Mc Veighing In

 Mc Veighing In

By Sean McVeigh

Flying used to be an event. The height of luxury. Now, without exaggeration, it is equivalent to a round trip on the A train.

I suppose it still is an “event,” but a very different kind of event. In case you couldn’t tell, I have been traveling a bit. Included in my travels were a couple of flights. Before each flight, as the time for me to arrive at the airport grew nearer, I would be overcome with a feeling of dread. Dread, not because I am afraid of flying, but dread because of the flying process.

There is not one enjoyable thing about flying. Sadly, these days, the highlight of most trips is a free can of soda and some cookies. Murphy’s Law says that anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Well, when it comes to flying, it is more like anybody that can act dumb and annoying, will act dumb and annoying. After a flight, it is not easy to have much hope for humanity.

Maybe as an act of kindness (probably not), airlines do not try to hide the fact that this is going to be an awful experience. They let you know right away. Let’s say you had a ride to the airport, got there smoothly, and the departure drop-off area was not six-Toyota-Rav4s deep (bear with me, I know we are already living in fantasy land). You enter the airport and have to check your bag. It used to be that you waited on a line for 30-minutes and then did your bag check at the counter. Now, in a marvelous feat of pure efficiency, you check your bag at a kiosk (if there is one working), and then you wait on a 30-minute line to go to the counter and, er… check your bag… But who cares? You just got rid of all the weight! The big heavy bags are gone, it’s just you and your two personal items (for the love of everything good and holy, it better be two or else… we will come back to that) so things are starting to look up and it’s off you go.

Airport security is a strange place. I understand the rational thinking behind them. They are, unfortunately, a necessary evil. But I will say, they have all the makings of a scene straight out of a postapocalyptic movie except there are a bunch of people wearing Hawaiian shirts and cowboy hats. Lines, inside of lines, that lead to more lines. It is “Inception” but with lines instead of dreams. Within each line are always multiple lanes that you must choose between. It doesn’t matter which you pick because there is no right answer. You emerge, with no shoes on, and it is go-time. There is nothing that can stop you now!

There are two, and only two, scenarios once you are out of security and heading towards your gate: You are either two hours early or you have two minutes before your gate closes. Being perfectly on time for a flight is a myth, like leprechauns and the Jets getting Aaron Rodgers. If you have mastered this art, please let me know.

The time has finally come. They call the first group to board, and everyone remains seated and patiently waits for their group to be called and everyone stands up and creates a giant huddle behind the gate. Each time a new group is called, this now single-minded mass, moves, as one, closer and closer to the gate. On the plane, you are allowed only two personal items, one for under the seat in front of you and one for the overhead compartment. As I have recently learned, this is becoming a sticking point for airlines now. A fanny pack around the waist (or over the shoulder, as is now “cool” I am told) counts as a personal item and don’t you dare think otherwise. “Consolidation” is the new buzz word around airports. You have survived the crucible that is the pre-boarding process and are ready to board the plane.

The goal of these airlines is to make as much money as possible on each flight. I get it. But, at the same time, I just don’t get it. It is beyond my comprehension that there can be flights that are over-booked. That is a business model that is designed with one thing in mind, and that thing is not the passengers.

Your group is called, and it is time to squeeze the sardines into their can. Seats on flights are not made for human beings, at least not fully grown adults. You know in elementary schools, when they have those small desks, and parents go in for a parent-teacher conferences and have to try and sit at those? That is the equivalent of today’s airplane seats. Even first-class seats are now just old, normal plane seats. I am an aisle seat guy. The extra leg room, when not being run over by a cart, is the only thing that keeps me sane. The window seat is tight, but I suppose still bearable. The middle seat is the ninth circle of hell—that is what eternal damnation looks like.

The wheels touch down, you made it. Wrong! This next leg of the trip is debatably the worst. One does not simply “get off” a plane. When a plane lands, it likes to act like I do trying to find a parking spot on 116th Street. First, there never seems to be an open gate. You taxi around aimlessly for what feels like an eternity. You finally get there and as soon as the plane stops, every single person feels the need to stand up and retrieve their luggage. This is my worst nightmare. My absolute favorite is those in the back of the plane that try to shoot up the aisle, before the people in front of them have gotten off. As I said, I am an aisle sitter. I just want to let you know that if you try this move on one of my flights, there will be hell to pay. Unless you have a connecting flight, you are staying right where you are until everyone in front of me has moved. I bet those people are running because they probably double parked their car for their entire trip.

There are so many other parts of this experience that I haven’t even touched on (“reclining” seats, entertainment apps A.K.A. no TV, etc.). The only redeeming quality of flying seems to be that it gets you where you want to go much faster than other ways. The industry has realized that it is such a necessity that it can do whatever it pleases, and we can whine about it as much as we like, but I don’t think it will ever change for the better. I, like almost everyone else, will continue to squeeze into smaller and smaller seats and enjoy my free ginger ale.

Rockaway Stuff

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