Flying: A Retrospective On My Years of Airline Travel

(Originally posted: Tuesday, June 9, 2009)

Greetings from 30,000 feet. Well, sort of. Because I’m typing it up here but I’m not posting it from here. There will be no more forking over of my dollars for modern conveniences (like checking baggage and food…seriously) on this little aeroplane adventure. Sigh, I remember the days when they actually fed you for free if you spent more than three hours in the air…even if it was crappy airplane food. Oh, nostalgia. Although, there is one redeeming factor of the long-haul (or long-ish haul) flight that has remained: the in-flight movie. That is, unless the in-flight movie is Race to Witch Mountain. I am all for the family friendly movie and whatnot, but I will not be supporting the film career of Mr. The Rock in any way, shape, or form. Seriously, Disney, that will be enough.

And it was Inkheart on the way here. Which I tolerated because I was flying First Class (The Photographer’s Dad is rich in frequent flyer points, thank you very much) and the costumes were pretty cool…Really, who is in charge of choosing these things? I think I need to write a letter.

So I’m on a plane full of crew members (as passengers…I’ve never seen this many of them before…I guess this means there are plenty of people aboard who could land this thing in the event of an emergency…) and Mormon missionaries (I know this because they’re wearing badges that tell me so) with nothing to do. What an interesting life I lead…

I don’t remember the first time I was on a plane. I was an infant and my parents took me to Puerto Rico. Apparently I was well-behaved, but I’m not sure any baby, even a good one, is cute when you’re trapped in a pressurized sardine can with it for several hours. I did a reasonable amount of travelling as a child, at least one trip a year. I’ve had a pretty privileged existence that way, I’m aware (and grateful). And I got to see the pilots in the cockpit (clearly, this was all pre-9/11) and I remember Canadian Airlines used to give out colouring books. In some ways, the getting on a plane part of travelling used to be my favourite. But times have changed.

This whole jet-setting thing is not as glamorous as it may seem. It’s a lot of packing, waiting in lines, dealing with airport security (which pretty much has carte-blanche to do whatever they want these days, at least in the US…and whether this is to the benefit of our safety is up for debate) or, heaven forbid, Customs, being herded from lines to waiting areas to planes, stuffing bags into already stuffed overhead compartments, jostling for elbow/leg room, spending several hours in less than comfortable seats (and I’m not that big a person, I don’t know how some people manage it…even average sized humans), and finally arriving wherever you’re going basically exhausted. The stories I could tell…I once flew out of what was basically a giant party tent by the side of a runway. The tickets were dirt cheap. Clearly, the sketch-factor of the experience was reflective of that. Anyway…

I used to fly back and forth fairly regularly between school in New York, my parents’ house in Michigan, The Photographer in Toronto/London, ON, and various other locations abroad. I spent a large portion of my university life either in an airport or on a plane. I was basically an expert on the art of air travel. I had the time it took to get from my apartment in New York to LaGuardia, through security, and onto the plane without spending an extra minute waiting in what I would argue is one of the lousiest airports around down to a science. And I’m not overly anxious in the air, but I was getting to the point where I just about needed meds to get on a plane. Something about hurtling through the air in an over-glorified tin can just seems unnatural.So while I miss all the cool places I got to visit, I don’t miss the actual act of travelling. This is where people get confused. Being somewhere new, interesting, amazing, that’s the glamorous part. Travelling, the getting there part, is not. The fact that until this trip I hadn’t been on a plane in about a year is thrilling. Because if you do something frequently enough, it kind of stops being fun. It becomes a chore, an unpleasant necessity, and you take it for granted.

But I was thinking as we took off over the Great Salt Lake that flying has once again become kind of novel in my world, like it was when I was little, especially on a clear day with a window seat (although my camera is stuffed in the bin overhead, which is really too bad because it was beautiful). I once again appreciate the wonder of going places. I’m not so travelled-out as I once was. And despite the lack of food, the fact that you now have to pay to check even one bag, the ban on doing pretty much anything other than sitting in your seat quietly, and the general lameness of the in-flight movie selections, it’s all kind of worth it to see the world from up here.

We weren’t really meant to fly, or so I gather by our lack of wings, but the view is pretty incredible.

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