Air Travel

Traveling by Air? Are you going to see a distant loved one in a faraway state or country? Most likely, you’ll join the millions of others who will experience the joy of air travel. Today, however, there is nothing enjoyable about traveling by commercial airline.

Let’s examine the entire miserable experience from packing, getting there, parking, and boarding. Only then can we sit back and watch the blood pool around our ankles.

Can’t decide what to bring? I suggest khaki pants and a shirt with a collar. After all, you’re visiting relatives, her relatives. Your beer-stained go-to T-shirt, although better suited for your personality, won’t pass the wife test. Now you’ll need two pairs of shoes, a few belts, and another good shirt which you’ll never wear. How much underwear? I bet you can’t decide. Will you bring enough for a week or how about only four or five days? What if you have an emergency? You’d better bring at least six pairs.

Next up, toiletries. You’ll need toothpaste and flossing utensils, and don’t forget the various mouthguards to minimize snoring. The real problem is your medicine. Long gone are the days of a single baby aspirin. You’re now on a regiment of over seventeen pills, some multiple times a day. The triple-decker pill organizer your wife bought you carries seven days’ worth, but you’ll need three of them plus all the spare bottles to carry you through. Remember the special cream the doctor prescribed to soothe your aging muscles? You know the one. The one that exploded on your last trip and stained your good, collared shirt and made it look worse than your beer-stained T-shirts.

“Hey honey, do you have room for my hairdryer?”

Packed yet? You’d better throw a few things overboard; you wouldn’t want those extra bag charges to exceed the price of your tickets. Don’t forget the eighty-seven pounds of needless other stuff you’ll cram into your carry-on. You’ll need your: laptop, tablet, Kindle, cellphone, smartwatch, and Fitbit. And don’t forget those separate power cords for each and every one. Also, don’t forget paper, a pencil, a box of Kleenex, and your backup pill case. You know, the one the TSA drug dog discovered that made you miss your last flight.

All set? “Let’s get a ride, sweetheart; that way, we don’t have to pay for parking.”

For those of you who live within a few miles of a major airport, you can skip this section.

For most of us, getting to the airport is half the fun. Are you going to ask your neighbor or best friend to give you a ride? Would you inflict them with hours of bumper-to-bumper traffic? Before you answer, ask yourself, would you offer to drive them? They know you wouldn’t, so that’s out.

After cramming more luggage into your smart car than the pilgrims brought over on the Mayflower, you’re all set. The drive goes faster than you calculated, and you arrive at the airport in plenty of time. Oh, if only this were true. After snoozing through three alarms, you wake and find your plan is off by forty-five minutes. No time to shower and shave, you swill yesterday’s coffee and dash out to join the millions of commuters who made it out the door a few seconds ahead of you. Now you’re late.

What’s this? You’ve got plenty of time? Then you realize your car clock was never reset from daylight savings time. Do you fall back or leap forward? Twelve-mile backup, the marquee says. There’ll be no leaping as you limp along toward your missed flight. Then, suddenly, the skies open up, and the rain clouds part. You see the sign: long-term parking one mile. It’s a miracle, you sigh. It is as if the Messiah parted the Red Sea. There’s still time to make your flight.

I don’t complain about TSA. They’ve got a job to do. Do you remember 9/11? Welcome to a complicated world. Land of the free and all that other stuff. I do complain about the people ahead of me in line, however. You know the type. The ones who bring more stuff in their carry-on than you packed in the three suitcases you checked. Then there are the young parents with strollers, car seats, and enough electronic gadgets to get all of us to the moon. They’re not so bad. Oh, the sense of wonder that is modern-day air travel. At least young families look happy. My favorite TSA line hostage is the disgruntled businessman. Why are they always in a sour mood? Their suits are straight off the rack from the Men’s Wearhouse, and their belts never match. I get a little perverse pleasure watching them take off their shoes and discover their socks have a few holes. We must not be late for that big sales meeting in Dubuque, must we?

On our last few trips, Lillian and I have flown on Southwest. You know, the airline that was designed by the communists. There are no first-class or business-class seats, just coach. Everyone flies coach on Southwest, so much for the land of the free and all that capitalism stuff. We did spend more than the regular fare for the Southwest Business class experience. This is not a seat with extra legroom but a place closer to the front of the line for boarding. With your pole position secured, you race down the gangway and plop your butt in an aisle seat. Now, your prime real estate secured, you’ve got a bird’s eye view of the packing of the Boeing 737 to the Max: “Attention, ladies and gentlemen. We have a completely full flight today.”

Airline flights today are always completely full. You sit and watch as a desperate sea of humanity files past. Here are Gary’s tips for selecting a modest-sized cellmate: As the seats are smaller than the kid car seats you just watched a young family bring on, finding a modest-sized traveling companion is a must. This is no easy task, as everyone has joined me in growing out of their size 29 waist jeans. So, when a large man enters the plane, stare straight into his eyes. This will make him uncomfortable, and he’ll find another row. If the eyeball trick doesn’t work, smile with the broadest grin possible. He’ll think you’re insane and won’t want to be next to you. If a large woman enters, whatever you do, don’t stare into their eyes; they’ll think you’re friendly and will undoubtedly want to be your friend. Keep your eyes focused a bit lower. Perhaps nod approvingly. They’ll assume you’re creepy and move on. If you score a child with headphones or a modest-sized passenger as your companion, consider yourself winning the lottery.

Once you’re in the air, the overworked flight attendant will hand you a graham cracker and a thimble full of apple juice. What, you didn’t get a drink coupon? You’re in luck—I saved you some. I won’t be flying again anytime soon.

10 thoughts on “Air Travel”

  1. ????????????????-We are heading out to San Diego May 22-June 4 on Delta. Back again in October with first 6 days in Mexico ( Oct. 30-Nov. 4) and staying another week in Cali after we come back. Any chance or thoughts on catching up in person?

  2. A trick to keep the middle seat unoccupied: place the vomit bag on it and put on your “I’m sick” face. It works quite well – according to a friend who really does have air sickness every time he flies (no need to mention the anti-nausea meds taken before the flight). I have great sympathy for the families who travel with infants-toddlers: there is so much equipment required, not just fun stuff. We never traveled until our sons could walk in the airport by themselves!


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