THE SKIES ARE NO LONGER FRIENDLY

Travel. In the olden days, it was horrible. Wagon trains, Indians, heat, dust, unpaved roads. The food was awful. Fast forward to the fifties. Oh, my gosh. There were stewardesses. They all were dressed in smart uniforms. They served free drinks and delicious food. They didn’t have tray tables, oh no! The stewardesses brought you dinner on a real tray, with a linen tablecloth and glass salt and pepper shakers.

Something terrible happened. Was it Bernie Madoff? The Enron scandal? The economy tanking? I don’t know, but we are back in the travel dark ages. I just got back from a cross country trip, and I felt a kinship once again with the likes of Laura Ingalls Wilder and Calamity Jane.

I don’t think the people in the wagon trains had to pay for every trunk or bag they brought. But by golly, nowadays you do, and as a result, people take all of their earthly belongings with them and try to shove them into overhead bins designed to hold small back packs filled with paperback books and Kleenex. This, of course, takes time. So if you are sixty when you arrive at the airport, you will be sixty one by the time you fasten your seat belt on the plane.

Do you recall when you could wear tie shoes to travel in? Forget that.

I think fondly about the days when airports had restaurants. As a matter of fact, I grew up in a small town where the airport restaurant was a “hot spot,” and my parents would voluntarily go to the airport to have a nice dinner. Now, airports have two things: bars and vending machines. So travelers can now have martinis with their ham and cheese sandwiches.

I also resent those people who apparently are firmly ensconced in the one percent, and who fly first class or “priority business” class. These fine folks get to board first, or jump line in front of the rest of us schlubs who have been standing patiently with our boarding passes. These one percenters still get the glass salt and pepper shakers, and they are so special that the “flight attendants” (can’t call them stewardesses any more, because many of them are men over the age of fifty) pull a curtain so the rest of us can’t even watch them. I bet they get hot towels, too. I miss those hot towels.

Remember “public address systems?” These were used by the people at the airport to tell you important things like “flight 34567 is now boarding. Everyone is welcome to get on the plane, because you have all checked your bags free, and all you have to do is get on the plane, walk to your seat, and sit in it.” Now, we have something that resembles public address systems, but everything that is said into them sounds like “welmekendwosthwoeirskmeolrnsldrnfwe.” So travelers these days are in a constant state of panic, thinking that what was just “announced” pertains to us, but we have no idea what it meant. So all of us think we may have just missed our flight, our gate may have changed, or we may have left something valuable at the security check point. But no one knows for sure.

Oh, yes. Once actually ON the plane, we all have to get very cozy, because the seats no longer have room for our legs. Because we have to “put your purses and other portables” under the seat in front of us, and because the seat in front of us is actually pressing against our foreheads, we are jammed in like sardines. I always pray on planes. Not that I will arrive at my destination safely.

I pray that I will be seated next to a skinny person.

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