Saturday, June 7, 2008

Airline Travel

Is it just me or do pilots look younger these days? Younger pilots and older flight attendants. Now not all employees of the airlines fit the descriptions in this account, just the ones I've seen lately. I try my best not to fly anymore. To me it is the most absurdly uncomfortable method of travel available to the public today. Yes, the plane is a very fast mode of transportation, provided it is in the air. How many times have you gotten to the airport two hours early for your security check-in procedures only to find out that the counter folks weren't quite awake yet, the computers used to scan your passports were not functioning, the plane you were scheduled to leave on is showing a late arrival, the new crew is stuck at a train crossing, and weather is causing delays where you are going. Let's see now I'm going to Houston, a five hour drive in my car. Two hours pre-flight, one hour waiting on plane, crew, and security personnel, one hour flight time, and one hour in the landing queue, taxi to the terminal, deplane, and baggage claim - Total time five hours. Plus in addition to my ticket price, I get to pay all kinds of taxes (called fees), a portion of the fuel, Union dues, tips for baggage handling, and fifty dollars for snacks in the airport. Now, you tell me am I really gaining any time? I definitely not saving any money.

Then after being stripped of all your dignity and personal belongings by the terribly fair and objective security personnel, you are ranked by your ticket status and herded like cattle into a crowding shoot. All first class passengers are escorted ahead of the rest of us to their large leather recliners two abreast and served drinks before the huddled masses can enter the Jetway - unless of course you are carrying several screaming kids two strollers, and fourteen carry-on bags, or you are so severely incapacitated you probably shouldn't be flying anyway. Then it's time for the rest of us, the remaining one hundred and six less than privileged individuals occupying rows eleven through twenty (three abreast) to make the march of shame. Strolling past the upturned noses and wine glasses of the Rap stars, athletes, Congressmen, and Lotto winners we pass the little curtain into the bowels of the metal tube. I don't know why airlines don't just outlaw carry-ons altogether. None of them seem to fit in the overhead bin, or the space below the seat in front of you. I weigh 235 lbs. (plus or minus ten depending on my diet schedule) and I try and get an aisle seat if at all possible, that way my shoulders only overlap my seat partner on one side. My other shoulder is exposed to the traveller boarding behind me with the roll away cot sized bag, and later the two thousand pound beverage cart. In the rush to get out of the way of the other passengers, I discover I've seated myself on my seat belt. Now I have to try and dig the ends out while holding myself suspended in a half squat. Once you are seated, you are presented with a mass of safety information by video, or over a PA system that is totally unintelligible. Do you really think that anyone on the plane will remember what was said in the case of an emergency? The instructions are acted out by the flight attendants who don't really seem happy to see you. In fact, I don't care what time of day or night you travel, they all seem to have just gotten out of bed with no time to spare before rushing to the airport sans make-up. For the losers in coach, we are warned under penalties enforced by the First Class flight attendant, Ms Rhonda, not to attempt to use the restroom in the First Class cabin. Now, here goes my math again. First Class - twenty people with easy access to the aisle to use one large restroom. Coach - one hundred and six people who can barely breath because they are stacked together like matches to use two restrooms the size of small broom closets (53 per restroom - plus the overflow from First Class)(They can go where ever they want). And, this is further complicated by the beverage cart which at any given moment is blocking off at least half of Coach. Most flights only serve drinks and some tiny nosh that wouldn't satisfy a mound of red ants. Serving any liquid on flights is absurd when consider the restroom availability. Because this is a family post, I will not describe what it's like trying to cram two hundred and thirty pounds into one of those water closets with the Chinese puzzle doors. The airlines should pass out vouchers for cleaning services, or small waterproof ponchos for all aisle passengers. Without fail, the flight attendant on my end of the cart will lean toward the passengers seated in the seats across the aisle while at the same time popping the top on a soda agitated during take off thus spraying me with a Mt. St. Helen sized geyser of Diet Coke. I then sit for the remainder of the flight looking at the quarter sized brown spots on my new aqua fishing shirt, wondering how long I can hold my water, and feeling my legs numb to the point of being useless stumps. Now I ask you, "Why do we fly again?"