Monday, June 19, 2006

There has to be a more dignified mode of transportation.

This blog entry has been a long time in the making and its conception began on the way home from Gunny & Brian's trip to White Castle.

First, I'm not a fan of flying on an airplane. Each time I do so, I anticipate I will die. Oddly enough, this borderline phobia only reared its ugly head the past few years or so, really since it dawned on me that I have kids who need a dad and it might really derail their world if I died in a plane crash.

I said all that to say this, it's only fair to say that I'm biased against the whole flying experience before I even get to the airport.

So, let me start with some observations based on my experience this past February when I flew back from Minneapolis. When boarding the plane a flight attendant informed me that my bag was a sport bag. Now, I don't check any luggage, for fear they might lose it. So, I just had the same black Drakkar duffel bag that I carried on the plane going to MN, the one I got free about ten years ago with purchase of some overpriced cologne.

Again she said, "That's a sport bag." I gave her a blank stare and said, actually there's nothing sporting about it, just my clothes and a few books. I got, "Yeah, it's a sport bag; it will have to go underneath." I explained to her that it met the size restrictions (I checked ahead of time) and it didn't weigh much of anything. I even opened it up and showed her that I could take out a few books and collapse it down to just about nothing.

She was not impressed.

At this point, those behind me are getting restless, and rightly so. I'd seen folks with bigger bags board and I'm just dumbfounded at this point as to why my bag fit the category of such an offense.

To make a long story short, my bag had to be checked. By God's grace, it was not lost on the other end. But, I'm already a bit miffed at this point.

I sit down, noting that I would have easily been able to fit my bag under the seat in front of me, space that was not used.

I start making some observations on the flight.

First, they check that my seatbelt is fastened and that my seatback is up and that my tray table is put away. Clearly, these are important things. Yet, nobody checks my mobile phone. Apparently, this is important, but it is not checked. Mine was off, but it seemed to me that it could have just as easily been left on and nobody would have known. I'm inclined to think that it's (a) really not that big of a deal to have mobile phones on while in flight or during take off or landing or (b) airline priorities are out of whack whereby they make a concerted effort to check things inconsequential, but assume that which is of consequence.

Second, I wonder the point of the seatbelt and keeping it fastened during the flight. I can only deduce that such (a) limits mobility to keep people nice and orderly and (b) makes identification of the bodies easier since you're sitting in the assigned seat and most of the body would be in close proximity (expect on Southwest where seating is "general admission"). I feel good in that I have my wallet with identification and my Aggie ring contains my name. I wonder if it might not have been a good idea to put a business card in my shoe just in case my feet get detached somehow.

On a side note, I was reading a book and was reminded of just how much of a beating it is to read a book with endnotes as opposed to footnotes. I have to turn to the back each time where it's hit or miss as to whether or not it was worth it. Plus, the particular book I was reading didn't have the chapter number on each page, but the title of the chapter at the top of each left page. How are the endnotes arranged? By chapter number, of course. I'd already mentioned this in my list of pet peeves, but had to vent about again here.

So, back to the flight ... the whole drink distribution was interesting as well. This has also been discussed in my entry regarding germs, but what's up with the whole bit of using the plastic cup to scoop ice into my cup? I watch the flight attendant (oh yeah, that flight attendant) as she touches cans of questionable cleanliness, takes trash from customers, and pushes the cart before touching the ice cup so her hands don't have to touch my ice. However, she paws are infected with all manner of germs which contaminate the ice cup's exterior, which comes in contact with our ice, resting there and scooping as well.

Next flight, Louisville, Kentucky for another conference. I only have two comments from this trip.

First, I had forgotten just how much of a beating it is to have to sit between two grown men, especially when the plane has missed its turn to take off and has to wait on the runway while everyone on board sweats together. Sitting between two sweat hogs took me back to Mr. Kotter's class and made me think, "There has to be a more dignified mode of transportation."

Second, I thought to myself ... just flying first class doesn't make one a better human than us spares in coach. Some flying in first class seemed to give off a contrary impression, however.

On Wednesday of last week I had to catch a flight from Springfield to Dallas to New Orleans for a conference where I had to give a presentation regarding church desegregation. We were having a family vacation in Branson and I got zero sleep the night before and left for the airport at 0330. My 0545 flight reminded me that I envy those who can sleep on the plane, for I cannot. In fact, I could not on the way home either, but more about that shortly.

