The “Ahem” Glamour of Air Travel

I do not like planes.

I do not like them in the air,

I do not like them on the ground.

I do not like them anywhere,

But how else can I get around? (my apologies to Dr. Seuss).

I used to be afraid of flying. On my honeymoon, my husband, who worked in the aerospace industry at the time, had to gently talk me through the take-off and landing as I gulped vodka tonics, my hand gripping his arm for dear life. Now, we always book seats across the aisle from each other, and he kindly holds my hand as we ascend, before he promptly falls asleep. I cannot sleep on planes. Not for very long, anyway.
airplane, air travel, travel, airplane, midlife, empty nest

I’m not so frightened of flying anymore. What can be scary at times is the utter indignity of it all. First you park- miles away – and take a shuttle to the terminal. Then the lines – checking bags, ticketing, and security. The awkwardness of taking off your shoes and emptying your bag for security (which I’m grateful is there). Next comes boarding – and the passengers crowding around, waiting for their group to be called (I am never in the first group – ever).  Some airlines board from the window out to the aisle, some board from back to front. Some board first class, families with kids, priority, super priority, and double-secret priority before getting to the regular folks like me. Everyone huddles around, waiting for their group to be beckoned to the gate, praying for a spot in the overhead bins for their carry-on luggage, hoping for a seat mate who isn’t too strange, or reeking or perfume, or drinking too much…

Then we board. Oh, what fun. Shuffle, shuffle, dragging your bag behind you. The long walk back to steerage coach. On a recent flight, my reading light was broken – a very bad thing. Waking him gently, I asked my ever-accomodating husband to switch seats with me. After we were settled (now I was in a middle seat – another form of torture) he of course fell right back to sleep again. How does he do that?

Settled in, ready for the long flight, I start to relax, with the help of a little medication. I read through the entire flight – I don’t like watching movies on a 4 inch screen. I’m irritated by the slightest push  or pull on my seat. Loud talkers make me nuts. I try very hard to keep my irritation to myself. If the plane goes down, I don’t want anyone to be annoyed with me and maybe not help me with my flotation device.

I hate turbulence. No matter how many times my husband tells me it’s perfectly normal (since he used to build them,  I believe everything he says about planes), I go into a little bit of a panic when the bumps start. I squeeze his hand for dear life, but he sleeps through it all.

Then after we land,  it takes another interminable (not really) amount of time to taxi to the gate and start the disembarking of the passengers. Usually everyone is civilized – we are kind of trapped, after all – and eventually we are off the plane.  After hours of being confined in a metal cylinder together, we all disperse, continuing our journey to where ever, and this fascinates me. I want to know where everyone is headed, why we all shared that flight, what awaits the others at the curb. Of course I’ll never know these things – I rarely talk to anyone during a flight.  I’m leery of getting stuck in a conversation with someone who is boring, annoying, or worse. My husband talks to everyone – until he falls asleep.

Again, how in the world does he do that?

Imagine – a friendship lounge in coach.. .

Once off the plane, we’re on our own again. We are no longer passengers sharing a destination. We’re free to move about the cabin, the terminal, the world. We are no longer captive. Any turbulence at this point is in our minds – or mine, anyway.

 

 

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12 Responses to The “Ahem” Glamour of Air Travel
  1. sue
    November 28, 2012 | 2:10 pm

    That’s hysterical about not wanting to irritate anyone in case you need help with your flotation device. I am still giggling. The video with the 1971 lounge area is priceless. I might try a re-post too since I am sick this week. Have a nice time off.
    sue recently posted..Colonial Style House Built In 1900My Profile

  2. Itty Bitty Boomer
    November 28, 2012 | 2:11 pm

    I’ve always loved flying – except for the one time the plane I was on half way between Hawaii and San Francisco (waaaayyyyy back in the 70′s) did one of those 1000 ft drops on a windshear. But like you, I tend to read the whole way or try to sleep. Especially when traveling by myself ….

    Safe travels, my friend!
    Itty Bitty
    Itty Bitty Boomer recently posted..The Villa Privata – Part 2My Profile

    • Sharon Greenthal
      December 1, 2012 | 7:04 am

      I would have been so afraid to get on a plane again after an experience like yours!

  3. Haralee
    November 28, 2012 | 2:37 pm

    I don’t remember the lounge in coach but I do remember planes that had a spiral staircase to a lounge in 1973! Yes I am old!!
    Haralee recently posted..WelcomeMy Profile

  4. amanda
    November 29, 2012 | 3:26 pm

    I always had a bit of a love-hate relationship with flying. It was always the most MISERABLE experience. Having moved 3,000 miles away to be with my husband when he left the military, I did aton of flying back home. Okay, more like once a year, twice if I was lucky.

    The whole experience changed drastically when I had kids. Airport employees were all so fricken terrible to me. Never offered to help me through security. I could just feel their eyes roll as they saw me walking up with my absolute bare minimum necessities (trust me. Having flown so many times previous, I did whatever I could to pack as little as possible, even opting to PURCHASE new items at my destination, all to avoid this hassle!). And they still treated me like the anti-christ!

    Then there was the sheer horror of knowing I’d be on a plane, for hours and hours, with a tiny human on my lap. Whose ears might hurt, and probably for the only time ever in the history of man- would get tired of sitting on my lap. Who would dare I say it… Cry. Imagine my surprise when the people on the plane, didn’t mind at all. They were helpful. They spoke to my baby, and played, and offered me lolly-pops to help his ears, or to hold him so I could pee. I was so worried about ‘bothering’ the other passengers, that I forgot they were human too. They’ve had to travel with babies once upon a time. And they weren’t the least bit ‘bothered’. I think they were more worried about me and my sanity haha.

    The few times I did fly with my kids, the people on the plane made the whole miserable airport/tsa experience livable. And if I ever fly again (both mine and my husbands family are now living on the same coast) I fully intend to help whoever I see having trouble with such silly worries as mine.

    • Sharon Greenthal
      December 1, 2012 | 7:04 am

      I was always nervous about traveling with my kids when they were small – but somehow I wasn’t as anxious about the actual flying when I had them with me. I think I felt safe knowing we were all together.

  5. Leanne
    November 30, 2012 | 6:58 pm

    I hear you! I was the same years ago and now, I fly but I’m still slightly nervous but not as bad. But yeah, the turbulence still gets me too… :)

    • Sharon Greenthal
      December 1, 2012 | 7:02 am

      The turbulence is something I’ll never get used to.

  6. Claire
    December 1, 2012 | 11:28 am

    You didn’t mention the horrible baggage collection scrum – everyone jockeying for position, no one stands behind the line or lets anyone else even see the carousel! Or maybe that’s just in UK airports…

    • Sharon Greenthal
      December 1, 2012 | 1:39 pm

      That doesn’t bother me so much – I’m so glad to be off the plane I don’t mind the wait!

  7. Carol April
    December 4, 2012 | 10:35 pm

    Sharon,
    You are SUCH an entertaining writer! I so enjoy your perspective and your clever quips!
    I happen to love to fly – perhaps in part due to necessity — between work, and visiting family that live across the country, we’re on planes a lot! Clearly, it’s much more of a hassle these days, and I’ve had my share of jet streams and bumpy flights, but it’s still so cool to be destination bound on the biggest bird in the sky!

  8. Sharon Greenthal
    December 5, 2012 | 6:03 am

    Thanks Carol! Maybe that’s my problem – I need to travel more. Time to book those vacations we never seem to schedule…
    Sharon Greenthal recently posted..Oprah Doesn’t Like Me AnymoreMy Profile

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