Spending time in a speeding cigar tube full of people, generally on their worst behavior, is generally not my idea of a good time. First, as most of you know, I hate people. Secondly, I’m old and I remember when air travel used to be an occasion. People would dress up to get on a plane—it was an event. It was glamorous. It was also incredibly expensive.
Today, air travel has been democratized. Prices are low, people rarely give a second thought to hopping on a plane. Of course, there’s the whole situation with the TSA. This is not the place to discuss that. I’m more interested in talking about what goes on inside the plane, after we’ve all boarded.
Lately, every flight I’ve been on is full. Not just full, but FULL, as in every seat is occupied. Gone are the days when I would get onto a plane after a hard week’s work in New York, and the flight attendant would take one look at me and gently guide me to an entire row of seats and hand me enough blankets and pillows to make a nest for myself so that I could sleep the whole way home to Los Angeles.
Nowadays, I find myself sitting bolt upright in one seat, hopefully on the aisle, praying that the middle seat next to me won’t be occupied by a manspreader or a fat person. Before you condemn me for that last comment, please understand. I paid for one seat. I wish to have the entirety of that one seat to myself. When the seat next to me is taken by someone who spills over into my space, then I don’t get the benefit of what I have paid for. If you take up more than one seat, for whatever reason, then prepared to pay for more than one seat. That’s all that I ask. Life isn’t fair. It was never meant to be.
Way back when, people would get dressed up to fly. I remember wearing a dress, hose, heels to get on a plane, because flying was an occasion. It wasn’t just transportation from Point A to Point B. Flying was the point of it all. Today, flying is nothing like that. It hasn’t been for some time. And that’s all for the better. I can’t imagine taking an overnight flight to Europe dressed as if I’m going to a formal business meeting. Nope, I want to wear something I can stretch out and sleep in. Of course, things can go to extremes. Back in the days of the old Western Airlines, I saw people get on the flight to Hawaii with live poultry—in the passenger cabin. But that’s a story for another time and place.
Even older people aren’t immune from behaving badly in the air. It’s as if, when up in the sky (or about to be) all the normal behavioral constraints fly out the proverbial window. Case in point: Flying back from a long stay in Hawaii, seated on the plane, waiting for takeoff, when there’s an unexplained delay. I had noticed two couples in the departure lounge, the men wearing matching Hawaiian shirts. Slightly obnoxious, but kind of cute, in a mature way. It turns out that these two couples were traveling with some teenagers and had booked the six of them into an exit row. Airline regulations do not allow teenagers to be seated in an exit row, something that was explained to one of these couples at some length. She objected, loudly and repeatedly, and refused to accept being reseated. At one point, the police came and escorted her off the plane, only to allow her back on, after extracting a promise of further good behavior.. She and her long-suffering husband were eventually seated next to my husband across the aisle from me. Her husband was furious at her for being so ridiculous about the seating assignment (the seats they were moved to were premium seats—I know because I paid the premium to sit in one) and he pouted the entire 6 hours back to Los Angeles. She was given two free drinks and then cut off for the rest of the flight. The flight attendant and I had a good gossip about the whole thing after we hit the half-way point back in the galley. I even got an extra cookie out of the deal. Yay, me.
Over a two week span in April, I was on 8 different planes, making a total of 2 round trip flights. While sitting and waiting for one of these, I encountered something I’ve seen before. Two total strangers, sitting next to each other. One says to the other, ‘Would you please watch my stuff while I hit the restroom?’ I don’t get this. These two guys had never met before, never spoken while they were sitting next to each other and had zero connection, yet somehow, there’s this implied contract between them that one is going to leave all his stuff under the guardianship of the other for the brief time that he’s going to be spending in the men’s room at LaGuardia. I (who never talk to strangers) even asked the guy about it. I mean, I just don’t get it. I would rather take my stuff with me, before I would ask a total stranger to watch it for me. What makes this one guy more trustworthy than any other guy in the airport waiting area? Why him?
Maybe it’s my cynical Brooklyn self talking. But I would never do this.
After all, I hate people.