I had no idea that the quality of airline travel had taken such a dive.
Heh. Dive. Airline.
I had the dubious pleasure of flying inexpensively this summer: via American Airlines and American Eagle, the short-distance branch of AA. The factor that most affected my decision? Price. Continental, my usual choice of airline was asking twice as much as AA was for the same flight, same stops, same destination, so naturally I went cheap.
If only I knew what I was in for.
I've done this trip many times before, so I was used to having to pad around Security in my socks while my luggage is scrutinized by blank-faced women who looked to be retired Russian prison matrons. I'm accustomed to being crowbarred into seats that aren't fit for anyone over 5' 6" or 150 pounds. I'm even almost used to the monotonous drone of the safety warnings, and can find my two nearest exits in a variety of aircraft ranging from the Boeing 737-400 all the way down to the 1908 Spangler And Kotch "Spinning Jenny." I've learned that a swift, sharp blow of my forehead to a lowered seat-back tray stuns me deeply enough that a four-hour flight passes like minutes, and that most ground personnel will even be kind enough to lead me back to the proper concourse if I happen to wander out onto the jetway by accident.
I still dislike commercial airline travel.
What happened to the glory days of travel, when one wore their finery and received a high level of treatment? What happened to elegant zeppelins, their ballrooms filled with champagne-drinking couples waltzing to Strauss played by a ten piece orchestra? What happened to relaxed, unhurried paces?
Yeah, I know. iPods ate all that.
So my trip was spent as it usually is--dozing, in between people watching, trying to avoid the more grotesque specimens, the ones in sweat pants and straining t-shirts with clever sayings like "I've Got All My Teeth!" and "My Other Wife Has A Boat" and "TSA."
The flights. Gah. "Cheap" doesn't begin to describe it. I knew there'd be no in-flight movie. I knew there'd be no recorded music which I could listen to with a pair of headphones plugged into the armrest. I'd even been warned already by my reservation paperwork that a meal "would not be served" on my longest flight, but would "be available for purchase." Wow. Not only are you going to serve me soggy turkey-flavored cardboard wrapped in wax paper with mayo and a tiny plastic tumbler of the soda of your choice but now I've got to PAY for the privilege of eating crap on your plane? Nice. Five bucks for a plastic-bagged sandwich, three for a foil bag containing four greasy potatoe chips and another five if I wanted a bag to puke it all back into. They did tell me that the only thing I'd get for free would be a cup of warm tap water and a nasty look from the air steward, which I also avoided.
And this gem is a must-share: I didn't stay in Oregon much longer than necessary to get a hotel room and sleep, the finances not allowing a trip to the coast, and naturally said finances kept me from staying in a more posh location. No, it was a Day's Inn for me, and yet another cruel shock from the Land Of The Burnt Out Hippy: no bras.
Is there some law in the books that prevents women in Oregon from wearing bras? I stepped into the lobby, walked up to the counter to check in, and was faced with a rather sizeable Scandinavian woman clad head to toe in a black dress. Now ordinarily this wouldn't be a big deal but the neckline had a V-cut so low I could see that she had a Scandinavian biker motto tattooed around her navel (it was "Bjorn To Be Wild," if you're curious. I certainly wasn't.) And naturally being a big healthy corn-fed girl, she was big on top. Now, when I say "big on top" I'm not kidding, people. Her cleavage was so expansive that I had to seriously fight the urge to yell "Halloo" at it to see how many times it would echo. I was afraid to make any loud noises for fear of startling out a huge cloud of bats. I had to spend the entire check-in process staring determinedly at this lady's face because if my gaze wandered any lower I suffered the most horrendous vertigo.
It was that bad. To make matters worse, she wasn't even vaguely pretty. Life is so unfair.
Kay. I've got to pack my arse off to work. More Thrilling Tales of Airline Terror to come, including my sordid story about interacting with the TSA.