I should have ridden the toaster to San Jose

Honda_Element WikipicI had so much fun flying to and from San Jose last week that I’m driving when I go back next week.

It’s not the fact that I’m 25,000 feet above the ground and will die if we crash. I don’t understand what keeps the plane in the air, but I put myself in God’s hands and try not to think about it. I love looking down at the landscape below, picking out the landmarks and enjoying the cloud patterns. I love that I can get from one place to another so quickly.

I flew Alaska Airlines from Eugene, Oregon to San Jose, California. Alaska is fine. They do their best. But there’s a lot about the flying experience I could do without.

Flying isn’t what it used to be. I used to enjoy airplane food with all those cute little packages. Now they toss you a bag of Cheetos or pretzels and a glass of something. They don’t let you bring your own food and drink through security, so you have to buy something in the terminal or go without. I hate the luggage restrictions. I’m constantly worried about being caught with something I’m not allowed to have on the plane. I have to pay $25 extra to check a suitcase which will be X-rayed and possibly searched?

The planes that fly short distances are getting so small you can’t walk down the aisle without raising your arms and scooting sideways. You can’t count on free movies or music anymore. Instead you can rent a tablet-type device. People sitting side by side don’t talk to each other. They turn on their phones, tablets or laptops, plug in their earplugs and tune out everything.

And I can’t imagine having sex in the bathroom. This one was so small they didn’t even have a sink, just a plastic bottle of hand sanitizer.

Flying anywhere from the Oregon coast means driving two or three hours to an airport in Eugene or Portland. Add that to the extra time needed for check-in and security, plus getting something to eat and drink, and it’s a whole-day adventure for an hour, forty-minute flight.

Then there’s security. If I’m lucky, I get the older woman who always goes to the same place treatment and can bypass taking off my shoes and jacket and unloading my laptop. It’s unnerving to be getting a half-dressed full-body X-ray in one place while my purse and computer are rolling off the conveyor belt somewhere else.

Things went all right with security this trip. The line in San Jose was long, but I didn’t have the problem I had last time I flew out of there. I was so rattled that when they asked for my ID, I handed them my debit card. Oh-oh, go straight to the problem-passenger line.

No, the trouble started when I decided to eat dinner at the sports bar near Gate 28 in the B terminal. It was 5:30, and the place was jammed. Tattooed waitresses in black kept passing by me instead of finding me a table. When I did get seated at a tiny table for one amid other tiny tables for one, nobody came. I watched the servers bring second and third beers to the guys at nearby tables, but I didn’t even have a glass of water. I was afraid I would run out of time if I tried somewhere else. After 25 minutes, I got up, chased a waitress down and threw a loud hissy fit while people stared at me. I am embarrassed to think about it now, but I got my food and drink in three minutes. It wasn’t very good, but this squeaky wheel got the grease.

When we boarded the plane, I found myself in the aisle seat next to an immense woman whose flubber took up half of my seat as well as all of her own. I felt sorry for her, but I’m not used to being so intimate with a stranger. She didn’t want to talk, just listened to her music and looked at stuff on her phone. Her husband, equally large, sat across the aisle. When the plane finally landed, he immediately stood, placing his rear end in my face. Nobody was moving, but there he was, a wall of man-flesh in blue jeans.

As I mentioned earlier, the aisle was narrow. Our two flight attendants were unusually wide people. They banged my arm every time they passed by. My restless legs went crazy. It was dark in the plane, and my seatmate didn’t enjoy my turning the light on to read, but I had to do something. I couldn’t see out the windows at all.

A little before 10 p.m., we landed. I rolled my suitcase out to the far end of the long-term parking lot, surrounded by groups of people all glad to see each other. I shed a tear when I saw my Honda Element/aka The Toaster waiting patiently to take me home.

It will be me and The Toaster next time.

***

My father, who broke his upper leg in March, moved to an assisted living facility last week. It’s a pretty place, a former convent with a chapel, crosses etched into the fences, and a lush rose garden. He will stay there while he continues to heal. With luck, the doctor will let him start putting weight on the leg in a couple weeks and then he can work on walking until he can walk himself out of there and go home. He’s healthy otherwise. Today is his 95th birthday, and he’d rather be spending it anywhere but there.

The last plane he flew on was an Army Air Corps plane during World War II.

[Photo courtesy Wikipedia]

 

 

 

If We’re Going to Sit This Close Together, We Ought to at Least Say Hello

The man next to me in Row 28 of the Alaska Airlines 737 was handsome and tall, nicely dressed in a white shirt and brown slacks. The lady squashed into the window seat was thin, her red hair sparse. None of us spoke to each other the entire two hours we were in those seats. Window woman knitted. Handsome man worked on charts on his laptop. I read on my Kindle. His leg was touching mine for most of the trip, but we did not say a word, not until we landed and I asked him if he was leaving or going home. He was visiting friends in San Jose. I said I used to live in San Jose. I didn’t mention I was here for my cousin’s funeral. Then we got off the plane and rolled our rolly bags away.

Across the aisle, a man with huge headphones watched a movie on his iPad. The guys next to him dozed. In front of him, an Anglo man with equally huge headphones seemed to be reading Chinese on his laptop. Directly in front of me, all I could see was the beige back of the Row 27 seats with menus and the airline magazine in the pocket. I could barely see the window past people’s heads and the wing blocked our view anyway. Might as well read my book.

It’s crazy how people don’t talk to each other anymore. When I got to the gate in Portland, I couldn’t help but notice that everyone already seated at Gate C2 was staring at a phone or laptop. So I got my phone out, too.

On the return trip, where I had the middle seat in Row 29 of 32, the woman on my left had her sunglasses on and read off her tablet from beginning to end. She switched to games on her phone as we landed. My efforts to talk got nowhere. The woman on my right was a little younger and clearly a regular on these flights. She knew the menu and knew the flight attendants. She plugged in her headphones and had her eyes closed or focused on a magazine the whole trip. The whole vibe was “don’t talk to me.”

Everyone seems to want to be alone. We’re all staring at our phones, tablets, computers, and books. We seem to want to become invisible. People used to talk on planes. I remember a trip long ago where I almost had sex with the handsome guy sitting next to me. We talked the whole trip. That doesn’t seem to happen anymore. Aside from a few couples whispering to each other or a baby screeching at takeoff and landing, I hear only the roar of the plane and an occasional garbled announcement from the captain. With WiFi in the plane now, why talk? Right?

I couldn’t help thinking how much more fun it would be with a friend or a mate. We could talk. Also, we could go to the bathroom at the airport without having to take all our stuff. We could share a table at the restaurant with a person instead of a suitcase. We could make wisecracks about all the people staring at their screens.

I think we’re all nervous about flying, about going through security, about the possibility of the plane crashing, about being late. We’re uncomfortable being so close to strangers. I know I’m a bundle of anxiety when I fly. So much so on the return trip Friday that I handed the TSA agent my debit card instead of my ID. That got me a trip to the possible terrorist line. But they let me through.

These days, with no husband or kids, I always travel alone. Flying solo, you have to ask all the questions, do all the planning, and do all the heavy lifting of luggage. And you have no one with whom to share the memories, the laughs and the experiences. I miss that part the most. That and having someone to greet me when I stagger off the airplane at the end of the journey. But you’d think when you’re sharing an armrest, you’d be able to strike up a conversation. And hey guys, we’re 30,000 feet in the air traveling at a ridiculously fast speed. At least look out the window.

In spite of all that, it was a good trip. Lots of hugs, lots of sunshine, lots of quality time with family, one of whom gave me their cold. Rest in peace, cousin Jerry. I’m going to miss you. Thanks for bringing us together.