Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Thoughts on air travel. What kind of flier are you?

My third book in the Randi Sterling Mystery Series, titled WOLF, opens with a scene in an airplane. As I was writing, I got to thinking about flying. I've always loved airports and find it fascinating to watch the planes take off and land. I could spend an entire day with my nose plastered to the window. I wonder where all the people have come from and where they are going. What adventures await them?

Unfortunately, I can't be standing at the terminal window unless I'm holding a boarding pass, photo ID and have been through security. To add insult to injury, if there's not a full-body scanner I get flagged for secondary and a full-body pat down because I have more metal on in me than my plumber's tool belt.

I miss the days pre-9/11 when you could come out of the airbridge straight into the arms of your loved one. Now, when you de-board the plane you come face-to-face with a sea of heads who can't wait for you to get off so they can get on. It's not the same having to wait to fall into the embrace of a family member or long-lost friend down at baggage claim. Feels like something's missing.

When my sister and I were little and flew from California to South Carolina to visit our grandparents, it was a HUGE deal. My mother put us in our finest dresses with patent leather shoes and we were to be on our best behavior or else

Going on an airplane was a rare and special, not to mention expensive, treat. According to Patrick Smith in his book, "Cockpit Confidential:  Everything You Need to Know About Air Travel:  Questions, Answers, and Reflections," in 1970 it cost the equivalent of $2,700 to fly from New York to Hawaii. He also says today you can buy a first class or business ticket for less than it cost FIFTY years ago. Where else are you going to find that kind of deal?

But back then flying was a luxury. Remember meals on planes complete with trays and choices? Blankets? Pillows? Slippers? Headphones?

Now we all get to smell some guy's stinky feet because he's wearing flip-flops. We're lucky if the flight attendants throw us some peanuts.

In my twenties I was a fearless flier, then when my daughter was a baby I was convinced that every time I got on a plane it was going to plummet to the ground, leaving her to grow up without her mother. Now that the kids are grown, my view has transitioned to one of cautious optimism. What's the statistic? 30,000 or so people in the air at all times? Much safer than driving to the airport, I know. Still, each time those wheels touch down I breathe a sigh of relief.

How do you feel when you walk on board the flying can? Do you have to pop a Xanax? Are you like my friend who starts his flights with vodka and Ambien? (True story.) Or do you resemble my Uncle Randy, who naturally falls asleep before take off and wakes when the plane is taxiing to the gate?

Please feel free to leave a comment and let me know what kind of flier you are. Do you long for the good ol' days of air travel or do you think less is more? I'm curious and I'd love to hear from you!

P.S. My favorite airline. Peanuts AND Cheese Nips. And bags fly free :-)