Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Why I Love Flying (NOT)

Jenn recently wrote that she enjoys airports and airplanes. Sad to say, I don't share her enthusiasm. My feelings about flying vary in inverse proportion to the length of a given flight. In other words, my tolerance for long flights is lower than my tolerance for short ones, and it decreases precipitously as the flight time increases.

Why don't I enjoy flying? Well, let's start with arriving at the airport. In the Washington, DC area, passengers are expected to arrive at the airport a minimum of 2 hours before boarding time! How can passengers possibly keep themselves occupied for two hours in an airport? Some pass the time sitting rigidly upright in luxurious comfort in plastic lounge chairs. Others, however, are not satisfied by such extravagance. They, instead, avail themselves of the awesome array of shopping opportunities and elegant cuisine offered by the many fine business establishments scattered throughout the airport. Upon exhausting all of these exciting possibilities, passengers eventually commence their flights by indulging in the pleasures of post-9/11 security routine. This begins at the check-in desk, where passengers must prove, via appropriate government-approved documents, that they are who they say they are. If they do this right, they are given boarding passes.

Having arrived at the gate, boarding passes in hand, hapless air passengers must empty all of their pockets, remove their shoes and subject all carry-on items to x-ray examination. Moreover, the passengers themselves must also pass through metal detectors and, upon emerging from those contraptions, stand with outstretched arms while more metal detectors/security wands are waved around them.

After successfully clearing the security hurdle, passengers walk down a long hallway, part of which is a weird accordion-like tube, and board the plane. Unfortunately, boarding the plane, cramming carry-on luggage into flimsy overhead compartments, and strapping into cramped, thinly cushioned seats is no guarantee that the flight will actually leave anywhere close to the scheduled departure time.

At long last, the plane is in the air. Passengers may sleep, read, or don cheap headphones and listen to the radio or watch in-flight movies and TV shows. They may not, however, stand up and stretch or walk around, except to go to and from the tiny closet-like washrooms. Only the older and more experienced travelers among us remember that, once upon a time, airlines actually fed their passengers. Those days are long gone. I've flown non-stop from Washington, DC to Long Beach, California - a five-hour flight - and eaten no more than a half-frozen sandwich, crackers and pretzels. I've occasionally eaten fruit too. Passengers wanting to drink fluids other than water, milk, juice, or the caffeine staples (coffee, tea and soda - which precipitate repeated visits to the plush washroom facilities) must pay extra for those.

Finally, having arrived at their destination, airplane passengers rise out of their seats, stretch, haul down their carry-on luggage and proceed to the baggage claim cart. Once there, they stare at the carousel as it rotates

round and round
and round and round
and round and round.

By this time, they realize that their check-in luggage did not fly the friendly skies on the same airplane on which they themselves traveled. This means that they get to extend their airport entertainment by joining a line of other passengers in the same predicament to register their loss with the airline.

(My step-father once traveled half-way through Scandinavia as his suitcase trailed a day behind him. It eventually caught up with him several days later, which was a good thing because he was getting tired of washing his shirt and underwear in the sink every night. This past winter, Joshua's luggage only took 23 hours to catch up with him. We picked him up at 2:30 AM on a Monday morning - his flight was delayed several hours by bad weather - and the airline graciously delivered his suitcase to our house at 1:30 AM on the following Tuesday morning.)

At long last, having lodged their complaints with the airlines (and hoping they will see their luggage again, someday) passengers emerge from the airport and resume their normal lives on the ground - assuming that they remembered to pack their toothbrushes in their carry-on bags.


Christian Camuti said...

I enjoy flying, but while the new security measures are necessary they are difficult with small children. It is hard enough putting your shoes, cell phones, watch, etc into a basket for X-Ray, but to have your childrens shoes, backpacks etc can be quite difficult to get together without holding up the line too much.

I have found it is much easier to travel by air alone. I have a system in place. I only carry on a small attache type case with my magazines, books, etc. I check everything else. I do not wear a belt if I can get away with it and do not have any change or keys in my pockets. Usually it is a breeze to get through. I have travelled with other officers who wore complete uniform. While I had on jeans and a sweatshirt,and breezed through security, they were held up 10 minutes.

One more small item then I will stop rambling! I have had on a few occasion had a seat directly above the luggage compartment and have seen my luggage move up the conveyor onto the plane. That was peace of mind!

Jenn said...

mmmm...i still like flying - it's not necessarily the whole cramped quarters and crappy food i like - it's the sense that within a few short hours, you can be in a whole different world and if you have to put up with a few inconviences to do so, so be it!

Dave said...

I have flown more since coming to DC than all the prior years combined. Tolerance is necessary to survive. My preference is to fly through National (Reagan) as I can arrive 60 to 70 minutes before departure and be at the gate with 20 minutes to spare.

Flying is like riding in a bus. Space is tight and the experience rests so much upon who is around you. I am not looking forward to cell phones calls being allowed...noise level will go up significantly.

Erik said...

Welll you described the shadowsides of it in a humorous way. You taught me a lot of new words. I know flying only from pre- 9/11 Europe, and it was quite an experience. The funny thing is that going to the airport (by car or train and being there to fulfill your passenger duties) takes much longer than the flight itself takes.The big miracle was flying itself which made it such an experience: climbing to far above the clouds, 10 KM altitude, the sun, the unnoticed speed which is unthinkable on the ground, 2 hours instead of 1.5 day car driving.

Evie Sears said...

I don't "hate" flying - and I do like being able to get somewhere far away relatively quickly - but I just don't find flying overly exciting. On the other hand, arrival is always sweet (as long as the luggage arrives at the same time and place I do). I'm just not a flying junkie.

Jenn said...

this is in relation to my al gore entry, but i wanted to respond - first, i am totally proud that my family voted for al gore and NOT george bush (we won't even go there, in regards to my opinions). secondly, to focus on the environment taking away from god????? that is the most ABSURD thing i have ever heard in my life!!!! that's like saying that i shouldn't work in health care because it might detract my mission of saving souls for the retarded! i think you would enjoy it though - i think it's a movie right up your alley :)

Barbara said...

I hate flying. I hate the whole experience and it causes me a lot of anxiety to fly. If I can dry to the destination, I will. Road trips are half the fun for me.