Gripes from 10,000 Feet

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Hello, dear readers, I write to you somewhere between Hell and Salt Lake City (which perhaps are one in the same, though I wouldn’t possess enough expertise to know), otherwise known as Delta flight 36 from San Francisco to Cincinnati (final destination: Nashville!). (Is it just me or is Cincinnati one of the hardest American cities to spell? I can never remember if it’s two “n’s” or two “t’s”.) Every time I take a non-Jet Blue flight (which is becoming quite rare, and now I know why), it reminds me of the downward spiral that is the airline industry. I mean, come on, a cross-country flight with no seat entertainment system and zero free meals? Say it ain’t so! I would say the ridiculously high prices the airlines are charging these days (they claim it’s due to rising fuel prices, but whatever) should at least include a complimentary turkey sandwich, wouldn’t you? When Helle flew Delta from Atlanta to San Francisco and said she had no TV in her seat, I figured it was a fluke. I’ve hardly taken a flight in the past few years, especially Delta, that didn’t at least employ that modern luxury. But alas, I must be on that same plane she took, because I’m crammed on the inside like a seven-foot man in a VW Bug.

When I flew American Airlines—a rarity, and something I will never do again—on the Fourth of July from SFO to JFK, it was freezing and I was just back from a 97-degree jaunt to Napa, thus donning seersucker of the sundress variety, and when I asked for a blanket as soon as I got on the plane (note: the flight wasn’t even halfway full to capacity; I had an entire row to myself), the flight attendant smirked, “We only have a few of those to give away per flight, and they’re all out.” I’m sorry, there are maybe 13 other people on my flight and you can’t spare me a meager piece of cloth to swathe my shivering bones? That was also the flight I discovered that American airlines (as in all U.S.-based companies, not just AA) had reverted to in-flight service European style, as in pay for your own snacks, bitches. When the crew came around offering peanuts, I reached out my hand and quickly pulled it away again when told, “That will be $3.” That can’t be right—three bucks for a small pouch of salty nuts?

As I am a Delta Medallion member and try to garner most of my miles with the airline, despite having yet to be upgraded or actually being able to cash in my 100,000+ miles accrued last year (blackout dates are a buzz kill), I have the new pay-yourself menu memorized by heart. As opposed to my normal apple bacon, cheddar and apple croissant (fattening yes, but one thing that does not get soggy by the time you eat it), I decided for a healthier alternative and opted for the hummus. Because honestly? You can hardly screw up hummus. Or so I thought. (Note to self: Pack peanut butter and jelly next flight.)

It never fails that the second we reach the air, the person in front of me flattens their chair in my lap. This is often (like now) aided by an overweight passenger to my right, who spills over her seat into mine. (Actually, we both just stood up at the same time, and she’s not really at all the least bit overweight. Granted, she’s about 70 years old and four inches shorter than me, thus gravity has begun to take its toll, but this just goes to show you how small they’re making seats these days when your average-sized human being is spilling over into the adjoining seat. And I’m not ashamed to say I’m an advocate for charging people over a certain weight for a second seat. I’m sorry if that makes me heartless, but it’s just not fair to your seatmate to be uncomfortable for hours upon hours because of your lack of a fitness regime.) What I really want to know, though, is where is The Crying Child? If I make it all the way to Nashville without sending murderous looks in the direction of a parent who can’t keep his darling one from screaming his head off as if he hasn’t been fed in weeks, it will be a first.

The woman beside me (who was quite friendly let it be known; at least I was blessed with two cordial seatmates who were polite and friendly enough without being those seatmates who talk your ear off, when you really just want to take a nap or catch up on your Us Weekly reading) has a dry, hacking cough, which only makes me fear that I’ve been exposed to TB for the past hour (I should also take this time to note I’m an eternal hypochondriac, just ask SVV: one week it’s lymphoma; the next it’s malaria). (Ed. Note: Ack! Now the dude behind me has bought a ticket to the Barking Train! Maybe it really is TB!) And then there’s the bathroom issue that comes with sitting by the window. I’m usually more of an aisle-seat kind of gal, especially when it’s a quickie flight—along with hypochondriac, I’m also claustrophobic, so I appreciate not feeling trapped – but after sitting by the window to catch a glimpse of Greenland on my trip to Iceland last fall, I’ve begun to value having a prop for my weary head should I want to take a snooze (my seat buddies have never looked at me favorably when my head begins to wilt in the direction of their shoulder). So I tried to empty my bladder pre-flight, as I am a courteous window seater, but the flight attendant forbade me, so I had to wait for the opportune moment (i.e. when one of the two people separating me from the aisle) arose to finally make a break for a bathroom. The last flight from NYC to SF, I held it the other time, because there were two dudes beside me, and there’s something about men that makes for increased bladder control. Luckily, this time I got the ladies.

Then, there’s always the mile-long line for the bathroom once you finally make it as far. Because it takes every passenger an average of five minutes to pee. And why? Why would you want to spend more time than necessary in a grungy plane bathroom? Unless of course you’re taking care of more serious business, but I find it hard to believe that’s the story in all cases. It takes me an approximately 50 seconds to get the job done: 20 to get situated and do my thang, 30 for the hand washing, then it’s out like a fat kid in dodgeball. Really, when I think about it, I am the Model Peeing Citizen; if ever, we’re at a bar together, I’m the girl you want to be behind in line.

