I was on an airplane this weekend for the first time in over a year. Flying sucks, but what are you going to do? Instead of letting your insane fears dictate the course of your days, slowly making you too scared even of leaving the house, you’ve got to deal with unpleasant stuff now and then if you want to get to experience other aspects of life which are slightly more pleasant than your regular routine at home.
But yeah, flying really does suck. Getting to the airport several hours early, everybody complains about that. And TSA, I can’t believe that all of those security measures are necessary. The taking off of the belt and shoes, the placing my computer in its own separate plastic bin apart from everything else. As if the giant, full-body X-Ray machine wasn’t serious enough, every once in a while you get some blue-shirted not-quite cop pull you aside for some extra interrogation. You’re going to check me? For what? I don’t have anything worth checking out. You’re wasting everyone’s time giving me, or anybody else here a pat down, all right, I feel stupid, and I hope that you feel stupid running your hands up my legs, because it’s not necessary.
I’m getting carried away. The seats. I get it, airplane travel is expensive, but it’s not nearly as expensive as it would be if the entire industry weren’t super subsidized by the government. So you can’t really say anything, those seats are totally selling themselves. Still, I have a huge issue with companies that, as a matter of business, as a matter of making money, constantly look for ways to take more money out of your pocket, to charge you for services that used to be free.
I’m talking about everything, the two bags that you used to be able to check suddenly subtracted to one, the in flight entertainment that now costs something like two bucks a program. It’s bullshit, all of it. Imagine if a restaurant tried to pull a stunt like that? Extra ice? Certainly. I can offer you five cubes for thirty-five cents, and I only take credit or debit. That place would be out of business in a heartbeat.
I’m talking about the exit rows. At a pretty-tall six-foot-five, I used to have it down to a science: getting to the airport early, talking with an airline agent, them happily giving me the emergency row, and those sweet, precious, three or four extra inches of legroom that come along with the understanding that you’re willing to assist in the unlikely event of an emergency.
But that’s gone too. Some d-bag executive probably got wind of the whole emergency row agreement between tall people and gate agents and said to himself, you know what? That’s definitely an area in which more money could be going to the airline, to the shareholders. Fuck the customers. Exploit, exploit, exploit. And so now you have to pony up for “Delta Plus,” or whatever they want to call the same shitty coach seats that would have at the very least made me feel like a little more of a human being for the duration of the flight.
And you know why it really sucks? Because of course I’m not going to pay for that emergency row. Because I’m only flying once every other year or so. Because I have no money. So what you wind up with is some not-so-tall guy letting out a nice, audible, “Ahhh!” sound as he extends his perfectly regular-sized limbs as far as they’ll stretch, all while I’m a few rows back, the guy in front of me could barely wait to reach cruising altitude before clicking his seat as far back as it’ll go. Click! He’s trying, he pressed the button and he the back start to sway. But what’s that? Some sort of resistance, it’s as if there’s something behind him making it impossible to recline all the way. He fusses a little more and kind of turns around. Oh, it’s just some guy. That’s just some guy’s legs I’m crashing into. Better push back harder. And so it’s that two-or-three minute push and pull, to the point where eventually my knees hurt and I give up.
Why do you even give the option to recline? For real, what is anybody getting out of that equation? Come on airlines, this is the area that you need to monetize. You’d like to recline your seat back? Certainly, that’ll be a dollar seventy-five, and I’m sorry, but we don’t accept cash, just debit or credit. Think of the shareholders! They must be satisfied! Give them more money! It would eliminate at least this little morsel of my in-flight suffering.
Yes, I hate flying, blah, blah, blah, this is all recycled nonsense, complaints about plane travel, I’m practically falling asleep at my keyboard writing all of this garbage. Seriously, I should have been born like ten thousand years ago. Talk about complaining. I probably wouldn’t even have the proper linguistic skills to even formulate my thoughts into a coherent whiny diatribe.
But you know what really kills me? It’s that moment while you’re taxiing down the runway, just as the engines kick in for what you know from experience is going to be a jarring takeoff. The plane lifts off the ground and you get that visceral sensation like it’s going to bounce right back down. But it doesn’t. And now everything below is getting really small. And in your mind you can just imagine exactly what it’s going to look and sound and feel like when the engines suddenly die and the plane plummets straight to a certain doom.
It’s probably not going to happen. But it might. It happens every now and then. And what if you’re on one of those unlucky flights? What if the people on previous doomed voyages had those same thoughts that you’re having right now? It’ll be OK, they tell themselves, trying to quiet the ever-present feeling of dread, unsuccessfully doing whatever they can to stay out of their imaginations, and then something does happen. Because it happens, right?
You’re just trying to go on vacation here, you’re sitting in a seat that’s not big enough to hold your entire body and you’re suddenly hit in the face with the cold fact that your life is finite and, even if this plane delivers you safely to wherever it is you’ve decided to give your money to get away from wherever it is that you happen to be making your money, you’re still going down, someway, eventually, nothing’s going to last.
And then you get pulled out of your nightmare daydream for a second because the flight attendant is telling you that, unfortunately, your carry-on is jostling around too much in the overhead compartment, and some of the passengers are complaining, and, well, you have to put it on the floor in front of you, even though there’s no room, you can’t feel the tips or your feet, you try to protest, politely, but you get some non-answer line about “FAA regulation states that …” Yeah, OK, thanks.
Man, I can’t wait until we have self-driving cars. I can’t wait until we have the Hyperloop. Because, yes, it’s unreal that we have an industry devoted to flying us to wherever we can afford to go on the planet. But flying on a plane sucks. It just sucks. There’s got to be a better way.