by Bob Sparrow
- “I wish we could go through security on our way out of the airport too”
- “I didn’t realize how comfortable those middle seats were”
- “I just never seem to get tired of sitting on the tarmac”
- “I wish that guy in the seat in front of me could tilt his chair back a little further”
- “Yum, I’ve got to get this recipe”
Most of the time I write about the destination, but this week it’s about getting there. I’ve done a fair amount of air travel, both business and pleasure and I must confess that I’ve probably not uttered any of the above phrases. But there is one thing that I utter after every flight – read on to find out.
The truth is after 2,000,000-plus miles in the not-always-friendly skies, I still think air travel is amazing. It still blows my mind to think that I can get on an airplane in California, sit in a chair traveling 600 miles an hour 35,000 feet above the ground, eat, drink, sleep, completely ignore a person sitting inches from me and within a few hours I can be in Connecticut. I actually flew to Connecticut a couple of weeks ago attending a sorority meeting . . . don’t ask, I’m still trying to explain it to my wife. Anyway, I may be fairly alone on this one, but I think airlines get a bad rap.
I’m always amused by self-important business executives whose flight has been delayed and they are demanding some answers. These are the same people who haven’t started one of their own meetings on time – ever. The reality is that as a society our punctuality bar has drifted fairly low and actually I think the airlines do a better job than most at being on time.
Admittedly, I love to travel, so I don’t see airplanes and airports a necessary evils – I see them as parts of the process – it’s probably that ‘life’s a journey not a destination’ thing that helps explains my lack of disdain for the airline industry. Yes, I know you’ve read stories about passengers being held on tarmacs for hours without peanuts or vodka, or someone being violated during a pat down, but the reason you’re reading about them is that they are news – they are very rare occasions given the fact that there are somewhere between 85,000 – 90,000 flights in the world PER DAY!
I actually enjoy being in an airport, because if I’m in an airport it means I’m going somewhere, and I love to go somewhere; with the possible exceptions of the dentist and back to Home Depot for the fourth time to get the part that actually fits. Most airports today are full-service – you can get a haircut, practice your golf swing, and a ‘friend of mine’ told me that you can even get a massage with a happy . . . meal. I’ve even heard of people who, if they have a few hours between flights and there is an International terminal, will go there just to eat something foreign and to listen to different foreign languages – OK, that was me on my last trip.
Of course when I was traveling a lot and was up-graded to first class most of the time that chair was a Bark-A-Lounger with a personal valet, but I ride in ‘steerage’ now and still enjoy the ride. I always get a window seat because:
- I love the view – I’ve seen great aerial shots of Yosemite, the Rockies, the Mississippi River, the Alps, the Grand Canyon, the Everglades, the Statue of Liberty, even the North Pole.
- I have a good bladder and don’t typically need to get up during a cross-country flight and sitting in the window seat keeps me from getting up for those with a bladder that is not as flight-friendly as mine.
- I can lean up against, sleep or drool on the window instead of the person next to me.
- My knees and elbows are still healing from the beverage carts that have banged into me when I used to sit in an aisle seat.
Additionally, I know when I’m in my seat, I will not get a phone call, I will not be asked to take out the garbage or fix that leaky sink – in short, I will not be bothered. And instead of those dogged eared Sky Malls to leaf through and magazines where the crossword puzzle is already partly done (incorrectly), today we have ‘Apple gadgets’. I don’t need to carry books or magazines with me, just my iPad, and of course, I have my computer for . . . computing, but the most important electronic accoutrement I carry is my iPod. Not just because it affords me a rare opportunity to just sit and listen to some of the 12,000 songs on it, but it allows me ignore my neighbor. I know that doesn’t sound very . . .well, neighborly, but I’m sure you’ve all experienced the person who sits next to you and says, “How you doing?” and before you could answer they’re telling you how they’re doing, where they’ve been, where they’re going and who’s supposed to meet them when we land. So when I sit down I put in my iPod earplug my neighbor assumes I’m busy – sometimes the iPod isn’t even on.
So, what do I always say after a flight? As I pass the cockpit on my way out . . . I always say “Thank you”. Because if I’m saying thank you it means that my perfect record of number of landings equaling the number of take offs is still intact, and I have the pilot to thank for that. I’ll admit that flying isn’t always peaches and peanuts, but even if I’ve had a bad experience I’m still amazed by that chair that goes 600 miles per hour 35,000 feet above the earth.