I flew to the east coast this summer. I flew Southwest. I like Southwest, in principle. I like the egalitarian philosophy of seating people on a “first come, first served” basis. Of course, they really don’t do quite that anymore. Now they do some really weird stuff, all designed to improve the experience and all unable to do so.
I should add that I am no tender, slender flower. When I move around in the world, I am unaware of how large I am…until I buy a plane ticket. I’m the kind of person who suspects airlines will eventually charge by the pound, and I will no long have to face flight of any kind.
Here are some strategies for making flying bearable. First, try signing up early. It won’t work. They will TOTALLY book the flight, so no matter what seat you get, you’re going to be sharing an arm rest. I, having avoided flight for some years, did not sign up early. This meant I was in “C” group for boarding. The “C” stands for craptackular. I knew it was going to be center seat for me, so I decided I would look for two thin people and wedge myself between them. First leg, I spot a passed out skinny guy asleep by the window and a particularly mature woman on the aisle. (In the course of the flight I discovered she was ninety. Ironic, same weight as age.) I asked, “May I take that seat?” She smiled up at me and half nodded, but I don’t think she really heard my question. She didn’t move. My thought? Okay, here we go. I lifted my stout right leg and straddled the poor woman. Her expression was a mixture of shock and awe. So be it. We had to change planes in Baltimore, and that stretch was the best one of the trip. I only thought about death for about 25% of the flight.
The second stretch I ended up between TWO particularly mature women. There’s this adage about stereotypes and how they spring from genuine experience. I had heard the insensitive jokes about “Jewish Grandmothers” living in Florida and traveling back north every summer. Combining these two women would have made the perfect stereotype. One of the grandmothers was stylishly dressed and reading Willa Cather. I would have liked visiting with her more if she weren’t pretty darn deaf. I ended up being the forward voice repeater for the flight attendant.
“Ma’am, would you like something to drink?”
“THE FLIGHT ATTENDANT WANTS TO KNOW IF YOU WOULD LIKE SOMETHING TO DRINK!”
“Oh, yes. Thank you. I would like a ginger ale.”
The other grandmother had fine hearing, and she was reading one of the nastiest soft porn “romance” novels on the market. She had the most wonderful accent, and I’m ashamed to say I spent most of the trip encouraging her to talk just so I could imitate her accent later. It is not necessary to estimate the amount of time I spent thinking about death on this flight. It would come across as insensitive.
On the way back I did the things it takes to get into “A” group. I don’t want to talk about the things I did. I’m not proud of them. Tomorrow, the flights back, and why I’m going to try to improve my work-out habits.