People seem to have a lot of trouble on airlines these days. I don’t get it.
I think problems mostly arise because travelers have an outdated version of what it means to travel by airplane. Americans are especially prone to misapprehensions about flying from here to there. I think it’s because they’ve seen too many Doris Day movies where the svelte stewardess, wearing a pillbox hat, pumps, and a matching Jackie O skirt and tunic mixes you a gin and tonic while you pick out your meal from a giant restaurant menu. It hasn’t been like that for fifty years or more, but we can’t get it out of our heads.
Even before the airport experience morphed into a pantomime of an arrest, complete with cavity searches for grandmas and toddlers alike, flying was still pretty inelegant, if you ask me. I flew in Europe a couple of times, and all the stewardesses looked like sexy Bond villains, but the planes sounded like they were built in the Soviet bloc, and there were too many bolts showing inside the cabin for my taste. In America, the planes were better, but even the hot stewardesses looked more like Rose Marie than Honor Blackman.
So I developed a defense mechanism to deal with flying. I reminded myself that an airliner was just a Greyhound bus with wings. That’s it. Don’t think airport gift shop when you fly. Think bus station bathroom. Then you’ve got the correct vibe, and you’re less likely to feel crestfallen as you’re dragged down the aisle.
Of course, flying has deteriorated even further in the last decade or so. Girding your loins for a trip to the aviation version of the bus station could still lead to a letdown. At this point, you should picture yourself in steerage on a mail boat from Liverpool to Boston in 1880. When you’re packing your bags for your next voyage, er, I mean flight, just picture being thrown down a rusty set of iron stairs into reeking bilgewater, with people throwing up left and right and fighting over a potato and a cup of water that looks like used motor oil. Or picture yourself on a Russian airliner. Either way, you’ll avoid an inevitable disappointment.