Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Flying...First Class or No Class

There must be a crotchedy switch that gets flicked when one crosses into a particular decade...or maybe I am just a snob.

Okay, I am a snob...but well intended, never mean spirited (at the moment anyway) and couth.  I put my napkin on my lap.  I do not speak with food in my mouth.  I keep my elbows off the table.  I like nice things.  I drink fine wine.  And...I do not suffer fools well.  I find that my snob switch frequently gets flipped when I am on vacation.  My mother taught me that travel is a privileged thing to do, so you dress appropriately, you behave with decorum and you do as requested so all may have a safe and pleasant trip...I flew for the first time when I was six and I still maintain this attitude about travel whether by air, boat or train...heck I even treat a cab ride as a special treat...I am on vacation after all...it is those other people who wreck it.

Recently, I have been blessed with the opportunity to travel.  Why the good Lord has not blessed me with a private jet is a mystery.  Whenever possible and frequent flyer points allow, I beg my husband to upgrade us to business class.  It is not that feel I am entitled or BELONG there (I do), but that so many other people belong back in coach.  You know the ones...the person who swears that their suitcase is a carry-on, yet it is too heavy for them to lift it up into the overhead. and that a purse, brown bag lunch from one of the airport greasy spoons  and shopping bags from the duty free store really do constitute one personal item...they only brought one from home and the others are free because they got them at the airport...you know who you are!  There is the (perfectly healthy) person who boards the plane when those needing assistance are permitted and then plunks down in the aisle seat of the row you are ticketed for...and they are in your seat, but won't move because they need to get to their "carry-on" during the flight...and "It is just easier this way"..."oh and I hope you don't mind that I put my duty free shopping bag there in the middle...it is perfume and I don't want the bottles to break in the overhead".  "What's that?  Oh, in front of me?  That is my lunch...an Italian sub with extra onions and sour cream and onion chips and a large diet coke.  I'll eat that once we hit cruising altitude.  I had curry for lunch, so I am good for now!"  Good lord save us!

Worse are the cattle call airlines...you know the "you are free to move about the country" folks, but don't even think of queueing up in the wrong section and number at the gate or you'll be subjected to withering looks, snarky under the breath comments and the demeaning invasion of personal space encroachment by the person who MUST stand in the imaginary spot numbered 9 where you have so naively encamped for the 12 minute wait prior to boarding.   I have seen people run over toes of alleged line usurpers with the wheels of their suitcases (which should have been checked).  I even saw an old guy with a cane poke a kid who was leaning against one of the numbered markers, listening to his iPod, because he was standing in the wrong place.  I was coming home from a quick visit to Baltimore when I had to fly the LUV airline.  I was in group 3, # 10.  Not the lucky bunch, but better off that the poor schmucks in Boarding Group 4.  I was flying alone as Bill was headed off to Atlanta for  business...in business class...grrr...any way, it was my turn to board.  I had no baggage, well at least not any that one traditionally carries-on (there is the abandonment issue, some self-esteem stuff, but...) just my purse and a book.  As I walked down the aisle, I would see a middle or window seat "open" and politely say excuse me, may I take this seat...only to be told, not once, not twice, but three times by three different people (cheeky experienced flyers) that the seat was taken and the person's companion whose book/hat/sweater was holding the seat was in the bathroom. Can you believe it?  They were lying!  This is wrong, rude, selfish and in the end...justice is served because invariably, those seats which are not really taken will be occupied by the person who, is currently in the airport bathroom with diarrhea and needs a little extra time to clean up or is last on the plane because he ran from one connecting flight to this one 50 gates away in the other terminal!  Or my personal favorite...the 7 foot tall man who wears his weight well...squeezes into the middle seat and asks for the seat belt extender...yesss.  You know, as I think of it, please just give me priority access and I'll ignore the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to fly free and waiting to board.  Set me in seat 4A with a good book and I am good to go.  I am classy and I want to be seated in a class; first, business, elite...no airplane democracy for me...nope, give me good old fashioned Hamiltonian elitism when I fly.  What can I say...this is my personal baggage...and it can't be checked!

The other travel picayune that irks me are first time and infrequent flyers.  Come on people, work with me.  We have been living with enhanced security measures for 10 years now.  If you haven't flown before, look up travel tips on the airline website.  ASK somebody BEFORE you get in the security line...not while you are at the screening point if you need to take off shoes,  empty your pockets, put metal/coins/3 ounces of liquid in a clear 1 quart platic bag in the dish, belts, sweaters, the switchblade, etc.  Did you not read the sign that said no liquids over 3 ounces, no aerosols, no lighters, knives, guns, scissors, box cutters...I am really sorry but you shouldn't have packed 6 12 ounce baby bottles full of formula in your ginornmous diaper bag...oh and by the way...if the baby can't carry it on...they don't get a carry-on...they ARE a carry-on...

