I don’t fly much anymore. After I retired three years ago I went from Igneous Medallion to Toughshit Sucker. That all means I lose certain “privileges” such as schlepping down to the airport several times a week, being herded like calves about to become veal and stuffed into a seat even Barbie would find confining.
Now I fly when I want to, which is almost never. In fact I hadn’t been on a plane in 18 months…before last Thursday for a quick trip to Florida and back with my wife. We splurged and cashed in whatever miles I had lingering in my account, coughed up the difference in actual money and flew first class. Nice.
It all started out fine. I received a notice the day before on my Delta app to check in and I was even asked my lunch preference–Salad d’chicken stale, or a turkey sandwich floating in cheese and a bag of chips. I chose the latter. It was fine, although my cholesterol medication later sneered at me while mocking my choice, saying “you eat that shit I can’t help you.” Damn Big Pharma!
But all that seemed about normal. The spooky stuff was to come. I did NOT receive a notice to check in the day before our return flight. I did NOT receive a request to choose a meal for our return flight. After awhile I became suspicious that perhaps I screwed up somehow…but I didn’t. When I attempted to check in on the Delta app it said I had ALREADY checked in. My wife too! We did not check in. Not having flown for so long, perhaps flying first class now entitled you to a “check in angel.” It did not. So when we got to the airport I figured I’d just go old school and use the kiosk to check in. I slip in my credit card and instead of being nice and polite to first class customer on the screen it says, “do you want to check in…again?” I mean the box had a freakin’ attitude as if I was annoying it during its reboot break. I reply, most emphatically, “yes!” I thought I heard a pathetic sigh from the little speaker and the instructions on the screen seem to indicate the electronic fucker was ready to see things my way by leading me through the process of re-checking in…even though I had never checked in in the first place. But fine.
From there everything was cool until we settle in our seats. The flight attendant comes over to me and says, “so you pre-ordered the burgers for lunch.” In fact I did not. I did not have the opportunity to pre-order anything, but I thought I’d play it cool. “I believe so,” I lied. The flight attendant whipped out a computer readout that had my name and “burgers” next to it. Strange. But I wasn’t sure. What if there was something better? So I asked in my most innocent tone, “I can’t remember. What was the other choice?” The flight attendant was delighted to tell me it didn’t matter. Whatever the other choice was there weren’t any left. “Ah! Good thing I pre-ordered the burgers, then!” “Yes,” she replied. “You were very smart to do that!” Although the entire scenario was a sham. So were the burgers. They were billed, actually, as “sliders.” Maybe that’s because rather than actual meat, they appeared to be made with some sort of non-stick chemical in a shade of gray-beige. Of course, since I’m a man and men will eat anything I scarfed down both sliders which later slid through my digestive tract and were useful in waxing our hardwood floors to a high-gloss sheen.
Now I’m actually looking forward to my next flight to see if the Dark Spirit of Delta will further intervene on my behalf. Maybe send me a notice that it already watched the safety video for me, or nixed my drink selection because I deserve a better brand of bourbon. I’m OK with such pro-active service. In fact, I’d love it if I received an email informing me “We already snagged an extra dozen of those Biscoff cookies for you. They’ll be in your seat pocket.” Damn…Delta, you’re good!
I never fly United. Not because I fear a couple of guys will suddenly wrench me out of my seat, knocking out a few teeth and putting an overall damper on my traveler-as-livestock experience. I never fly United because the nearest airport to where I live is a Delta hub and I’m a sucker for hoarding that airline’s frequent flyer miles so I can be treated like a Holstein by that carrier without paying for it. I tell you this to establish the fact I have nothing personal against United Airlines, so when I comment about that airline’s recent spectacular PR fails I do so without any baggage, thereby avoiding additional exorbitant fees.
Actually, I’m not going to pick on United. I’m going to pick on the basic business model airlines operate under. They sell more tickets than seats available as insurance against no-shows. If everyone shows up they’ve got to figure out a way to placate the pissed-off passengers for whom a seat isn’t available. Their first tactic is to offer a small bribe that gradually escalates in value until they get enough volunteers. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. In United’s case, they needed to make room for their employees and not paying customers. So they made the perfectly logical decision to wrench a paying customer from his seat, mashing his face and providing fodder for a hugely embarrassing video that would go viral within moments of it being posted. The passenger will most likely sue for a much larger amount than United would have had to pay to convince him to change flights.
