the "distancing" was decidedly "anti-social."


Everyone was wearing masks.

It was like I had dropped out of the sky into a pre-covid airport in Tokyo or Beijing or Singapore. I remember being at an airport in Seoul many years ago and smugly noticing all the masks. Guess the joke's on us now.

Generally, masks do bother me much, but I have to say that wearing a mask at the Ketchikan terminal, on the flight to Seattle, at the Seattle terminal, on the flight to Portland and at the Portland terminal, made for a lonnnnnggg day of mask wearing.

It seemed weird to sneak into a bathroom stall, just so I could briefly take the mask off without the offending stares of my fellow travellers.

(Note to self, leave the mask on in airport bathrooms in the future)

Still it was good to get "on the road" again and to get off The Rock, even for a short period of time.

Although I had forgotten the joy of just missing the ferry and having to wait an hour or so to cross. That is our tradeoff for the short TSA lines.

Anyway, I hope to do some more traveling before the summer is over. 

Even if it means more masking up.

And dealing with great gobs of people.

And having someone on the airport ferry ask:

"How come y'all don't have a bridge or something."




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