Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Friendly Skies

As I prepare for my journey into the Foreign Service, and because I've heard that diplomats fly a lot, I thought it would be fun to do some reflecting on flying. Not the kind where you jump out of plane strapped to another human and hurtle towards the ground at over 100 miles an hour praying that your parachute opens so you can post the pictures on facebook later, but the kind where you stand in lots of lines, sit in torturous seats, and experience 14 hours of cell-phone free boredom.

So I have a confession. As much time as I've spent in airplanes in my recent history (over 100,000 miles in the last 2.5 years by my rough count), the whole thing has never bothered me all that much. Sure, the lines are terrible, the fees are edging towards ludicrous, and the 32" inches of personal space that get for your few hundred dollars adds up to some headaches. But the whole process has some lingering romance and nostalgia for me.A small remnant from the days when my sister and I would put on matching dresses and clean jelly sandals, hair done nicely, and leave on a jet plane for Disneyland, every Spring break.  We were special, the daughters of the tour leader, and we were expected to show the rest of the kids (those inexperienced travelers unlike ourselves) what it meant to be sophisticated and calm. The pilot would grant us wings and the flight attendants would compliment us on our good manners. I will always remember what flying felt like back then.

Back when flying was fun and it was cool for you and your sister to have a matching outfits

These days, as I'm being shoved cattle-line style through the security check-point, stripping articles of clothing and walking barefoot with my shoes in my hand with the rest of the demeaned public lacking belts and proper footwear, it's hard not to be wistful for those Disneyland days. Sure, if you fly enough to gain the much coveted "status" offered by most major airlines, it is possible to be rewarded with perks once considered standard fare - free drinks, short lines, and a cushy place to relax between flights. But for the rest of us*, the dignity is gone, and we've all forgotten that this painful process used to be a luxury, not a punishment.  Someday I will tell my nieces and nephew about what it was like to fly when food and beverages were free, when your loved ones met you right at the gate, and every so often you could get upgraded just for smiling at the right flight attendant.  

In memory of those happier flying times, I share with you this video composed in tribute to SkyMall magazine and the wacky products (and cats) featured within: 

* Full disclosure - I've experience life as a "status" flyer and it's pretty darn great. Better than pretty darn, it's amazing. With my less busy travel schedule this year, my drop in status back to the mere mortals is going to be quite painful, however, I'm sure I will manage.  

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