This, That & Other Stuff

Bob Neuman

Air Travel Can Be Traumatic. Once upon a time, travelers had choices. They could climb into the family sedan, beat the road, dodge the trucks for a number of days and pay moderate prices for motels, food and gasoline.

Another reasonable alternate was flying. Travelers could shell out a modest amount for a ticket, arrive 30 minutes before takeoff and walk onto the airplane while friends and relatives waved from an outside observation deck. Then the passengers could settle back in comfort and await excellent service by polite, uniformed stewardesses. Travelers usually dressed in nice clothes because this was an adventure.

Even though we have had no terrorist attack since 9/11, that not only changed our travel but also our very lives.

Oil companies have long ago discovered we need their products at any price, a fact that has altered our driving habits. Because of the price of driving, airline travel has increased as have the ticket prices.

However, no longer do we just waltz into the airport and onto the plane. Security is everywhere. We are marched into lines to stroll about in our socks. We are poked, prodded and x-rayed as though our sole purpose of coming to the airport was to blow up the place.

Our luggage is examined and our perfume and mouthwash tossed away. Need a fingernail file? Forget that.

At Sky Harbor, I observed an ancient, badly crippled man in a wheelchair who was yanked to his feet and wanded by security. Did he look like a terrorist?

Eventually we are allowed into the inner sanctum where we can twiddle our thumbs for a couple of hours. Like cattle, we are eventually herded up the ramp, dragging our carry on through first class, past the privileged folks and noticing the cheap seats are filled with people who obviously shop at good will for all clothing. Down the narrow aisle we shuffle. Arriving at our seat, we play Arnold Schwarzenegger and heave the stuff three feet above our head and hope we can get it back down later.

Wedging into the seat is a contortion operation; usually next to an overflowing 400 pounder. With hardly any foot room, we realize we have only five ways to wriggle, as our feet, legs and rear soon turn numb in a seat that refuses to recline.

Most would rather wear Depends than visit the poor man’s john in the tail of the plane.

Before the plane moves, a bored flight attendant recites all the measures to save our lives. Her monotone resembles someone reading a dictionary. She may be in jeans instead of the once snappy uniform. We continue to wait as the sound of the plane drones on.

Finally, we are moving backwards as the tractor extracts our plane from the parking spot. After 20 minutes we are in a line behind 11 other planes waiting to take off.

(Continues in the next edition of the SunBird News)