I saw this really sweet but clueless family trying to get through security at Logan.  They were so totally ill-prepared and overpacked for the flight.  They had 2 diaper bags, a stroller, a car seat, a backpack and 2...wait for it... fanny packs.  They looked like they were heading to a NASCAR event...Logo t-shirts, torn jeans, flip-flops, studded belts, chains as bracelets, and lord knows what else...they also had a toddler...although he ran more than he toddled...and he absolutely was in charge of pushing his stroller...no riding in it for him.  They did not have a clue what they were doing.  We watched our own airport circus and of course this was causing huge delays.  The family was polite and kept  apologizing telling everyone this was their first time flying...I was proud of our fellow passengers...everyone pretty much kept their cool.  But we all had to laugh when Dad who was in a separate security line than his family...he bifurcated somewhere along the line...tried to go through the screener with his hat, watch, belt and shoes on.  He was sent back and took off almost all the obligatory things, save his belt...and this was an impressive belt...doing important work!  He stepped through the screening device and the alarm sounded...takes off the belt and from the archway, leans back and throws the belt into the X-ray machine...not in bin, not on the conveyor, but hurls it through the machine...losing his balance and his pants...they fell right down to his knees!  Of course, you know which flight they were on right?  Uh, huh....mine. 

I "love" the family with three kids...two of whom are in diapers and the parents always manage to be ticketed in absolute opposite ends of the plane and a lone kid stuck in an exit row. They expect that we, who printed our boarding passes and seat assignments off at home should give up our seats three rows away from Mommy and the baby with the diaper that smells like it hasn't been changed for several hours..talk about a weapon of mass destruction.... for the seat in the rear of the plane next to the lav, so Dad with the drool monster can pass Stinky and Stinkier over the rows to each other when one or the other can't stand the ear splitting screaming of the child that wants to be with the other parent.  And of course, the lone kid is moved to a seat at the rear of the plane next to the lav and therefore kind-hearted snob me...and his backpack of dinosaurs, cars and melted chocolate candy is all the way up front with Mommy and he wants his Matchbox cars NOW!  I need my complimentary glass of champagne NOW! Damn..it is in first class...grrr...

When in coach, if not seated next to the kid who insists that my arm is a really cool ramp for his Tonka truck, then, Bill and I are usually seated next to the older woman traveling alone (for a reason...she never shuts up!)...and she offers us insightful and incendiary commentary on everything that is going wrong on the plane.  It is my habit, no matter what class I am in, to read.  It helps me get over my pre-flight jitters as well as takes me away, much like a Calgon bath...from all the stress around us...but there she is Ms. Chatty Kathy..."Do you see that...that woman isn't wearing her seat belt!"  She just sat down and we are still on the ground.  "Why is it so hot in here?  Would you mind turning on your air (aka instant influenza)? " "That man with the funny head gear...do you think he might be a Muslim or a terrorist? That's a captain's hat...and he's the pilot...you ditz"  "What are you reading?  Have you read the Twilight books?  I think I am Team Edward, but I dunno...maybe blah, blah...".now I know why knitting needles are not allowed on planes."

With all the craziness that is travel these days, wouldn't it be easier to just do things the right way?  Pack light.  Remember that you are sharing the friendly skies with others and we have to share the overhead bins.  If you are flying with an airline for the first time, check out their website or with your travel agent for practical travel tips.  Don't try to board the plane before it is your turn...you just make it tough for those who really need the help.  And for the love of Pete, don't get angry with the personnel who are trying to do their job, especially when it is you who screwed up.  I know is stinks that we have to pay for checked baggage, but really, it is just wrong, selfish and ill considered when you bring that behemoth you call a carry-on into the cabin.  If you have been assigned a seat, sit there...there are only two times when it is okay to switch your seat (IMHO) 1) to assist someone who really needs the help and 2) to give a better seat to a US Service man or woman. 

So people, take a lesson from my dear Mom...remember who you are, what you are and where you came from.  Do your homework before traveling...and believe me...you only need half the stuff you packed...so repack...and if you can't upgrade, at least behave like you've got a first class ticket...Ah, to heck with it...I'm sitting up in first class...drinking champagne...and avoiding eye contact with you chumps as you pass by...Buh-bye.


  1. Holy cow, Mom! They make these great things called chill pills - pop a couple and enjoy a nice glass of wine (or a not so nice glass of wine for that matter) and you should be allll set for that 1 hour and 15 minute flight from Baltimore to Manchester. ;) Oh well, to each her own. I'm just glad I got my travel gene from Dad!

  2. @ Carrie...it is called sarcasm.

  3. This is just mind boggling to me...that's all i've got.