Millions of dollars are spent on selling travel as glamorous and/or restorative. There are entire magazines dedicated to this pursuit and big chunks of space reserved for it in newspapers & travel blogs aplenty. Television shows and networks are dedicated to the cause. There are clothing and accessory manufacturers specializing in travel accouterment. The fashion industry still adheres to a season-ette known as Holiday/Cruise in mid-winter. Everyone’s in on the action (except for travel agents, g-d rest their souls.) Let the good times roll.
Yet have you ever heard (or experienced) anyone traveling commercially, return and declare; “Well bust my buttons that certainly was glamorous and/or restorative?” Probably not. Getting there (and sometimes even being there) can often be one big pain in the bum.
It used to be you would pack your bags, grab your ticket and head to the airport. Today, after packing your bag with teeny tiny sample sizes of health and beauty aids (in ziplocs or out, depending on the airport) planning an outfit without metal embellishment or laced shoes, packing enough food to make it through the flight and the predictable delay; you are, woohoo, on your way. But to where exactly? You booked your flight on one airline (or so you thought) but these days they are cross-listed. You trek to the USAir terminal only to discover that USAir flight 6403 is in actuality a United flight 760 (and listed as Lufthansa 23, but that’s too odd to even address.) If you’re lucky those two terminals have a shuttle system. So maybe, just maybe, if the g-ds are smiling upon you, you make it to your gate. You must go buy a bottle of water however since bringing one with you would jeopardize national security (as would a nail clipper which is amusing when you think that a punch to the jugular is far more impactful than threatening to manicure someone.) Your $7 bottle of water secured, you bypass the food-like options that fill you with a school (or prison) cafeteria wistfulness. (Airports might be the only place where a chef known for inventing gourmet duck topped pizzas is now serving orange slop in containers emblazoned with his name.) You sit and watch the parade of (pajama-clad) humanity elbow their way to special treatment; “We’re a family, we’d like to sit together.” “My husband needs a seat without an armrest” What century are you people in? You will be lucky to get on this overbooked flight even with a seat assignment, checked luggage and wearing an airline uniform.
Getting onto the plane takes all the chutzpah and sharp elbows usually reserved for a Macy’s white sale. Overhead space is the holy grail. As the plane fills the desperation is palpable. Your goal is to avoid the attendant being “pleased to check your bag for you.” You’ve made it this far; you will not give up without a fight. Finally as the passengers settle down and it looks as if every bag is secured, the stand-bys appear. These people have made it onto the plane. They have a killer instinct and a rugged determination that is certain to squash your hat or break your duty-free liquor bottles. The more extreme sport of these stand-bys will make it work. The guy sauntering on with both his case of wine and of entitlement? His attempts might not end as well.
But everyone’s seated and here we go! Here we go. We’re not going. Why are those reflective vested people walking on and off the plane? Why is it 20 minutes past our departure time and we’re still sitting still? Ah, an announcement. It seems a light bulb is out. Well better safe than sorry (whatever the hell that means on a plane with over a hundred bulbs.) So we wait. And wait some more. An hour after departure time the mystery unfolds and a lesson is learned. Don’t ever have your light bulb go out during a maintenance worker shift change. The (it’s almost the end of my shift) worker refused to get the bulb and would not tell the (it’s the start of my shift) worker about the need for a bulb. One hour and fifteen minutes later, the bulb was replaced (at a cost we won’t even begin to imagine) and we’re on our way. So glamorous, so restorative.