Episode 195– Traveling by Plane
Here I sit at 39,000 feet and feeling miserable. My eyes burn; my butt is numb. Is there a secret to flying that I haven’t figured out? We retired folks can recall when flying was a luxury. We would put on some very nice clothes, look forward with excitement to the trip, and marvel at air power. Western Airlines was flying out of Alaska in the 1970s. They offered a triangle flight out of Anchorage that went to Seattle, San Francisco, or Los Angeles. For another ten dollars you could book a return flight through Hawaii: ten dollars. Of course, you could stop as long as you wanted in Hawaii. They also served food(a choice from three entrées) on real plates, and it was an entire meal; including fresh bread, salad, and desert. They used real glasses, and filled them with complimentary wine or champagne. And even more important the seats were large enough and there was room for your legs and your overhead bag.
This is Retirement Talk. I’m Del Lowery.
My how times have changed: today I am crowded on a plane that was over-booked. There is no leg room. The seats are so narrow that everyone walking down the aisle bumps into my shoulders – and my friends think of me as skinny. For food, I am offered a tiny bag of pretzels. I can buy something that they refer to as a sandwich if I have a credit card. My grandchildren just arrived from Alaska a few weeks ago. They didn’t have a credit card. All they had was cash. It wasn’t accepted on board the flight. They had nothing to eat. There are just kids. The airlines don’t discriminate. They will treat anyone badly.
And of course we need to pay extra if we wish to bring a suit case with us. The rate can vary according to airlines. If I want to extend my flight in any way, shape or form, I first need to pay them anywhere from one hundred dollars to two hundred fifty dollars just for the privilege of changing the ticket. Then I will need to pay the extra fair.
Of course, on top of all of that other stuff, I am practically strip searched at the gate. Off come the shoes, empty my pockets, take off my belt, take off my hat, turn all of my belongings over to an x-ray machine and stand under the glare of several armed security people: people who are big enough to enforce most laws and yet to my aging eyes appear young enough to still be in school. Now they have taken it one step further with full body scans. A friend of mine just flew in and related her story of escaping the full body scan. She just had new knees put in. That sets off metal detectors so she was directed to a glass walled room and given a full pat down by hand. What a treat. Of course she is a grandmother of 70 years of age. I suppose she fits the profile of a terrorist?
I recall a flight to Anchorage for a Christmas holiday where Brenda and I both contracted the flu bug. We spent our entire two week trip with high fevers, throwing up, and laying in a darkened room - oh what fun! And my grandchildren; when they returned home from their recent visit also became sick; as did their dad. It all seems suspicious to me.
Now a book entitled “Heat” by George Mombiot tells me that flying is one of the most environmentally damaging things we can do. Airplanes are doing incredible damage to the atmosphere. It takes more energy to fly from one place to the other than any other form of transportation – by far. He claims these love trips to see grandchildren have to stop, environmental tourism is an oxymoron – you do environmental damage just by the act of traveling. You don’t help the environment; you damage it – in a big way. No we don’t hear much about this in the press. No one wants to hear it. The airlines certainly don’t want to loose customers and money. And most of us don’t want to give up pleasure trips. We rationalize. It reminds me of the ill effects of smoking and the press. The studies were in and the damage was well verified but there was little admission or concern by most of us. There was money to be made and a lot of people liked to smoke.
I know; I don’t have to go. I don’t have to fly. I can just sit at home and play my guitar, drink coffee at the local coffee shop, and exercise in my own neighborhood. (It sounds very good to me at the moment.) But we always find reasons. We don’t want to admit, that for us, the time for exotic travel may be a thing of the past.
I wrote the following few lines in a beautiful condo just south of Puerto Vallarta – Conches Chinas. The water smashes against the sand and rocky beaches below. The blue water and sky can be seen running together endlessly out our walls of windows. Pelicans fly over-head. The condo is all white with high ceilings. Lazy fans run in every room; earth red tile cover the floors. Mexican music plays on the stereo – not loud enough to drown out the crashing surf. Twelve straight hours of sleep has restored energy to my body and I am so glad we came. What a marvel air travel is! That was four years ago.
My wife is starting to hesitate longer and longer between suggesting trips. It just doesn’t seem like it is worth it any more. She knows there will be resistance.
This is Retirement Talk. I’m Del Lowery.