Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The comforts of home?

I knew there was something that just wasn't right about flying these days -- something that was right there in front of my nose. But it just couldn't get it.

  • Maybe it was the decline in "style" since my 1963 trip on PanAm. Monday I flew with a herd of business and pleasure travelers on Northwest. Back then, airline passengers were special folks who were waited upon by classy stewards and stewardesses and who dined as if they were at a resort. I kept the tiny PanAm salt and pepper shakers for years. I don't think I want the paper condiment envelopes from this trip. And don't get me wrong, the flight attendants were nice -- kind of truck-stop diner nice, but nice.
  • Maybe it was the seats. I refuse to believe my girth has expanded that much beyond the national norm in the past few years. Instead, I think they mis-translated "coach" into "petite" when designing the plane. I rolled around for most of the flight trying to find a home for my mildly ample bottom. I hate to think what poor Mom would have done with her more substantial avoirdupois.
  • Or perhaps it is the airlines' odd sense of scheduling. It's bad enough that one has to wait hours at a "hub" for connections to a "spoke" that is usually a state or two out of the way. But then there is the fumbling over what used to be pretty good food service. On domestic hops, they've cut most of the chow. The cabin attendants just walk up and down the isle offering half glasses of ginger-ale. But they are still supposed to serve real food on international flights -- so eat whether you like it or not. We boarded at 9:30 p.m. eastern U.S. time (3:30 a.m. GMT) and got dinner at midnight (6 a.m. in London). I'm sure that fits in someone's schedule.
  • And then there is that herd metaphor. Nothing makes one feel like a world-class traveler better than an hour wait among your sweaty peers while someone rummages among the underwear.
But I don't think that was it. I realized just as we were about to land that the answer was not in FRONT of my nose, it was the schnozz itself.

I snore. Not just a little, but enough vibrate the bolts loose on a Lazy-Boy. True traveling discomfort is waking up with a snort on a crowded airliner that seems just-a-bit-too-quiet. And noticing, when you casually look around, that half the cabin is staring back at you.

Scotty wherever you are, for God's sake beam me up. That's the only way to fly.

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