Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Fear of Flying

The airlines have become their own terrorist organization. Step into an airport with an e-ticket in hand, and you have now become a victim. Or better yet, a prisoner of war. Residents of Guantanamo Bay may have more rights than you do once you step foot in an airport. You will soon suffer the indignities of cancelled flights, delayed flights, rerouted flights, uncomprehending ticket agents, bad food, no food, surly flight attendants, etc. Waterboarding may become an acceptable alternative.

Recently, the Hotflash family flew to a faraway western state to watch child #2 actually graduate from college. In all fairness, I will not name the airline. I’ll just call it UA. UA decided that our pleasant direct flights clearly provided too much convenience and comfort, and so it casually eliminated these, and replaced them with bad connections and cancellations.

Yes, I know, everybody complains about the airlines. It’s sort of like childbirth: yes, it hurts, then it’s over, so shut up about it. But think about it: if your car doesn’t start in the morning, do you just call your boss and say the trip to work is cancelled? You had better just find another way to get your sorry ass to work.

Ms. Hotflash is usually a kind and patient person. But the airlines work on my last nerve.


The TSA: The lady in the pink polyester pants with the T-shirt that says, “World’s Best Grandma” and a Disney World tote bag is probably not a terrorist. Chances are she is not a drug mule, either. She may have 3 ounces of dangerous Milk of Magnesia in her purse, however, which must be carefully scrutinized.

For those of you who prefer to opt out of the full body scan (in which your viscera is slowly fried by the “safe” amounts of radiation each time you pass through), you are in luck! You can spend a few intimate moments with a TSA agent who will probe your crotch for weapons of mass destruction.

Seating: There is a torture practice in which the victim is placed in a small cell, too short to stand up, too narrow to sit down. Airplane designers derived inspiration from this, and designed the seating arrangement in coach. Additional torment may be applied as the passenger in front of you leans his seat all the way back, shoving your laptop/drink into your face. Good times.

Luggage: Passengers haul their steamer-trunk sized bags on board, optimistically thinking they qualify as   carry-ons. They try to shove these items in the overhead bins, hoping to defy the laws of gravity, mass, and the space-time continuum. Other modestly sized baggage already stowed is pulverized. So much for the ceramic figurine you were bringing home to grandma.

Airline bathrooms: In a plane with 90 seats, there will be 1 bathroom for the 8 people in first class, and a single bathroom back in the bowels of coach for the rest of the great unwashed. One passenger usually decides to attend a major gastrointestinal event in that bathroom as the hordes are waiting in line outside, bladders crying out in anguish. Around this time, “the captain has turned on the fasten seat belt sign! Please return to your seats!” The Marquis de Sade would be proud.

So I am led to wonder, how different is our treatment by the airlines to the treatment of a POW? I referred to the Geneva Convention Treaty on Treatment of Prisoners of War

Article 3b prohibits “The taking of hostages”. Just try to exit a plane that’s been sitting on the tarmac for 3 hours. I rest my case.

Article 3c prohibits “Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment”. (See Things that Annoy Me, Airline Bathrooms, above).

 Article 15 states: “The Power detaining prisoners of war shall be bound to provide free of charge for their maintenance and for the medical attention required by their state of health. “ I interpret this as FREE FOOD, not $9 nasty “snack boxes” foisted upon us. No, UA, a box of crackers, olives and hummus is NOT “tapas”.

Article 18 states: “All effects and articles of personal use …shall remain in the possession of prisoners of war”. This implies that the bag you checked to Cleveland SHALL NOT be sent to Dubai.

Oh, I could go on and on. But you get the point. On my next vacation, I shall just go to Guantanamo Bay. I’ll bet the flight will be direct, the food will be free, and I hear the weather’s quite nice in Cuba.