Ah…what a nice memory. I remember as young as 8 years old the sheer excitement knowing that my family was traveling to a warm and sunny vacation spot, normally the Caribbean Islands. I would not sleep very well the night before knowing we would be flying the next day through the majestic clouds and the occasional bumps aboard a modern aircraft.
Back in the 70’s, an airliner like Eastern, National, American, TWA and Pan Am were tickets to paradise. It felt like a modern-day Star Trek event. The juxtaposition of a Boeing 707, and if really lucky, the almighty Boeing 747-200, next to our dated looking cars with the AM transistor radio and the roll up windows could not be more clearly defined.
When we woke up in the morning, it was time to dress up for the taxi ride to the airport. I remember wearing a “Brady Bunch” style looking sport jacket and Patent leather tan shoes. My hair was blown out with a heavy dose of Aqua Net holding spray to keep it in place. My parents and sister looked equally glamorous.
The luggage was stuffed like a Pastrami and Rye sandwich from Ben’s Delicatessen. The most important item in there was the Tropical banana oil to obtain the most golden tan. What was the purpose to go away in the winter to a sunny and warm location without showing it off to all your friends who were stuck home in the frigid weather? Skin cancer unfortunately was not in our vocabulary. Why else would we bring an aluminum reflector to enhance the sun’s rays for the most golden tan possible? I digress.
As we got closer to the airport, I could not wait to see the first airplane. Like a spaceship ready to launch to the outer limits of my world, it presented this portal to paradise.
The check-in process was tame and friendly. The agents were proud and smart. And yes, the sight of those sexy stewardesses walking in unison with their hair in a bow with a cute aviator hat – wheeling their small carry-ons towards the gate – were all part of the charm.
Then, as if orchestrated with a drum roll, the captain and co-pilot with their salt and pepper gray hair marched proudly towards their cherished cockpit (now watered down to “flight deck” for political correctness run amuck) with a smile that said “This is going to be a great day for us all.”
We boarded the plane in coach, which was then considered a respectable class. Even the food that we often complained about was magical because we were eating a hot meal at 37,000 feet in the sky. We asked for a game and we received playing cards…..for free! Oh what an exciting time.
Fast forward 45 years
I wake up at 3:30 am with dread. I have a 6:00am domestic flight. If I am lucky, I chose JetBlue over Spirit Airlines on today’s trip so I would feel like a minimum security prisoner rather than a lifer at Leavenworth State Penitentiary.
I still dress for flying with a modicum of class. I no longer where the sport jacket, but neither do I where old sweatpants, tank tops and sandals. The wardrobe selection people choose to wear while mingling with 150 strangers is simply fascinating. It’s as if they took used clothes off a flea market table and put each piece on haphazardly. I never knew a mauve shirt compliments red soiled sweatpants? Since the dress code bar has now reached the lowest depths, I pray I will not be sitting next to a guy wearing shorts while picking the dry skin off his legs in the “Russian Roulette Wheel” of seat assignments. Please God be kind to me today.
As I wait like a herd of cattle on the winding TSA line, I feel like I am being booked into the county jail. All that is missing is the cavity search. With the TSA, you are presumed guilty until proven innocent. Way to go America!
Now the fun really begins. Despite numerous announcements (in English, not Swahili) that passengers will be called in an orderly fashion for boarding, it falls on deaf ears. The urgency for people to loiter around the gate entrance to board a plane they can’t wait to get off is puzzling. Perhaps the airlines should have a kiosk next to the gate with in-house psychologists. Clearly these people are in need of some mental help.
Once entering the thin claustrophobic tube some call a cabin, we get the privilege of finally seeing our reserved seat. Hmm….27 B, lucky me! At least it is only one row before the toilet area. The excitement wears off immediately once sitting down and realizing that this must be the solitary confinement section. The truth is that all the seats are the same.
Oh no! Here comes my seat mate. As this passenger sits down next to me, continuing the phone call they started at pre-boarding, I have the pleasure of hearing their conversation with a friend about subject matter I should never know about.
Now for the activity to distract from the cramp that is developing in my calve – the food service. The flight attendant tosses it to me like feeding time at the zoo. I go for the Coca-Cola and Doritos chips filled with highly pressured air and a couple of actual chips. As I open it up, the passenger in front of me gives me a look as if I had a flatulence problem. I am so embarrassed. It was the chips! Anyhow, I am sure this will fill me up for the next 10 minutes.
As soon as the plane lands, the same immediate rush to get on the plane resembles the de-boarding process. Despite countless announcements from both the pilot and the lead flight attendant to NOT unfasten the seat belt until the plane comes to a complete stop and the sign is turned off, it is greeted with a group chuckle and contempt. These passengers must get out “right now” despite the plane getting in 20 minutes early.
Who knows where they are running towards? Perhaps to get the hell out of there?
There is something to be said about the past.