Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

The first time I flew on an airplane, I was in the 12th grade– a mere child of 17. My middle brother had betrothed himself to an American gal from Bay Village, Ohio, and the wedding was to take place in the good ol’ USA. This wasn’t a royal scandal, and there were plenty of Canadian women to go around, but love knows no rules, so off to Ohio, we were going. You see, flight in my mind, was for the super-rich and wealthy. We were farm kids- feral, really. We led a simple life, and vacations were two weeks a year in a tent one pulled out of the trunk of the car and set up. A Coleman stove at the end of the dirty picnic table, and voila. Family vacation. In a couple of years we graduated to a camper and, even one year, an actual pull trailer. So an airplane that left the motherland of Canada at 17? This was more than I could ever imagine. 

I can’t say for sure that THAT was the trip that started my wanderlust, but I have been on many planes since and have loved every trip I have taken. However….the luxury of flight has altered a bit in recent years….. 

It’s no secret that the airline industry is, shall we say…struggling. I mean, with smaller pretzel bags to manage and sandwiches that are selling for millions, unclaimed baggage around the globe for resale, and ticket prices soaring as high as the planes themselves– clearly, an intervention is needed. I don’t know what has happened to flight and travel these past few years. I am old, and I remember eating food on an airplane, having those small bottles of wine, a blanket and a pillow was sometimes in the seats for comfort. Folks came on and kindly placed their small luggage overhead and we were off. Our bags were safely stowed underneath because people had one job out there and they did it. Yes, one would hear of the rogue plane that was delayed, or the odd luggage going to Winnipeg instead of Jamaica. But overall, travel was good. Really good. 

Now we pack an entire year’s worth of clothes into the bulging carry on– because let’s face it. We can’t actually trust that our underwear and our second bra is actually going to land with us. And it doesn’t even matter what airline one goes on. I can name a few, and they all rhyme with: Bearican, Mouthtwest, Smelta, and Q-united. I can count on all my fingers on my two hands of trips that I have taken, or attempts to bring my daughter to Texas in the last two years that have ended or started in disarray. Some disasters started in the security line. Shoes on, shoes off. Same day. Computer out, computer in. Carry on suitcase in the bucket and not in the bucket. Hard to keep up. And my favorite line is always “that’s the rules.” It wasn’t at the last airport 3.4 hours ago…..Same day two different airports.

To keep my sarcasm in focus, I shall share just the last three trips since April of this year. 

Houston in April. I was to land back at DFW at 8 pm, but arrived at 2:30 am. I am no math person, but I feel these times are not close. I also feel I could have hitchhiked home and returned to the DFW metroplex sooner than 2:30 in the morning. I was also stopped by a very nice police officer in Roanoke that night, because who knew I was the ONLY person on the highway driving at now 3:00 am at the cruising speed of 87. To her credit, she took pity on me and sent me on my way with a “warning”. I owe her. 

Canada in May. This “estimated” time of arrival was 11:00 pm, and I finally landed at 3:30 am. I spent a good chunk of time in Denver. Let me tell you, nothing is happening in Denver throughout the night but a lot of angry people. Again. Also, very, very close to 11:oo pm, but not really. Q-united does not reimburse for bereavement. So not only does one get to enjoy the comings and goings of the airport, but I had the privilege to pay handsomely for the change of ticket date. I think what is really great about the delays is the time one gets to examine their unexamined life in the airport while drinking wine that is 47 dollars a glass. And what I came up with is that my life would be better spent rich, and hire my own pilot and airplane and be done with public transportation. 

My most recent flight was to Sonoma at the end of August. Initially we were to leave at 12:20 pm, but we left sometime after 5:30. The great adventure of this flight is the no AC on the first plane we boarded. I later learned that AC is now an upgrade. Because after you sit at the gate for many hours, you definitely start boarding 127 people on a plane with no AC in Texas in August, because I guess we hadn’t paid for it. So we board, we leave the gate, we come back to the gate. The second engine wouldn’t start. I would say not flying that plane was a good call Captain Stubbing. 

Our flight attendant– let’s call her Jordan– actually she was Jordan– needed a day off. Or a change of careers. A life coach. A mint. Or perhaps a strong whiskey. She was not happy with any of us. I did muse at one point in my mind that Jordan would have made a terrible teacher. If she can’t handle adults strapped into seats that are facing the end of their lives due to the impending heat stroke they are about to have, she has no chance for teenagers in desks. What I can tell you is never open the window cover when you are sitting at the gate. That is a federal offense to Gen Z Jordan, and you shall find yourself on the Midnight Express to prison. Jordan made sure I knew this rule as she not only scolded me but gave me the most horrific scowl that even left me speechless. If I had balls, they would have sweated right off. No water was offered, and Jordan was not in the mood to save lives with H20. Close to dehydration and fainting, we complied with our eyes rolling back deep into our heads and seeing the pearly gates of heaven open up. We dared not to move. 

We get off said plane, our backs saturated with sweat, our inner thighs going squish squish as we waddle back to the airport, back to the pub for more wine, and try again on plane #2 several hours later. Guess who the flight attendant was? Yes. Jordan. Now, Jordan was on her last nerve on flight one, and flight two was more than this Gen Z girl could handle. Small miracles, we had AC–remember, I did request and put on my credit card for the upgrade. Just before Jordan timed out with all the flight crew, the baggage crew had to change shifts AND the first officer, or maybe the second– timed out– ya, right before all that happened– Jordan flipped her lid and threatened to yank us off the flight. Apparently flippant comments, also not allowed on board. Now, at this point, I was contemplating getting off that plane anyway. We were right over the wing, and I was just delirious enough to want to unlock the window and just crawl out and down the gangplank. I felt we had a better chance of driving to Sonoma. I wish –I WISH I was all making this up. I cannot even write fiction this good. 

Personally, if any airline CEO wanted my Type-A personality opinion on how to ensure customer satisfaction, I would start with this. Let everyone bring their own booze on board. Booze in copious amounts really does make people happier. It certainly does for me and my circle of friends. We think we are all hilarious. And if the bags are missing, or the flight delayed, who would care? We would be somewhat pickled, and all practical knowledge would have drifted away. 

So, what is the moral of this story? Well there isn’t one. There is only hope. We all live in hope that the airlines will get themselves sorted out. Thanksgiving is coming….as is Christmas. 

Colleen McCullough 

Owner of The Virginia May BnB at Eagle Mountain Lake

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