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Flying The Friendly Skies

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Despite an airstrike in Syria, investigations into the Trump campaign’s possible (?) ties to Russia, and all the palace intrigue in the White House, the most animated conversations this week have been around the removal of Dr. David Dao from that United flight out of Chicago.

Even in the height of the presidential campaign last year, my Facebook feed has never seen so many different streams with so much activity. Why on earth did this particular story resonate with so many people?

Let’s put this in context.

The days when flying had an aura of glamor to it are long gone. These days, the glamor quotient starts going down when you’re asked to pay an additional fee for a seat with a few precious inches of additional legroom. Maybe enough, barely, that you can cross those showgirl gams instead of having them shoved under your chin for three hours. It drops further if you have to pay an additional charge to check your luggage.

At the security checkpoint, everyone will be taken down by at least one peg. Even with priority treatment of some passengers (which mostly means you don’t have to wait so long to get searched), we all go through some combination of removing coats, shoes and belts, followed by placing our possessions in those horrid tubs so that they can be X-rayed at the same time we are.

Going into the little wraparound X-ray machine, we assume the posture of someone frozen in mid jumping jack, legs spread and arms up…as vulnerable a position as I would ever want to be forced to take in public.

Oh, but it can get worse. For those of us who can’t go through metal detectors or who somehow fail the X-ray test, there’s that little piece of heaven known as the pat-down.

For me, it invariably involves a somewhat uncomfortable TSA employee asking me whether I would prefer to have the pat-down done by a man or a woman. (This is a strange option afforded only to the most privileged of passengers.) My reply is invariably, “Next available.” It is most thoughtful to ask by which gender I would prefer to be sexually assaulted—and it would be sexual assault, in any other context. And then a follow-up question to determine whether or not I’d like to go to a more private location for my pat-down. I say, “No,” while thinking, “If I’m to be sexually assaulted, it should be done in full view of the public.”

After putting on our shoes, coats and whatever else had to be taken off, we may now proceed to our gate. There, we might be judged by our fellow passengers as “gate lice” if we move too soon to board the plane. (We are a compassionate people, aren’t we?)

Personally, I wonder how many of the people doing the judging are the same people who refused to pay the extra charge to check their bag and, as a result, are very concerned about boarding priorities as they determine who has first crack at the valued overhead bins. My solution is to check your bag, and get a tote that’s big enough to hold a smaller shoulder bag, a wallet, two pairs of glasses, a cellphone, a cosmetics bag with make-up, a second cosmetics bag with brushes and sponges, a book, two hair brushes, a comb and a travel box of jewelry. I can shove that baby under the seat and let everyone else fight over the overhead space.

Having run the gauntlet, I can now take my seat. And would $800 induce me to give it up? Maybe, maybe not. Since there weren’t enough takers of that offer on the United flight, it seems $800 isn’t what it used to be—certainly not enough to buy our convenience. Even from those who won’t pay 25 bucks to check their bags. Go figure.

I’ve missed a connecting flight because our departure was delayed waiting for a flight crew to arrive, and then denied boarding on our connecting flight—with the plane in my view at the gate while I was told that the airline had given my seat to someone else. Nothing could be done because “they’ve already been boarded.” And here I was thinking you couldn’t drag a paying passenger off a plane. Silly me.

Anyone who has ever been kept waiting in a rope line at a popular nightclub knows there is a big difference between a doorman not letting you in, and a bouncer throwing you out. The former is an inconvenience, the latter is an affront.

Thanks to the very informative discussions on the subject in social media, I now know more than I did before about the subject of flying by commercial airline. And I’m not really surprised that the airlines have created a legal basis to support doing what they do to their customers. And the unpleasantness of commercial airline travel isn’t exclusively caused by the corporations who are the players in this particular oligopoly. But that’s as big a pass as they are going to get from me.

So I will stop referring to commercial airplanes as Greyhound air buses and will only refer to them as the cattle cars in the friendly skies.

Moo.

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Well, Let Me Say This About That is an interesting twist on current events, as told by Dallas' finest and funniest Craig McCartney.

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