Some questions from this trip (where my only luggage was my laptop) ...

First, why is it that folks can't stow their cag in the bins above their respective seats? The whole thing gets out of whack when folks put their belongings in bins above the seats of others which necessitates others do the same.

Second, why is it that folks have to hang on their mobile phones like teenagers right up until the time when the flight attendant gently reminds them of what everyone else on the plane already knows, the phones are to be off? As we touch down, they immediately have to get on the phone to call someone. The guy next to me going from Dallas to New Orleans was particularly heinous. It was like he was such a stud getting to fly to New Orleans or something. Three people he had to call to tell them that would be unreachable for the next hour or so since he was on a plane to New Orleans about to lift off. He assured them he would call when he arrived. He did.

Third, why is it that folks have to all stand up as soon as the fasten seatbelts sign is off? This holds true for those in the 8th or 32nd rows. They jockey for position to get out and stand in the aisle or crouched over with their heads touching the ceiling above their seats.

Fourth, why do airlines overbook their flights? We got delayed going from Dallas to Springfield for quite some time as three volunteers were sought to give up their tickets due to an overbooked flight. They were promised $250 vouchers, meals (dinner & breakfast), and a night at a hotel if they would give up with spots. Well, one guy had to be volunteered by the airline and he was not happy about it.

Fifth, why would the airline allow a person to take her dog to Corpus Christi on the plane, but not allow the dog to return because the temperature was/is too hot to transport the dog? This lady was so whipped and was really at a loss as to how to get her dog home. Of course, I had to hear all about it and I was really not interested in conversation at this point.

Sixth, why is it that folks can't read the subtle hint of body language that one intends to communicate that one would rather try to sleep or rest than hear about one's dog fiasco? Why is it that me turning off my light, covering up with a blanket, and closing my eyes after stowing my glasses did not deter either the lady on my left (with the dog scenario) or the lady on my right (with the fiasco of getting from Vancouver to Springfield via Dallas and belated flights)? Ordinarily, I would have been more than happy to converse, but I was whipped beyond all measure and really just wanted to close out the day with a little rest.

I have no anticipated flights on the horizon, which is good. But still, there has to be a more dignified mode of transportation.

3 Comments:

At 19 June, 2006 08:04, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gunny, you nailed it with your first question regarding the overhead bin. It comes down to human depravity in the form of selfishness. The said offender of the overhead bin, is to important ot check his baggage that clearly violates the carry on rules, so he stows his gear in the space you paid for! When I traveled 100% of thetime for my job, that was my "flying hot button" I didn't mind the delays, the over bookings, etc, but man let me get the overhead bin rental I paid for.
-KingPin

 
At 10 July, 2006 09:13, Blogger Blade said...

You are right on. Flying is a complete whipping. The overhead bin thing really whips me because most of the time I only carry my laptop bag and check my other bag (which could be carried on under regulations). If I only carry one bag then I DO NOT put it under my seat. I'll cram other people's cag out of my way because I know (I saw them do it) they have 2 or MORE things up there.

But since I got Platinum status I avoid most of that and get on first, along with the now 75 other Platinum people. So usually I get to put my cag in a completely empty bin and let the low life common folk fight for bin space.

Oh First Class. Now I'm lovin it. Since I'm Platinum I get to upgrade more frequently. When I'm in First Class I love being chatty with the stuck up snob in a suit next to me that orders his Jack and Coke, or Gin and Tonic like he's something special. I am as polite as possible to the flight attendants, who are usually battered and treated as second class servants by the high brow business execs in their sport coats and ties. I think the attendants appreciate it and I enjoy getting to feel superior to those snot nosed dupes I'm sitting next to.

Oh, another great thing about First Class, I can get extras of the upgraded snacks to take to my kids. The attendants love that too. I'm sure the creep sitting next to me is rolling his eyes at my W.T. ways!!!! :-)

 
At 10 July, 2006 09:44, Blogger GUNNY said...

Good points, Blade, we envy your position as "people of the land."

To quote Dorothy Boyd in Jerry Maguire ... "First class is what's wrong. It used to be a better meal, now it's a better life."

I've often thought of how great it must be to travel in first class, but I'm so cheap I'm sure I'll never know.

So, I'll live in the world of being wedged between to heavyweight sweat-producers and begging for the whole can of flat Diet Coke.

P.S. Yeah, those goons who cheat with their extra bag action make me not so happy with them, to say the least.

 

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