If you have fond memories of flying someplace for summer fun, well, you can just wipe that fantasy out of your head.
My reverie of fun flying goes back decades.
There I was, on July 4, 1968, in my dress-and-coat ensemble, white gloves and straw hat, boarding a plane with my brand new husband. Destination Bermuda!
We flew coach and had a yummy meal delivered to our seat on a little tray with darling salt and pepper shakers. Chicken or beef. As I recall, my husband of 20 hours didn’t take off his tie. We didn’t take off our shoes and socks like today’s travelers. Flying was a life event. One dressed.
Get this: We talked to each other on the flight. With no devices or seat-back entertainment, we started a conversation that has lasted 54 years. To be clear, we haven’t spoken for all of those years, but we’ve done our best.
The flight attendants, who were called stewardesses and were all women, were unfailingly solicitous and professional. They were glamorous, and they wore perky little hats at a saucy tilt.
Speaking of saucy, the person seated next to me on this flight (I’m writing at 34,000 feet) just spilled the barbecue sauce from her sandwich all over my shoe. She looks like a superhero in her bright red Wonder Woman ensemble, but actually she’s eating a superhero. Has to be three pounds of meat and sauce. My husband has a seat in a different row because we both wanted aisles. That’s what happens after 54 years.
Whoopsie. We just dived. “Fasten your seat belts,” the captain announced, but our flight attendant, who looks like she just rolled off a long-haul flight, kept up her chitchat with a colleague, not particularly tuned in to the passengers.
I know flight attendants have to meet certain physical standards to do the job, none of which has anything to do with gender or any subjective requirement for good looks, etc. As it should be. But I do think that since we’re all locked up in this flying metal tube for a few hours, the attendants should maintain appropriate decorum, and avoid using the mic for their stand-up.
We have lost so much general civility that it would be nice to be nice in these close quarters.
Today our flight attendant is a bit of a bully. She has asked me three times if I have any trash to contribute to her huge plastic bag, and I keep saying no. Last time she started rummaging in my seat back. “What’s this?” She said. “It’s my cookies,” I said. She gave them back.
The whole tenor this experience is upside down and backward. First, you feel immensely grateful if you can even find a seat on a plane in this somewhat but not really post-pandemic summer season. Then you have to raid your bank account to buy a ticket. On JetBlue you can buy a ticket, but if you want an actual seat, and you want bathroom privileges and would like to bring a bag, you have to pay more.
I exaggerate, but you do pay more for getting on board early, for checking a suitcase, for snagging an upfront seat. Everything is easier … and harder. It took me a long time to figure out how to “pair” my phone with the JetBlue seat-back screen.
Going through security is fraught. This is true: My husband got pulled of the security line and had his bags searched because he was carrying an amount of Miralax that was deemed “suspicious.” In some ways, it is an explosive, I’ll grant them that.
My fellow passengers are a well-behaved group, although no one is wearing a mask anymore except me and my husband and a few other oldies. But how people trundle onto a plane in the getups I see is puzzling. If you’re going to sit three inches from a stranger for four hours, shouldn’t you tidy up a bit? Get the food out of your beard?
This is our first flight together since last summer’s vacation, when we dropped into the raging wildfires in northern California, and basically turned around and came home. For us, staying grounded isn’t an option. I keep reminding myself that this isn’t, and will never be, a new “normal.” It’s a new world. We have to be patient and pack a sense of humor.
Copyright 2022 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.