I’d like to propose another way to reward air travelers for the regular abuse they suffer. Introducing TLS Rewards. TLS being an acronym for Treated Like Shit. Each time a passenger submits an instance of being treated like shit by an airline, they accrue a number of points that’s in proportion to the abuse. Lost bag? 100 points. Whacked in the head by a passing beverage cart? 150 points. Hoping for those yummy Biscoff cookies but all they have is peanuts with your coffee? 50 points. Grabbed from your seat by a couple of security guys and your head bashed into the armrest resulting in lost teeth? 10,000 points and first class seating for life with the firm promise that once seating you won’t be brutally un-seated. Plus unlimited Biscoff cookies. When you accrue enough TLS points you become entitled to various rewards such as the chance to chase baggage handlers with the Jetway, unlimited vouchers for that all- Slim Jim snack box, permission to use a pillow to suffocate the guy hogging both arm rests and the chance to use the plane’s PA system to entertain the other passengers with your impressions of indecipherable gate agent announcements. Perks like these would seem to be just the type of mood changers that could offset the otherwise unpleasant aspects of flying, while not compromising safety. You can still earn free flights and upgrades through existing frequent traveler programs. Under TLS Rewards, you can also earn fun opportunities for revenge…and everyone knows, that’s what we all really want.
I get the reason United Airlines didn’t let two legging-wearing young ladies aboard one of their planes, but let’s think about this. Indeed, my wife and I had just such a discussion during our recent trip to Florida. We recalled a time when travelers got all gussied up for air travel, not only to impress the other travelers, but in hopes the flight attendant might comp them a scotch on the rocks, or move them up to first class. Nowadays you can pretty much wear a sack and flip flops when jetting from A to B. Have people simply become slobs or too arrogant to care how they appear in public? That may be part of the answer, but I believe what’s really going on is we’re dressing for duress. During those days when air travel was considered something special, a privilege, a treat, passengers were treated as such. Airlines cheerfully checked our luggage as part of the price of a ticket and the boarding process was orderly and humane. There was plenty of overhead bin space in which to store one’s coat or brief case. One barely broke a sweat.
Air travel now? I’d rather get caught in the middle of the stampede during Free Depends Day in Delray Beach. Dress up? Are you kidding? The exorbitant fees to check a bag mean added incentive to schlep it through the airport, onto the plane and wishing and hoping for some precious overhead bin space into which you can wrestle it. I’m already schvitzing thinking about it.
Then there’s the whole process of simply getting on the plane. Because overhead space is such a premium, passengers who were either too cheap, too stubborn or simply couldn’t handle the bag check fees, crowd to the frontlines of the battle, ready to elbow, body check or step on the feet of fellow competitors who just want a spot to store their bag. It’s a contact sport, baby, and formal wear is not the uniform!
When you’re finally on the plane, if not fortunate enough to be sitting in the relative luxury of first class, you’re stuffed into a seat roughly the width of a toothpick. You squeeze yourself in as best you can, wishing you had three knees per leg so as best to adequately fold them into the stingy space in front of you, then play to the death that game of “the arm rest is mine, sucka!”
So it’s no wonder fliers choose to wear clothing more appropriate for battle on land, seat and air as opposed to the sky salons of the past. I personally don’t care if you wear leggings, leotards or liederhosen as long as you act like a human, haven’t drenched yourself with Axe, don’t try to hog both arm rests and never, ever, ask me “so..whatcha gonna do when we get to Cleveland?” I’ll explain the terms of my parole.
You’ve seen those people. You may be one of them. You know. Inveterate airport code posters on Facebook or Twitter. “Hey! I’m LGA to HNL for a fabulous 2-week vacation.” I always thought that a person willing to reveal their absence should add the helpful information, “so go ahead and rob my house. Just got a new 75-inch TV. Best to take it out through the garage. Don’t worry. No one will be home for the next two weeks.”
But it’s not only vacationers. It’s business travelers. I suppose it’s a way of broadcasting you’re traveling the world on the boss’s dime and that makes you one cool ass guy or girl. It really doesn’t. It broadcasts the fact that you’re deluded into believing people will be jealous of you because you spend much of your life on an airborne tube stuffed with people who smell bad and try to pound a steamer trunk into the overhead bins.
I don’t think I’m being paranoid by never posting on social media that I’m away from home. Believe me. My “adoring” public can wait for the photos until I return and my home and family aren’t sitting ducks for whatever mayhem this crazy world has in mind.
As for the ego trip of letting the world know that I’m traveling the world? Please. Given the conditions of air travel today I would think it much more prestigious to boast about traveling in complete comfort in a shipping container in the depths of the cargo hold of a Great Lakes coal hauler.
So if I see a post from you that’s nothing more than a string of airport codes I’ll just figure it’s a cry for help. Perhaps the code you need to post is SOS.