Friday, March 28, 2014

By air or by ?....

Airplane travel is a way of life. But that doesn't mean I have to like it. I recently traveled from my home in Washington to Ohio for a family visit. You should know that I REALLY don't like to fly, but unlike a ten-year period where I successfully avoided flying by making all manner of excuses (there was only one: my anxiety), I now fly, but I don't do it happily.

Of course there's the obvious - the plane might crash. I have sick, vivid mind-wanderings about what it would feel like, and if I would know for several minutes before the crash, and what would I say to my seatmate or would I just be quiet, or would I pray fervently, or would I just pass out from fear? Would it hurt? Would I survive, and if so, how would I forget the grisly scene? Like I said, I have a sick mind. I can't help it.

I'm also not particularly fond of letting a stranger fly the plane. I mean, what if he had too many cocktails? Is he on medications, and if so, which ones? Is she sleep-deprived? Does he have a history of making bad decisions? How many near-misses has she had? Is he a cocky jerk who won't pay attention and do something stupid? How many bird strikes has she experienced? These are the things that haunt me.

Then, there is the plane itself. WHY are the aisles so narrow? It's virtually impossible to walk down the aisle pulling a suitcase behind you without banging into someone. Then, you have to sit SO close to strangers. The seats are not wide. I'm a big girl, but I pity the poor soul who is even more overweight than I am. Double pity on the strangers who have to sit beside them. There is simply no way NOT to be cozy on an airplane. God forbid your seatmate has offensive body odor or a nervous stomach.

Much of this can be avoided by sitting in a window seat because you are able to turn your attention away from the offensive seatmates. In this case, my seatmate was my husband and he was slightly less offensive than the average person. Actually, he was a saint because he willingly gave me the window seat every time and suffered through the stranger sitting next to him.

There is virtually no privacy on an airplane and everyone can hear your conversations. Believe me, they can. On one flight, a man talked so long and so loud, it was all I could do not to tell him politely to shut the hell up. Because, seriously? Not only was the girl next to him SO not interested in what he did for a living, but neither were the two hundred other passengers on board who couldn't help but suffer through him waxing poetic about his success.

It's nice that they still offer beverages on airplanes, but WHY do they serve them in little short cups with no lids? Why can't they just pass out water bottles to everyone? Inevitably, something spills, or you're done with your drink and want nothing more than to get rid of the little cup with melting ice in it, but you have to suffer with it until the flight attendant comes through with a trash bag. Which is never, or exactly three minutes before you land.

It's a good thing they hand out those snack bags, too. On this trip, we actually got peanuts, which made me wonder - did they contact all the passengers and ask about peanut allergies? Because there are not enough Epi-pens in the world to combat the consumption and subsequent recirculation of that peanut-charged air. What if you DID have a peanut allergy? Can you get a special seat? Maybe the jump seat in the back of the plane next to the toilets?

Speaking of toilets, what the hell? Do they really think that's a bathroom they've fashioned in the back of the plane? There is barely enough room to turn in a complete circle in there, plus, why are there no seat covers? I had to delicately arrange three tissues on the doll-sized seat. When I flushed, I'm pretty sure the powerful suction took some of my DNA with it. Then, the sink only works if you push it with one hand while attempting to wash the other. Which we all know doesn't work because washing hands is a two-hand job. And the sink pretty much just blew a gust of air with a few spittles of water in it. Why even bother? Just put a big bottle of Purell in there and save some time. I despise going to the bathroom during air travel and will only do it when I'm in physical pain from my stretched bladder. Being in the window seat ensures I will "hold it" even longer because I don't want to disturb my seatmates.

Also? Turbulence. That's Latin for "holy-shit-we're-all-gonna-die." When the pilot takes the time to say over the intercom that it's going to get "a little bumpy" that means you will drop 5,000 feet in 0.00006573 seconds and your drink will fly out of that stupid little short, plastic cup. People will scream. Your imagination will go wild and you'll start promising God you'll become a nun if you can just PLEASE, this one time, NOT die, because you're NOT READY and you still have so much good to do in the world.

Speaking of the intercom, the only thing you ever hear the pilot say is "Bzzzz....31,000 feet.....the seatbelt sign....bzzz....bumpy....sorry folks.....bzzzzzz...thank you for flying Southwest Airlines." It's especially helpful when he/she announces gate changes over the intercom, because you will only hear "gate changes...bzzz" and you're basically screwed because your gate is B49 and you're flying into A1 and those terminals are seven miles apart and you have a 23 minute layover.

But you WILL hear the flight attendant's speech about safety regulations. You WILL look over the placard in front of you and you will commit to memory the most important parts of the safety speech: 1. The oxygen is stored overhead in a compartment that will supposedly open in an emergency, but isn't an emergency the actual BEST time for something to glitch? Why store the AIR in an inaccessible container? They let you push open the DOOR of the plane, but you have no access to the life-saving oxygen unless the plane decides to let you. 2. Your seat cushion doubles as a flotation device. Which is GREAT when you've crashed into a vast body of water, probably teeming with sharks, and you've had the good sense and presence of mind to remember to remove your seat cushion and take it with you. You know, along with your children, and any other handy items you might want to keep with you while simultaneously swimming away from sharks with the one arm you have left after the crash and trying to NOT drown.

Another thing......why do flight attendants dress in tight little navy blue polyester dresses accessorized with pearls and heels? What the fuck is that? How is a smartly-dressed, petite woman who weighs 93 pounds soaking wet supposed to help save MY life? Those women (and men) should be wearing survival suits and a tool belt filled with essentials like pocketknives, granola bars, emergency beacons and water bottles. Plus, sensible shoes. If I'm going down with the plane and there is ANY chance of survival, I want a cast member of Survivor with me, not perfectly-coiffed Tammy from Dallas with her acrylic nails. Although, those could come in handy peeling tropical fruit should we be lucky enough to land on an island.

But the worst possible casualty (see what I did there?) of plane travel is the claustrophobic boredom of a long flight. Full disclosure: I have never traveled much more than 6 hours at a time on a plane which is why I am certain I will never make it to Europe or anywhere outside the United States unless they knock me out and keep me sedated until landing. I go absolutely stir-crazy when I have to sit for any length of time. I bring my entertainment, I attempt to nap, I read, but in the end, I make myself crazy waiting for those blessed words "We've begun our final descent into......" Those words are never so sweet. Unless they ARE our final descent, in which case I can only say "I told you so!"

Air travel. It's for the birds.