travel tales

Here is a story about just how terrible the experience of flying has become.    Once…not too long ago, the process of taking an air trip from a major airport, on a major airline, was one of life’s pleasures for those who could afford it…and that was a pretty broad segment of the population in the United States.

Not to belabor the fond clichés of those of us who remember the dressing-up in “air travel outfits” in order to look good while strolling the airport terminal, and creating a “Wow!” factor appearance for emerging from the tunnel into the waiting area–where sizeable groups of people awaiting the arrival of air-travelers.   Then each little group would walk off down the concourse  sharing snippets of exciting conversation about the flight.   “Man, the sun is shining back in Albuquerque!”   “Wow!–look at all the snow!”  and “It was so rough that I really thought we were going down…”

Here’s the thing that has always griped me.   Why don’t we have a decent cross country train system, like Europe and Mexico, Japan, the United Kingdom…etcetera,   One of my most wistful dreams has always been about traveling on a glamorous  fast-moving train, sipping fine wine in the club-car (my ideal of glamour) and watching scenery flash by.     Yes, I know–a bit exotic, but hey–that’s me.  And yes, I also know about Amtrack–which I hear is great once past Chicago or so, heading West.

Of course I DO know the reason we don’t have a cross-country railway system…and between you and me that is easy: the auto industry.  Our society and economy has always been about making cars, advertising cars so that everyone must have at least one…and except for the East coast cities where there IS a decent train system (as far as I know,) efforts at installing  North-South Corridor high-speed systems have been suppressed.     At least that is the case here in Ohio.

I admit that my experience with train travel has been limited, consisting of a trip to California from Ohio when I was five-years -old; travel from Bremerhaven, Germany to Frankfurt in 1955 (courtesy of the U.S. Army); at least one ride to and from Boston when my son lived in Massachusetts.   I think that is all..not counting some rapid-transit travel in Cleveland back in my commuting days, and assorted tourist travel in New York City, London, Mexico City and Quebec…. oh–and in New Orleans, the trolly from the city out to the university.


Flying Fools

There is something about airplane travel that brings out the worst in some people. The worst seats in many airliners have to be in the last row, next to the lavatories. These seats do not recline, and are scooted back against the lavatory wall as far as they will go. Unfortunately, the seats ahead of these fixed streets DO recline, effectively forcing occupants to put up with having the back of the forward seat in their laps.

If alone, once I am settled in my seat I fall asleep almost instantly and remain asleep until the plaae has landed and is taxi-ing toward the terminal.  (I can sleep anywhere.)   I am content to remain in my seat until everyone has left the plane.

The last time my son was with me on the flight, and I was sandwiched between him and a mild-mannered sixty-something man who had the aisle seat.  The man and I had exchanged the polite airplane seat-mate smile-and-nod, and we were all minding our own business.  I was almost asleep, son content to look out the window, and the pleasant man next to me had opened his lap-top.

Everything was fine until the seat-belt sign went dark.

Then the back of the seat, in front of my neighbor, crashed backward, forcing the computer screen almost-closed and pushed  against its owner. He asked the man in the seat ahead to move the seat forward part-way. He was ignored. The flight attendant, by request, also asked that the seat be put into upright,but she also was ignored.

Undaunted, the man with the computer kept turning in the seat, trying to hold the laptop in a comfortable position.  To his credit, he did manage to poke the seat-back a few times.

The guy in front never did adjust the seat, except when the inevitable drinks and peanuts arrived, and once when the guy got up to push his way to the lavatory.

I have thought about that incident now and then, especially when the news outlets run their periodic horror stories about air travel.

What is proper protocol in a situation like this?  Does one push  and bump the seat-back until the offender gets the message?   Try making loud and rude comments?   Fake a coughing fit?   Gag?

None of the above would have been likely to move the flying fool ahead of us.  A good smack upside the head would be effective, but then either a brawl would ensue–and delay the flight, or someone would sue.  Chances are the wrong passenger would have been kicked off the plane.

Far be it from me to advocate common sense on the part of the airline management–but wouldn’t it make sense to fix the seats that encroach upon the passengers seated in the seats that do not recline?   And is it really going to keep the airlines from bankruptcy if they remove that extra row of seats that they crammed in there?

If this has offended any of these Flying Fools–good!

More about airports, and the people who love–or hate them

The most obnoxious seat-mate I ever encountered on an airplane, was all dressed up and carrying a briefcase. This man had apparently had a bad day, or an unproductive sales trip, for he was not happy when he arrived at his designated seat and found me sitting in the aisle seat next to his. He was annoyed to realize that he would have to climb over me to get into his seat by the window.

At about the same time that my seat partner arrived, a happy group of senior citizen types began to take their seats ahead of us, two of them directly in the row ahead. These people had been to Cancun, Mexico, where they had evidentally enjoyed the many and varied attractions of the Mexican tourist city, and were laden with souveniers.

They had a large piñata, shaped like a bird, in addition to a couple of plastic bags with store names on them.  In high spirits, they were creating a slight commotion stowing their bags and packages in the over-head compartment, and underneath the seats. With a lot of thumping and bumping of the seats, and hustle-bustle in general, the front neighbors were changing seats. They were talking to each other in animation, and calling to others in their travel group, who were getting into their seats in nearby rows. They were not particularly loud, just animated, as people are when having fun with people that they know.

My seat-mate waited in the aisle for a very short time while those ahead of us arranged themselves in their seats, fiddled with their seat-belts, adjusting the ceiling air-ducts. There was a moment of aggravation as the seats jiggled and thudded.   The man was sort of sighing in exasperation, and muttering loudly about the disturbance the revelers were creating.

I had intended from the beginning to offer to change seats with the guy in the suit. Usually it is immaterial to me if I sit by the window, as the novelty wears off as soon as the plane emerges from the cloud cover and obscures the view of the ground. I do enjoy watching the plane as it backs away from the gate, and the exhilarationasf the engines rev up for the lift-off.   Air travel is inherently exciting regardless of how many times I flew. I admit to wanting to appear cool and collected, and to match my air of nonchalance with the perceived sophistication of fellow passengers on a given flight.

Besides, I am usually either asleep, or engrossed in a novel by the time the plane actually leaves the terminal. So I am glad to switch seats with someone who prefers to sit in the aisle seat. especially someone with long legs to fold into the cramped area under the seat ahead.

Well the guy was so irritated by the efforts of the forward passengers to get themselves seated and buckled-in…nothing more than normal settling in….and especially not being able to fit his briefcase into the overhead mainly  because of the piñata.    As the man ahead turned to glance backward as he sat down, my seat-mate threw him an incensed angry look, and also gave the front seat a thump in irritation.

At this point I was still going to ask the guy if he wanted to switch seats, but before I had a chance he was proceeding to squeeze by me as I sat in the seat.  He banged the briefcase against my knee, and plopped into the seat next to the window.

Now I…always forgiving…STILL would have traded seats with him, but he slammed the window shade down.  Acting like an ass might be excuseable, but closing off the view was not something I could  forgive.

OK, idiot…sit there.

He huffed and puffed and sighed all the way to Cleveland.  And when we pulled up to the concourse I stood up and waited until all of the passengers in the back of the plane had passed by our row before I stepped into the aisle, and he had to wait while I struggled with my carry-on from the overhead.