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Saying Goodbye To The Glamorous Days of Airline Travel
Can we all say "Moo" as we are herded onto the silver metal tube...
Whatever happened to the days when airline travel was considered to be glamorous? When the very idea of airline travel brought to mind sunshine soaked, sparkling white sand beaches and the crystal clear blue water found in an exotic destination? Or softly swaying palm trees, rhythmically waving in a soft island breeze? Or even a snowy, white, gorgeous mountain just waiting to be skied?
And the EXPERIENCE of flying... ahhh, you would get dressed up in your Sunday best, with men looking dapper and women looking so pretty all dressed up, what happened? Children were well behaved, and dressed in their little patent leather shoes...
Flying seemed to be more of an exclusive thing years ago, and maybe that was part of the attraction and charisma of it. The well to do usually flew, or college students who were off to see the world before settling down, or even the wealthy retired couple. The days of business and leisure were more black and white. Today, you can hardly tell the working traveler apart from the casual traveler.
Bringing any kind of glamor back to air travel today is pretty much impossible, because I believe that "glamor" was always just a state of mind, a belief that air travel was really something special back in the air age. It was even an experience to be treasured. Being able to go up into the air was somehow magical and mysterious, a wonder to behold.
Today, it seems to be more of an experience of continuous hassles accompanied by bouts of boredom, laced with a feeling of being merely a participant in mass transit in the air. Most of this illusion of glamor became shattered when more and more people began to fly.,
Back in the 1940's, approximately 3 million people flew. By 1950, that number had increased to 17 million, and by 2008, the number was up to about 650 million. Today the number is closer to 769 million passengers.
This, coupled with the recent crimes in the air, airplanes being hijacked and used as terrorist weapons, has made air travel a much less desirable mode of transportation. More and more people seem to use airline travel only if they are going a long distance and they need to save time rather than choosing to fly because it is a special thing. This feeling of being so accustomed to flying on planes has destroyed any aura of glamor.
Now getting to the airport can almost be a traumatic experience, then once you are there, you are waiting in a long line to go through security which can be a crazy, almost surreal experience. Alright, Grandma, give up the toothpaste, we know you might use it for evil purposes.
Once you DO make it through security, you are practically locked down in the terminal until your flight prepares to leave. You get your choice of an $18 hamburger or a greasy piece of $16 pizza. Yumm. You get whiffs of greasy fast food, sweaty perspiring passengers who are in an excited rage for various reasons, and you are all trapped in this little area... together... in this waiting area, more or less in a holding pattern until the time arrives for the cattle call... umm... the boarding call.
Boarding the aircraft is an adventure unto itself. If you are lucky enough to be one of the first passengers aboard, you will be knocked and bumped by various suitcases, and "how in the world does that even PASS for a suitcase?" Along with almost being sat upon by people tripping down the aisles, and opening up the upper luggage compartments, dodging falling contents. Kind of like trying to cram as many college students along with their baggage into a Volkswagen bug as we can. It's like a bizarre science experiment gone very wrong.
Once you are finally seated (will that lady EVER stop SNIFFLING???) ... ahh, you begin to get comfortable seated between a guy the size of a brontosaurus and a lady with shrieking triplets. Oh yeah, this is going to be fun! Wow, what amazing sets of lungs those little ones have.
So much for soft, roomy leather seats, lots of legroom... oh geez.... now that kid behind me is kicking the back of the seat.. thump... thump... thump... like a form of Chinese water torture. Is that lady EVER going to stop sniffling??
The author Thomas Harris described what being an airline passenger is like today in his novel "Hannibal"... " Shoulder room is 20 inches. Hip room between armrests is 20 inches. This is two inches more space than a slave had on the middle passage. The passengers are being slopped freezing cold sandwiches of slippery meat and processed cheese, and re-breathing the f**ts and exhalations of others in reprocessed air."
About the only thing that has changed about that statement, is that passengers today are tossed a couple bags of crackers and a little packet of peanuts instead of sandwiches. If you want a sandwich today, be prepared to mortgage your home (again). And still I wonder... how many times can a human being sniffle on one flight?
This and the movement around of passengers as soon as the "fasten seat belt" sign is turned off, along with the lines waiting to use the restroom (and praying that the person in front of you didn't do "solids"). Then praying that the guy behind you doesn't think it was YOU who did it.
Flying can indeed bring out the best and worst of human nature. But it is a necessary evil for most people when they are about to venture a long distance. No wonder people these days are dressed in sloppy sweat pants, way too tight spandex, vulgar t-shirts and various other fashionable "ensembles." And is it really necessary to go out in public in pajamas? Why doesn't the TV show "What NOT To Wear" ever visit an airport?
At one time, stewardesses, known as flight attendants today, were treated like celebrities and it seemed that just about every little girl aspired to be a stewardess one day. Passengers seemed to be treated in a more special way as well. Today passengers seem more like a commodity that is flown (in bulk I might add) from point "A" to point "B"... and is charged for every item and taxed to the hilt to maximize profit.
I fear that the glamor of airline travel is gone for good. Relegated to be simply another memory of "the good old days." GEEZ, get a KLEENEX lady and stop sniffling already!
From time to time, you will hear a news story of how an airline has obtained a new line of uniforms for their flight attendants, or how an airport lounge has been remodeled... but the truth is, the glamor will never come back. The glamor was never on the airplanes themselves, but rather in the dream of flying, the freedom and ideals that it represented. Bon Voyage!