May 27, 2010

The Traveling Jack Show- I Hate Flying

Flying reminds me a bit of hanging out with an old girlfriend. There are moments where I stare at you and wonder why we ever broke up. You're beautiful. You're sexy and you're a lot of fun. We start to talk and the conversation just flows.

For a while I start to wonder why we broke up. Maybe it wasn't you, maybe it was me. But gradually I find evidence of the things that I didn't like and the shine starts to fade a bit. When you laugh you snort. When we were going out I thought that it was cute, but at the end it made me crazy.

I notice a few other details that irritate me and slowly I remember why it is that we don't see each other anymore.

That sort of describes my feelings about flying. There was a time when I loved it. It used to be special and exciting. It was an experience that I look forward to, but not anymore. Now it is a task.

Next month Traveling Jack hits the road again. Got places to go and people to see. And it means that I am stuck flying again, an experience that I just don't like anymore. It is really too bad, because I used to really enjoy it. There was something magical about it. I stepped onto the plane in one city and a short time later I'd find myself walking in some exotic city with different sights, sounds and smells than I was used to.

I loved that. Loved going somewhere new and experiencing new things. I suppose that hasn't really changed, it is just the process of getting there and it is a process. Cramped seats, fees for luggage, food and strict rules about carry-on luggage are all part of it.

That doesn't take into account the long lines at security and the prep work that is required to go through it. At the airport I empty my pockets into ziplock bags that I stuff into my backpack. I try to wear shoes that are easy to take on and off. My laptop is carefully pulled out of its case and gently placed into a bin so that the TSA can verify that it is an ordinary computer.

Sometimes the line doesn't move quickly and I find that upon clearing it I have to make a mad dash for the gate. It doesn't matter that I got the airport two hours before my flight was supposed to take off. I am late and that damn plane isn't going to wait.

So I make like OJ in one of those old Hertz commercials and I fly down the terminal and race onto the plane. Fight my way down the aisle to my seat and discover that all of the overhead bins are filled. A flight attendant takes my bag and stows it. I sit down, secure my seat belt and remember that I have to use the bathroom...desperately.

I would have used it before I stepped on board but security tripped me up. Now I am on board and I have to be careful. Thanks to past events and current security standards I can't race down the aisle to the bathroom or I risk creating a problem. It is too close to take off and I don't want to argue with the flight attendant because it doesn't take much for them to flag me as being problematic. That kind of scarlet letter leads to all sorts of time spent talking with people I don't really want to see.

It is not because I have anything to hide, I don't. But it is just a major hassle and who knows, there could be some sort of fine involved. Flying is expensive, no need to add more costs to it.

So I'll sit in my seat and squirm. I'll sit and hope that the plane isn't delayed and that I won't be prevented from hitting the head by beverage service. Good old beverage service one of the few things that they don't charge for, but they will. Because it is just a matter of time before they tell us that it costs an additional $25 bucks to breathe the recycled air we all share.

And while I squirm in my seat and hope that my dysfunctional digestive system cooperates I'll hope that I am not placed next to screaming children, men who are 6'5 or larger and the lady who can't stop talking about things that I don't care about.

It makes me grouchy all this worrying. So I try to get it out of my system by writing about it, sharing my weakness with you. I'll admit that I make a point of checking out the other passengers because though I really don't worry about terrorism I won't sit idly by. I can assure you that if I encounter someone hinky I am not afraid to do something about it. Or maybe it is because I am afraid that I am willing to.

What does it say about me that I have decided that I won't think twice about pummeling someone who jeopardizes the safety and well being of those on the flight. Blame some of it on an overactive imagination. Some of the anger can be attributed to airlines who let their planes be used as missiles, received billions of dollars from the taxpayers and still charge us more while providing less.

All I want to do is sit down, take out my laptop or iPod and zone out. If there is WiFi I'll surf the net and try to regale you with tales of the trip from 30,000 feet above. Or I'll listen to my music and ask Ray Charles and company to help me relax.

And let's not forget that I am not on the same flight as the kids and their mother. Memories of a different flight stick with me. A flight that made an emergency landing because of engine trouble. A flight that  wasn't on, but my ten month old son was.

It all worked out, the ten month old boy is almost ten years old now, but the experience stuck with me. Primarily because my family was at risk and I couldn't do anything about it. As a man that is galling in ways that I can't explain other than to say that it is sort of a primal thing. Part of my job is to protect my family and I wasn't there.

But though I remember that day I don't really think of it often. It all worked out and I really am good about not focusing on things that I can't control. I know, the blog makes it appear otherwise, but...

Really, the biggest issue for me is anticipation. I feeling like I have the sword of Damocles over my head. I hate waiting. I am much better at dealing with things head on.

Anyhoo, I am excited about the other pieces of the trip. Looking forward to spending time with family. Got a niece and nephews to play with and more. And if things work out the way I hope, a post about my time at Cooperstown. Yes, I am going to try and hit the Baseball Hall of Fame.

And now if you'll excuse me I need to pack for something else.

Other Posts about Flying

I don't Like Flying Anymore
Cruising At 34,000 Feet
Deciphering Frequent Flier Programs
All My Bags Are Packed
Airplane Trouble? Kill a Goat
Flying The Unfriendly Skies
Crying Child Forces Family From Plane
The Land of Lost Luggage
Airlines Continue To Rob The Public
The Joys of Flying Commercial Airlines 
What If The Plane Crashes
Traveling Jack's Plane Made It 


Alan Kercinik said...

I hear you about the state of air travel. It's basically devolved to bus service, which is too bad, because they're nothing better than spending two hours and ending some place new.

Have a good trip and tweet out some pix from Cooperstown. If one can include Ryne Sandburg's plaque, well, I'd think that was cool.

Keith Wilcox said...

If I can avoid flying, I do. All for the same reasons you just mentioned. Long lines, stupid rules, fat, smelly, incontinent people, etc... . It used to be fun. I remember we'd fly cross country when I was a kid and having a good ol' time in the airports and never waiting in lines. No longer I guess. Alan is right. It's nothing more than overly complicated bus service these days. Not worth it.

The JackB said...

I remember being 16 and flying from New York to Israel. The flight was packed full of teenagers around my age. I thought that it was great. I remember being in my 20s and still enjoying it. Somewhere around 9/11 it changed, but I am fairly certain it changed before that. Certainly since.

It is worse than bus service because on a bus I have no expectations. This freaking tin can is something else.

I'll see what I can do about Sandburg, maybe snap a pick of Ernie Banks too.

The JackB said...

It has become an experience to be endured and not enjoyed. that is just not right. If I had a reasonable alternative I would take it.

New York Dad said...

Oy vey! Don't get me started... I travel the NYC-DC route very often and I thought I would never say this, but Amtrak is a God send. There, I said it.

The JackB said...

I thought about AMTRAK. Really considered it but I just don't have the time.