Why I Don't Hate the Airlines
I just returned from visiting mom in Minneapolis, and I have to say that the trip gave me a renewed understanding of what the airlines are trying to accomplish.
I used to think it was outrageous that flying to the Midwest from New York City takes an entire day even though actual air time is only about two-and-a-half hours. But I've realized that there's no reason for an airline to provide me with a direct flight when it can instead take me on stimulating sight-seeing trips through airports in Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Louis or Atlanta. (Yes, according to airlines, Atlanta and even Dallas are on the way to Minneapolis from New York.) By stashing us for hours in these faraway hubs, the airlines help to boost profits at McDonalds, Cinnabon and other airport concessions.
A lot of people complain about the $15 or $20 fee for checking bags. But the airlines instituted it, not because they're money-grubbing blood-suckers. No way! The fee is designed to teach you an important lesson, namely that life is not fair. See, after you cough up your $20, you get to the gate and find that other passengers took their junk with them and are now having it checked by a flight attendant for free. Better yet, they get their stuff right at the door after landing instead of waiting around at baggage claim.
And, of course, I have come to understand when there's a delay of one, two or three hours or more. After all, the paperclips and Scotch tape keeping the plane together could have come loose. And if after a few hours, the mechanics can't put things together, the airline orders a replacement plane to fly in from its hub in Patagonia -- where the company has outsourced maintenance of its aircraft to the Tehuelche Indians who work for only 30 cents a day. Such delays have given me a Zen-like patience that makes waiting for Godot seem like a useful exercise. Thanks Delta!
Last-minute gate changes? Well, sure. An airline can't know when and where a flight is leaving on any particular day. If need be, I can jog from Gate 70 on the A Concourse to Gate 93 on the F Concourse to make my flight. And if Iearn when I get there that my plane is now scheduled to depart at Gate 66 on the lower level of the C Concourse, in another terminal, that's okay too. After all, I probably needed the workout. And if it's too much for me, all the better. I'll be able to sample intensive-care units at fine hospitals around the country.
The cramped seating that people complain about -- it only makes for friendlier skies. After all, I was closer to the guy sitting next to me than I've been to my spouse in the last six months. What's more, a child behind me gave me a kick massage in my kidneys -- very invigorating! And, if the person in front of me reclines his chair in my lap, no problem. I simply take out my razor and give him (or her) a shave, whether s/he needs it or not. It's a good way to pass the time, and the tips aren't bad either.
And I now love that they turn off the lights in the cabin even though it's only 5 p.m., making reading all but impossible. I used to think that a cabal of airline M.B.A.'s initiated the policy in hopes of achieving millions in savings on electricity, but a flight attendant set me straight. She said that turning the lights off, even during daylight hours, was a safety measure; if the plane crashed, she added, passengers' eyes would already be accustomed to the dark. The F.A.A. says that just ain't true, but I see the airline's point. After all, I wouldn't want my eyes unaccustomed to the dark when we plunge into Lake Erie.
Best of all, airlines serve liquor. So, on the off chance that your flight makes you unhappy or puts you in excruciating pain, you can dilute your misery with booze, albeit at a per-pop cost of $7. My airline wisely limited choices. I couldn't get a Bloody Mary because there was no vodka. There was no beer or wine for my seat mate either. "You can have these," said the flight attendant, holding out three tiny bottles of hooch. Of course, I couldn't read the names in the dim light. But that's all to the good. The airlines are just trying to get you to experiment a little -- to drink outside the box, so to speak. I have to say, my Snap E Tom and Jack Daniels was pretty interesting. If you don't mind throwing up a little bit.
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