Since we don’t have our own personal in-flight entertainment system this time around, Delta was kind enough to show us a sole movie: The Golden Compass. SVV and I actually PAID MONEY to see that piece of donkey crap over the holidays. I’m all for CGI animation and children’s movies at that – I have marked on my calendar IN PEN when the new Narnia and Harry Potter films debut this year—but mother of pearl, was I disappointed by The Golden Compass. Not even a catty Nicole Kidman and steamy Daniel Craig could do much to save a sinking ship. It was nice, however, to read in the Delta magazine that other flights were enjoying such flicks as Juno, I Am Legend, There Will Be Blood, The Bee Movie, etc., all movies I would have been happy to watch a second time. I opted for watching a Netflixed August Rush, which was yet another disappointment in my day. While Keri Russell is ADORABLE (see below, and note that her beauty if even further accentuated by a very, hungover, makeup-less, Sunday morning me), even though she always plays the exactly same character, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers drives me crazy. Does anyone else think he resembles a really ugly girl with eyelash implants (not at all unlike Zach Braff, while we’re on the topic)?

Then what do you do in quarters as tight as these when the beverage cart comes around, you’re on your computer, you have magazines stuffed in the pocket in front of you, a hummus tray in front of you that you must stuff under the seat in front, and there’s literally no room to place your Sprite, so you balance it on your MacBook keyboard hoping and praying to God that the plane doesn’t hit a bought of turbulence causing your Sprite to tip over and give your laptop a sugar shower, possibly leading to its untimely death? (Breathe.)

All this aside, I have found a few choice airlines I like. JetBlue has performed phenomenally for me nearly every time (and the flippant flight attendants, I adore), and I particularly appreciate the miles of legroom, even when sitting in the non-exit rows. I cannot tell you how stoked I am to fly Virgin America to Seattle twice this summer, because the ads? LOOK AWESOME. I flew TAM to Brazil last month, not impressed, and in my opinion, Continental is one of the worst. United usually fares OK, and Singapore Airlines—its horrible, sub-par customer service on land aside—is likely the coolest flying experience you ever will have (well, until good ole Richard Branson launches his rocket-powered half-hour flight from Sydney to LA in the next few years). How about you guys—any favorites of note? Ones I maybe didn’t mention?

Hopefully, you’ll take today’s dose of negativity in stride and realize that (for the most part) I am a bright-and-shiny person. Unless it’s your first visit to Ye Olde Blog, in which case, let me tell you: I AM A BRIGHT-AND-SHINY PERSON. Most of the time. I mean, I OD on the exclamation points, so that counts for something, right?! But poor treatment of passengers and a steady decrease in overall airline performance, particularly because this here travel is what I do for a living, really just chaps my hide and frosts my cookies.

The happy ending to this otherwise tawdry tale? Since I am finally 25, I can FINALLY, more important, legally, sit behind the wheel of my dad’s Corvette convertible. In fact, on the recent anniversary of my birth, he phoned me, not to say “Happy Birthday!” (let it be known, unlike myself, my dad never employs the use of exclamation points), but to greet me with a “You know what this means? The Vet is yours next time you come home.” (Kari and I had to sign an agreement with the insurance agency that we wouldn’t get behind its wheel until we reached 25, despite Kari’s 18-year-old ex-boyfriend, SVV, and oh I don’t know, the neighborhood paperboy all ruling the roads with the shiny red power machine at some time or another.) So, to commemorate the occasion, I will be driving my father home from the airport, not vice versa, since he needs a DD after a day of golf and Nevada Bob’s.

More from God’s Country (AKA TENNESSEE!) to come…

  • April 22, 2008

    good luck on your race!!!

  • April 22, 2008

    I’m a huge Jet Blue advocate! And let me tell you, on my last flight when (horror of all horrors!) my TV ended up broken, they compensated by placating me with free wine throughout the flight. There was NO WAY I was driving Mom home when I got off!

    I am also a frequent flier (and mileage credit card holder), and fly free constantly- it helps that I avoid peak black out days. I’ve been compensated every time there has been a delay or issue that I’ve emailed them about.

    Basically, Jet Blue rocks! And anyone flying frequently, like service industry or retail, or life in general, starts to make judgements that may be less than sunny, but I’ll vouch for your overall bright and shininess 🙂

  • April 23, 2008

    BTW, I have a question for you. Do you have an email contact? Sorry for logistics invading your comments!

  • April 24, 2008

    I’ve only ever known flying the way you just did – with cramped quarters, food for purchase, and no blankets. My old job made me fly United everywhere, even on international flights, and I was not impressed. You’d think that paying $4,000 for a ticket would at entitle you to a TV console that worked or a flight attendant who knew what kind of sauce came with the chicken.

    I won’t be doing very much travel in the future, as I have now taken another position with no travel opportunities (D’oh! But it is a very good position). This means that I’ll be paying my own way for travel, which makes me a little bit sad. Maybe I’ll take Exposed’s advice and get a JetBlue credit card to earn miles.

    By the way, I have always loved Tennessee’s license plates: doesn’t it say “sounds good to me” on them? Every time I think of Tennessee that phrase pops into my head, probably because it rhymes: “Tennessee – sounds good to me.”

  • April 26, 2008

    very timely post as I’m boarding an airplane in less than 48hrs complete with likely crappy food and a guy who’s going to squish my knees with his chair…i wish we had jet blue here…i’m not sure we do..

  • July 5, 2010

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  • December 30, 2016

    1977 The Ramones supported by the Boomtown Rats, I bumped into Bob Geldof that afternoon having his photo taken outside the Irish Tourist Board, which was around the back of Rackhams.

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