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Welcome to the online blog for traveler/writer/photographer Steven Barber. Come in. Relax. Take off your shoes and socks -- or any other article of clothing, this is the internet. Have a look around. I hope to intrigue, amuse, entertain, and maybe provoke you just a little. I love to find adventure. All I need is a change of clothes, my Nikon, an open mind and a strong cup of coffee.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Suck It Up, TravelBoy!

“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.” 

                                                – Jack Kerouac

When you travel with any frequency there are times when it all seems to go awry. Nothing quite goes right, no matter the effort, no matter the planning, no matter the manpower employed to get it that way. There are those times when you have to close your eyes, count to ten and wait for the next martini to arrive.

This was one such time.

Anyone who has traveled more than a handful of times often has their share of horror stories related to a trip. It happens. Often there is little that can be done, and it might even happen on your first-ever trip, or may never happen to you at all (you lying, evil sod).

But those of us who travel on the more frequent side understand the risks, particularly of air travel. There are things, often beyond the control of an airline or an airline employee, which can turn a simple trip into misery. Choppy air. Crying children. The seemingly willful ignorance of other passengers. Flight delays and missed connections. Things happen, and often the best course of action is to go with the flow, secure in the knowledge that, like a kidney stone, all things come to pass eventually.

But seasoned travelers will all speak in hushed tones about those most dreaded events. Those which, when they occur, make even a short duration flight miserable and difficult. It's something we have all experienced and something which, each time the wheels leave the Tarmac, we desperately hope will not occur. You board the plane, optimistic that maybe, just maybe, not this flight.

And 99% of the time it doesn't.

I am speaking, of course, of the dreaded "Perfect Storm" in which not one thing...not two things...not even three things go wrong. No. In this scenario you have Murphy's undivided attention, and he's pissed. Everything that can go wrong, does. In fact it seems Mr. Murphy went looking for extra stuff, just to pile on.

I am on such a flight now.

First, let me assure you if you're reading this, I survived. At least long enough to post it on my blog. Second, I insist that

you acknowledge that there was almost nothing the airline or it's in-flight employees could have done differently to improve the situation. Well, except for one aspect, which I will discuss below. But otherwise, it was simply the confluence of bad "cess" which dealt us the bad hand.

I am sitting, right this moment in a plane somewhere over El Paso, headed for Austin. The air, we are told, is about to get choppy enough for the flight crew to take their seats for the 1+ hour remainder of the flight.

Ah. There it goes. And so it begins.

On the brighter side, the plane is finally beginning to cool down after hovering something in the upper eighties. My guess

is that we're around 80F, upper twenties celcius. There are apparently mechanical issues with the AC, known to the airline on the ground in Phoenix, but the decision was made to fly anyway -- with the knowledge that once the plane hit altitude it would, as it has, begin cooling.

And lastly, three rows behind me is a child who is quite upset with the whole affair and has been crying for at least twenty
minutes, and who can blame them? Nothing the mother can do to console them, it's simply a matter of getting to the end.

The other passengers of this flight seem to be ignorant of the basic etiquette of flight in several ways. It's packed. Every seat occupied. During the load in each and every one of them huddled around the gate waiting for their section to be called. This, of course, led to the running of the gauntlet by those privileged to load first. And second, etc.

During the load in, several passengers carried bags clearly too large for the type of aircraft, and yet held up and the line to argue with the gate attendants regarding the status of their bags. One, having won the right to take his bag on the plane, spent a good portion of five minutes wrestling it into the overhead, finally relenting and allowing the attendant to have the bag loaded via the jetway. No apology was proffered to the twenty or so passengers kept waiting behind him to take their own seats.

I am sitting in the aisle seat and was clubbed a minimum of four times by large bags being dragged past my arm or head. Again, no proffered apology, despite the fact one woman looked back at me with an accusatory glance as if I had purposely leapt into the aisle and banged my head against her purse.

Oh good. The plane is doing an excellent interpretation of that scene in AIRPLANE 2 in which the flight attendant describes the situation as "those bumps you feel are asteroids hitting the hull". I was not aware the inflight entertainment would be vintage. A passenger seemingly ignorant of the fasten seatbelt light has just careened past me, bouncing off my right shoulder nicely. The flight attendant reminds us that the light is still on, but off he goes nonetheless. (Should he be injured I am certain he would want recompense.)

(I am thoughtful of the fact that flight attendants are in the cabin for our safety first, and service second. Their primary responsibility is to ensure our lack of injury upon landing, or mitigate it when something goes wrong.)

I will lay a little bit of blame on the airlines for this sort of behavior by rude, unthinking and insensitive passengers. For years, decades, airlines have been reducing services and creating, for all intents and purposes, a modern day Trailways of the sky. If you treat passengers like cattle, they will behave like cattle.

I write this, of course, as a therapy. It calms me down, keeping me from smacking a few of my surrounding passengers between the eyes they COULD have had a V8. It distracts me from the bangs and rolls in the plane's flight path.

If I sound like a complainer, I am not. I frequently commend the airlines and employees for terrific flights and enjoyable experiences. As with anything in life, stuff happens.

I just wish it wouldn't happen all at once.

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