The last time I flew across the country was four years ago, for half the price of today’s experience. For that reduced rate, I received (in addition to transportation) a pillow, a blankie, unlimited adorable little bottles of water and my own personal mini-television. I spent six hours snuggled up watching daytime television; a sick day without sickness or guilt. Fast forward fours years. What did I get for double the price? A seat in a flying can. Nothing but a seat back 8 inches from my face. Not even a direct to dvd Adam Sandler or Jennifer Aniston movie (and, yes, I did feel a bit grateful for that.) By the way, is it really that cost efficient to only have two restrooms for 200 people? As an embarrassing aside, I have flown about 100 times in my life, and the force of the plane flush still scares the bejeezus out of me.
Prices have soared, amenities have been slashed but one thing has stayed the same: the passengers. Bless their little lemming hearts. Someone somewhere started the trend of dressing for travel as if one is having same-day surgery. Sweat pants, velour track suits(!), cropped sweats(!), shower shoes (with socks!), plastic gardening shoes, have become de rigueur. I suspect the “patient zero” of this abominable trend is somewhere cackling maniacally, clinking a glass of champagne with the chap who invented wearing pants six inches below one’s underpants.
Beyond the phenomenon of “same day surgery” dressing is the flat out counter-intuitive dressing. Example A: a lovely young woman in a mini-sleeveless-white lace dress and 6 inch heels. I could see her goose bumps from two gates away. Example B: Non-military full body camouflage. Huh? Hoping to blend into your surroundings and sneak through security? Example C: Athletic shoes and baseball caps. Exactly what do you think is going to happen in that can? A pick-up game of softball? There’s no activity less taxing on the feet than sitting. Wear shoes. There is no glare in your eyes AND you are not a professional athlete at work. Take the cap off. Example D: (and for this I blame the travel apparel mail-order companies) Wearing one’s boarding pass as a necklace. I’d elaborate more, but it just makes me want to cry.
To those handful of passengers who wore clothing with buttons and zippers, and seemed to acknowledge they were in public, I thank you. For six hours in a can with nothing but a looming seat back in my face, at least I had you in my span of vision.
Beyond demanding our country redress the neglect of a national rail system, we can do our part to reinstate civility into travel. Even as we the traveler are subjected to inhospitable treatment and care, we can demonstrate personal care. Just a little attention to one’s appearance can go a long way. Out of respect to those who must toil in airports and flying cans, and as a nod to one’s fellow travelers, leave the lounge wear in your carry-on please. This is one of those times when it is best to follow the lead of the French.