I have had many ups and downs when it comes to flying – both literally and figuratively. I recently had a few experiences with the airlines that were somewhat unusual, and I’d like to share them with you.
It seems there are no longer direct flights to New York from my little corner of the South. Lately, I’ve been taking the early-morning flight on an airborne sardine can to Charlotte, where I then transfer to a somewhat larger tin can to get to New York. This time, I flew a little later in the morning, so I went through Washington DC instead. This meant boarding a plane that actually had more seats than a bus. It was a nice change of pace.
We boarded on time, and since I had a little over an hour between flights, I was hopeful I might actually make the connecting flight, since that’s always a crap shoot. We waited on the tarmac for awhile after boarding, without any sign of motion on the part of the plane. And we waited. Finally, one of the flight attendants got on the PA. She announced that one of the seats was broken. She informed us that this was a full flight. She then morphed from friendly flight attendant to angry schoolmarm (I think she might have even wagged her finger at us), and warned us that if someone didn’t volunteer to get off the plane, we would just sit on the ground until someone did volunteer. I felt like I was back in 2nd grade. Of course, whoever did offer to get off the plane would be compensated and rewarded, and receive the eternal gratitude of everyone else on the plane. I considered it, and if I didn’t have to make a connecting flight, I might have done so. But taking non-direct flights are very tricky, and I needed to get to New York.
Everyone just sat, looking hopefully around the plane, praying that someone who had nothing else to do would volunteer and let us leave already. Finally, a hero arose. He was sitting toward the front of the plane and, in what could have been slow motion, stood up, talked to the flight attendants for a few minutes, and then jauntily exited the plane. We all heartily applauded our thanks, then breathed a collective sigh of relief when the doors finally closed and we rolled down the runway. The flight attendant glared at us as if we were all a bunch of naughty children.
My question is, why was this our problem? Aren’t we the ones paying them hundreds of dollars to get us from one place to another in the least uncomfortable way possible, which would include intact seats? Why were we scolded and intimidated by a flight attendant for something that was clearly the airline’s problem? But that’s just one more thing being par for the course when it comes to making flying as not-fun as possible these days.
I did have one actual fun experience, however, while waiting to board the flight from DC to New York. As I was waiting for my zone to be called, I turned and there was Senator Chuck Schumer standing next to me! At first, I didn’t want to bother him, but after one of the airport workers tried to usher him to First Class, and Senator Schumer told him he was flying Coach, I smiled and began chatting with him. What do you say to a Senator whom you greatly admire without sounding like a blithering idiot? I don’t remember everything I said, but I am fairly certain I was speaking English. And Senator Schumer smiled at me, asked me questions, and didn’t have me escorted from the airport, so all in all, I think I did OK.
No such excitement for the trip home. While I was in the airport waiting for the flight from DC back to South Carolina, I found a seat where I could relax away from all the hubbub. A man sat down two seats away from me. To my left, were about 20 empty seats. Within minutes, the rest of his very energetic, young family came bounding over. They all crowded around him and the one empty seat to his left. They kept glancing at me like I should get the hint and get up and not intrude on their family fun. Finally, his young son who was very cute and very active, started jumping up and down, and his foot landed right on top of my foot. None of the adults seemed to notice, even when I grimaced and said, “Ouch.”
So I caved, and got up, semi-certain that the foot contact incident had been carefully orchestrated in order to get me to move. I was hungry anyway, so I made my way over to the vendors who can legally sell you a bottle of water for $4 and a small bag of popcorn for $6. And then I found another seat. Where I could sit quietly and pray that my next flight would leave on time and wouldn’t have any broken seats.
Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved