Friday, December 2, 2011


I actually don't really understand this cartoon, but I love it. Thanks!

So, we'll actually be driving to Oregon when we leave in a few weeks. Turns out shipping an 85 pound dog across the country in winter is a bit of a thing.

But I am happy about this fact for a single reason: it will mean no airline travel during the holidays. This will be good for me, because I've decided that air travel is just not what it used to be. And not only because you are stuck like a veal in seats that get smaller every year with no food or movies and not even tiny bars of soap to steal that say American Airlines on them. And not only because now that they are charging to check bags everyone brings on three pieces of luggage large enough to fit the entire cast of CATS inside.* But mostly because air travel these days brings back bad memories of middle-school gym class.

What, you might ask, does a seventh-grade class full of sweaty and awkward pre-teens trying to learn basketball have to do with domestic air travel? Well, quite frankly, the fear of getting picked last. I don't know if I'm overly sensitive to this given my not-very-athletic childhood**, but has anyone noticed the increasingly ridiculous boarding procedure plaguing domestic air travel recently?

At least in my memory, boarding announcements used to go like this:
The gate agent announced: "First Class Passengers are welcome to board at this time along with any passengers needing additional assistance or those traveling with small children." Then we would wait several minutes while men in suits with briefcases annoyingly and unhelpfully brushed past families juggling multiple car seats and several small children. We peons traveling in coach without children would patiently stand by or make a final bathroom run. Then we would hear, "Passengers seated in rows 27 and higher are welcome to board." And everyone would line up and slowly make their way down the gangway. And finally "Passengers seated in rows 6 and higher are welcome to board." And the rest of us would get on and everyone would feel okay and we would take off.

But now this process has morphed into a ridiculous pageant of elitism that leaves me brimming with fury and Mr. L sad that he ever agreed to go anywhere with me in the first place. It starts like this:
"Welcome, ladies and gentleman, we are ready to begin boarding flight #12345 to Whereversville." at which point everyone in the waiting area whether they are on the flight or not jumps up and crams toward the boarding gate like a mob at a Black Sabbath concert (yours truly included. "What if they don't have room for my bag?" I think, judgmentally eyeing a carry-on burdened family of five a few paces ahead of me.)  Now that we are all standing there, you might think it was time to actually board the flight. But no, no, mon cher. "First I'd like to invite our Delta Super-Platinum Elite First-Class Gold Star Flyers to board via the red carpet on the right side of the boarding area." Approximately two men in suits go forward. And then we all wait for several more minutes, I assume while those two men are seated, hang up their suit jackets, and have a Manhattan prepared for them and the Wall Street Journal laid out. "Now I'd like to welcome our 2011 MVP Gold-Status Top Tier Frequent Flyers to board via the red carpet on the right side of the boarding area." Maybe one more person boards and then we wait for five minutes. This is the point at which my middle-school induced status anxiety mixes with my self-righteous tendency toward egalitarianism, which together make for a potent tincture of indignation. "Oh," I seethe to Mr. L who is trying to ignore me having already anticipated this outburst, "they get to board via the RED carpet, because they are ELITE flyers with SUPER special talents. What is this? The Roman Empire?" "Please just chill out. All seats depart and arrive at the same time," says Mr. L. Though factual and sensible, this is not at all helpful. "Thank you. It is now time to welcome our 2011 Silver Class Honored Members to board via the red carpet." And my fury increases. And it goes on like this for what feels like forever until every possible combination of precious metals, status labels, and membership categories has been combined in order to welcome, in total, about 8 people. And one of the children of the family of four with all the luggage trips and starts crying and I briefly feel badly for judging them. But only for a moment until I hear the nail in the coffin of my good traveling spirits: "Passengers in Boarding Group 2 are welcome to board via the BLUE carpet on the left side of the boarding area." And that is it. It is just TOO much. Because now having my anxiety raised for the last 30 minutes while we welcomed business people like monarchs of old, I have to spend the next 30 minutes FREAKING OUT about which boarding group I am in (usually something like 5, but is that in the middle or at the end? How do we know?) and if I'll have a place to put my bag. And so I cram forward annoyingly like everyone else and at the last minute am forced to confront my mediocrity when I board via a completely different stupid little lane with blue carpet. And, when finally aboard, I have to shove past the Delta-Super-Platinum guy in first class who is already on his second free drink and is looking at me as though he is slightly annoyed that I am there at all and have accidentally brushed his arm with my bag which probably they will end up checking anyway because there is not room. And my good traveling juju is lost forever. And not even Sky Mall Magazine can save me.

So, hopefully, you can see why I'll be glad to be packing it up in the Accord this holiday season with the dog, some books on tape, and free snacks galore. We'll be having our own super-elite, top-tier, diamond members party up in there.

*PLEASE STOP BEING SO RIDICULOUS WITH THE BAGS, EVERYONE. Now let me get my prejudice-against-folks-with-kids on for a second and don't get pissed because this is just common sense: your five-year-old SHOULD NOT carry on his bag and a personal item. That's just ridiculous. Several months ago, I was on a plane sitting the row behind a family of six. ALL of their children, aged about 3 to 9 had huge rolling suitcases and backpacks so big compared to their frame that they could have hiked the Andes with them. And it probably took the family 25 minutes to exit the row. Why is this? Because three years olds aren't that coordinated. AND THEY ALSO CAN'T GET THEIR OWN DAMN LUGGAGE OUT OF THE OVERHEAD BIN BECAUSE THEY ARE ONLY A FOOT TALL. I understand it is frustrating and expensive to travel with a family and  I feel for you man. That seems tough. And I understand that the airlines are bleeding you dry. But let's work together to fight for justice and find a better solution than treating your toddler like a sherpa and making me worried I'll miss my connection.

**I seriously think that there should be more psychological support for those of us who had to endure middle-school gym class. I have talked with SO many friends who were seriously traumatized by these barbaric scenarios such as picking people for teams, etc. Most of them have just barely recovered. Isn't there a better way to educate young people about the value of physical activity without subjecting them to the very expression of social hierarchy that as awkward adolescents they spend all their time fearing? Get on it America.

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