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The Fundamental Things To Fly

When Rick tells Ilsa that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world and that she must get on that plane the audience holds its collective breath. Will she stay in Casablanca or join her husband to fight the good fight? It’s a suspenseful few moments; this romantic struggle. To this day, my stomach clenches with anxiety; will she really get on that tiny prop plane during such a thick fog? For me any follow-up film wouldn’t answer romantic questions but instead whether Victor, Ilsa and the pilot got there in one piece.

Ordinarily travel in film was depicted (and often actually was) kind of glamorous. There was a (relatively) brief period of time during which air travel was regularly available and pricey. People dressed, not to teach yoga, but to travel. There was such a thing as ‘travel outfits’ that did not include a u-shaped pillow (presumably for the neck but identical to a hemorrhoid pillow.) We can all agree those days are over. But what has taken its place? Slowly but surely you can (or will be able to) buy or finagle your way into civility. There are ways to avoid the TSA hall of mirrors screening. Cavity searches and arbitrary confiscations can be bypassed with elite registration. You needn’t wait at the gate/Ellis Island Great Hall if you pay for V.I.P. status with an airline. You can eat cubed cheese behind closed doors, for a price. Passengers can pre-board as V.I.P.s as well. Pre-board? Why would anyone care to sit in a can longer than necessary? Well, claiming space in an overhead bins is a sweet (and at times elusive) victory. Airlines now charge passengers for the opportunity to have one’s luggage damaged, stolen or lost. Those bins fill up fast and with items you wouldn’t think could fit through the aircraft door let alone a bin.

So if you’ve paid your additional memberships and registered accordingly, you have gotten onto the airplane in a civilized manner. You’ve still carried your bag like a sherpa and purchased your own magazines, newspapers and meals. But you haven’t stood on endless lines or worse, in large unwieldy clusters. You’ve not been checked for scurvy or glaucoma or had your name changed. No, you and your burlap sack of boiled potatoes and sausage are seated comfortably with your worldly possessions within eyeshot. You are seated comfortably, aren’t you? Okay forget about your legs for a moment; you’re okay right? What’s that? You’ve no sensation in your shins? No, I’m sorry those seats (with extra legroom) in the emergency row cost extra. That’s right you get to pay for the privilege of agreeing to assist 150 people out of a crashed airplane. Now just sit back and try to relax. Here, have some recycled air. Your air blower doesn’t work? Let me see if I can flag an attendant to help you. Hmm, all I seem to see is people wearing jeans and bright pink tops. There seems to be a woman in an electric pink housedress maybe she can help. It would appear that this Delta flight is not only cross-listed with Alaska Air, KLM, Bob’s Plane, but with Barbie Air as well. (*Note-flights are now cross-listed like college courses. Don’t ask why; don’t even think too much about it, just check and re-check which terminal has your plane.) Wait it seems it’s not Barbie Air. No, it’s a charity campaign. Yep! If you act now not only do you enjoy the posh pleasures of flying in a can, providing your own meals, entertainment, and blankie, you have the opportunity to donate to the charity of your airline’s choice!

No doubt the airline is looking for some good will. You know what might create some good will? Have the attendants wear uniforms. Don’t have the pilot stand in his shirt sleeves (and white plastic sunglasses) showing the attendants photos of his wild antics last night as passengers are boarding. Be on time and be nice. Stop making the seats smaller and closer together. In fact; stop making the seats. There should be two classes; first class (for which a ticket is never less than $5,000 each way) and upright. Yes, upright. Just straps us in like parachuters. You could fit a lot more people in that way and eliminate the need for any bathrooms! Flying is already like riding the subway in so many other ways; I say take that last brave step for mankind. Nothing will create goodwill faster than just getting me there in one piece after such a harrowing experience. I’m willing to wager that Ilsa and the pilot of that prop plane are probably the ones that lived happily ever after.

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Posted by on October 17, 2012 in Travel

 

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Flying Solo

 

 

 

If you’ve been out in public during the past ten years you may have noticed that there are few “adult” domains dotting our landscape. I don’t refer to the “Live” “Nude” Times Square of decades past. I refer instead to any and everywhere. The stroller set has infiltrated your local coffee shop and bar (hey after a long day playing in a sanitized million dollar soft-edged heat-proof playground, you’d need a stiff drink too.) Restaurants whose white tablecloths and staggering bills once signaled and adult oasis, now have nuggets of processed foods on the menu (because after all small children do enjoy fine dining they just don’t enjoy actual food.) No doubt much of the free-range high pitched squealing you experience (in restaurants, bars or Holocaust memorial museums) is mostly due to a parent not wanting to deny themselves anything of their pre-parenting life. It would seem that some people skipped the “What to EXPECT when you’re expecting” chapter. Life should continue unaltered save for many more accessories.

But what of the scenario in which the presence of one’s own child ruins the experience of the parent. Clearly ruining other people’s experience is a great motivator, but what if your own child negates your pleasure. No, we’re not venturing into “family bed” territory. Instead we’re looking at high-end travel. Not private plane, private island, private ecosystem travel. Just ordinary 5-star travel. Why would a person choose to fly first-class with a child younger than school age? If we assume both are healthy and that the child(ren) are not actual owners of the airline; what in the world would compel an adult to fly first-class with a small, squealing, squirming child? It can’t be the free food, children don’t seem to eat real food. (Oh for the love of all decency, don’t tell me they now serve nuggets in first-class!) It’s almost certainly not the free booze, although it could be that warm wet towel. The parent’s experience could not be improved by being in first class. Unless the flight attendants actually relieve the parent of the child, how is the parent enjoying the benefits of first-class? Is it merely the mustache twirling delight in having ruined everyone else’s first-class experience? Doubtful.

Once the aircraft has taxied to the gate and the fasten seat belt sign has been turned off, where are the little tykes staying? Are they off to visit relatives or perhaps moving into their new home? No, they’re off to the 5-star hotel/resort with zero child-centric amenities. Their parents will play running, screaming games of hide and seek in the plush penthouse level hallway at 10:30 PM. These adults will encourage the practicing of door slamming (“good boy!”) throughout the early morning hours. And we are left wondering why. Why would anyone choose to spend so much money to not enjoy the quiet, the plushness, the afternoon tea, the romance and the restorative nature of a very posh hotel? Why in an area dotted with chain hotels and motels catering to children and their nugget ways would anyone think that children should be in a place created for the pleasure of adults? Is it merely an extension of the ‘not being denied’ anything of one’s pre-parenting days? Does it matter not a whit that you spent the money and didn’t actually have the experience for which you paid? Is it an insistence of not lowering one’s standards just because one has decided to parent? (Note: Entitlement isn’t really a standard; it’s more of a pervasive and toxic behavior.) Could it be something even slightly more disturbing? Could it be that the child/infant is an adult security blanket? The world and/or social gatherings are far less daunting when you can dress up a little person and spend the day deflecting. That motivation would certainly explain the appearance of children/babies at funerals and weddings. “Pay no attention to the adult behind the baby!” It’s enough to make a person miss the security blankets that were smoking and sedatives.

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2012 in Childhood, Travel

 

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