This Friday I will take part in one of our most notable and collective forms of public humiliation: air travel. I will be flying from Phoenix, Arizona, to Kansas City, Missouri, for a brief visit with two of my kids and their families. The airport at Phoenix, Sky Harbor, bills itself as being the friendliest airport in America - an outrageous lie, and KCI at Kansas City is only marginally better.
But those are just the airports. There is an additional humiliation between the airports, and that is the flight itself.
I heard a news story on the radio this morning stating that the new wide-bodied passenger jets currently being constructed are a few inches wider than the old wide-bodied jets. The story continued by noting that the airline companies are already planning to take advantage of those few inches - and removing one inch from the size of existing seats, to squeeze in one more seat per row. The flying cattle pens, it would seem, are about to become even more crowded and uncomfortable.
(The basic difference between flying cattle pens and those on the ground is that the ones dealing with actual cattle are likely to be more humane.)
A couple of weeks ago I heard another radio news story that reported one major carrier was going to begin charging one hundred dollars for every bag stowed in the overhead. (Of course, they already charge for those that go in the cargo hold - which is why so many people are dragging their luggage onto the plane and cramming them into the overhead.)
If the airlines need to generate more income, why can't they just be forthright and increase the price of tickets rather that trying to make their profits through nickel-and-dime shenanigans?
What follows is a clever little poem that encompasses some of the other indignities of air travel. Enjoy.
My seat belt is fastened – it’s snug and secure.
Been sitting here hours... and feels it for sure.
I finished my books during airport delays.
It turns out my iPod’s been uncharged for days.
I’ve studied the plane wing: I’ve counted the rivets.
I’ve noted my seat cushion’s deepening divots.
I spilled all my water (my pants are still drying).
I hear one babe cooing... and 17 crying.
The man right behind me drones stories so boring,
I think I’m preferring my seat-mate’s wheezed snoring.
My back aches in tense, upright, locked tight position.
It’s clear 30A has a stomach condition.
Yet just when I think I can’t take anymore,
And I’m wishing my window would turn to a door,
I hear these great words (over 30B’s cough),
“This is your captain… we’re cleared to take off!”