The Time I Had to Change How My Ankles Were Covered in the Airport

My weirdest airport experience came from being a Delta brat growing up. In the ’70s and ’80s, that meant you could fly pretty much anywhere, “space available,” free. And back then, “space available” was 95% of the time first class (because this was before they oversold all flights, offered upgrades for bids, etc.).

The deal was, you had to wear your “Sunday best,” as a representative of the airline and what flight wardrobe SHOULD be.

I remember being in college and knowing the deal was “Sunday best” but also being aware that TECHNICALLY what that meant was “panty hose and closed-toe shoes” for females. So, I wore a big chunky sweater (Hello, Forenza Express!!), my cute little skirt, black capri tights, and then a pair of knee-high pantyhose UNDER the capri tights to cover my ankles per the requirement.

As I checked in for “space available” at the ticket counter (having already “pre-listed” via phone, as per protocol), I was taken aside by a very stern woman who’d worked at the airline probably as long as my father had (three or four decades). She knew I knew I was living the letter of the law, but not the spirit of it.

I was escorted to a tiny room in the terminal and told to get out the panty hose that I surely had packed somewhere in my luggage like a good Delta girl and put them on, as this leggings-knee-highs-underneath thing was not fooling anyone.

Yes. I was escorted into a tiny room to do a wardrobe change in the terminal of the busiest airport on the planet and I was made to feel incredibly ashamed for having brought such a horrific moment into the file of my father and his legacy at the company.


I still get twitchy when I see pass riders at the gate, even though I know today’s pass-riding experience is sooooooo different from the one I had growing up.

And I’ve never worn any kind of sheer ankle covering again without thinking of that woman and her almost-literal “dressing down” of my teenaged self.

Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!

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