Friday, September 23, 2005

Cows Fly

That is certainly what I feel like these days when traveling by plane. I’ll never understand how they can live with themselves making people travel with so little dignity, but I suppose the airline execs all travel First Class.

The seats are so small, I, a relatively small person, cannot get comfortable. Most people aren’t small, most Americans even less so. Yet here we sit, stuffed like sardines, patiently or not so patiently leaving aside decorum and personal space, sleeping (in the most unfortunate cases drooling) on the shoulders of the stranger with whom we are in more intimate contact than seen on most first dates.

Health authorities and Katie Couric tell us that we should get up regularly on long-haul flights to walk around. This is to prevent death by embolism or something. Someone who also flies coach will have to tell me how it is that one is supposed to get up regularly when in the middle of that loathsome bank of five seats, when the others stuffed in on either side of them are asleep. One gets little enough sleep on a plane – I have no desire to steal any of those restful moments from a fellow passenger just to walk around.

They have recently discontinued free meals and the little pillows and blankets from domestic flights. Airlines are going bankrupt, so they have to charge for a slice of cheese in stale bread ($5.00) and a mini Coke ($5.00). Airlines are going bankrupt, so they have to put more people in the plane, and therefore have to carry less extra weight, so there go the pillows and blankets. So, our stomachs rumble as we freeze to death. The experts tell us to drink plenty of water so as to not get dehydrated on the flight, but who is stupid enough to pay $5.00 for water?

Today, I was told by the woman checking me in that I was only allowed five pounds of weight as carry on. This, to me, is the height of indecency. My laptop alone weighs 4 pounds. Then what about all the other things one needs on the flight? Book: at least 1 pound. Toiletries (including feminine items): at least 1 pound. Oops! I’m over. Forget that really expensive digital camera – I’ll have to trust that an underpaid baggage handler in some backwater airport doesn’t need one today. Forget the pen and crossword book, the crochet project, the extra underwear and change of clothing.

So now, I will be a sleepless and slimy sardine on my arrival to Georgia via a very long layover in Munich, since I forewent the toiletries on this one. Maybe the day room in the hotel will have something I can at least bathe with, although since I also gave up my change of clothing, I’ll just have to climb back into dirty clothes.

And people tell me that all my traveling sounds so romantic. Let me tell you something: airports nearly stimulate tears for me now, as I imagine the indignities and insults I will face during my trip, layover after layover, in increasingly small planes with increasingly smelly fellow passengers. I don’t see how we can do anything to change the situation. We need to travel now, in our globlized world, and fuel prices and liability insurance are exorbitant on the airlines. They need more passengers and lower costs, and we need more flights. It is a match made in hell.


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