The Secret Life of Melanie O.
Monday, September 07, 2009
Travelling - now.... and then
I remember, when I was growing up, I desperately wanted to be a flight attendant. The first time on a plane, I was ten years old and on the way to New York City with my sister and my grandmother. We dressed up in our Sunday dresses and white gloves. We flew Mohawk Airlines and held for three hours over Kennedy airport, waiting for our turn to land. The plane was hot and stuffy, but I had a window seat, so I didn't care. I stared down on Manhattan and was mesmerised. I knew I wanted to fly again and again.

The next time I flew, it was with my mother and sister and we were on our way to Hawaii. I was so excited! It was a long flight in comparison to that little hop from Syracuse to New York City. This time, it was completely across the country and half way out into the Pacific! I think we flew Pan Am. It's kind of sad to look back and realize that neither Pan Am nor Mohawk Airlines airlines exists any more.

Things have changed a lot since those days, however. Flight attendants' uniforms are less alluring and more corporate. I guess that had to happen eventually, once people moved on from seeing flight attendants as more than just glamor girls with badges. Flight attendants became responsible for flight safety and had to rule obnoxious passengers with an iron thumb. They have to help heft heavy baggage into the overhead compartments. They have to intercede in passenger disputes.

Things didn't used to be so complicated. I remember when I was a kid, flying was a privilege. Not everyone could afford to fly. For many people it was a once or twice in a lifetime thrill. I can still recall people dubbing their trips to Europe as a "once in a lifetime experience." Now I know people who fly to Europe several times a year.

When I was a kid, people knew how to behave politely on planes. Every once in a while, someone had too much to drink and got a bit loud, but the flight attendants kept that person occupied until the drunk either passed out or the plane landed. Most of the drunks were in first class, though. The rest of us managed with Pepsi or tomato juice. In my dreams of life as a grownup however, I imagined that as a flight attendant I could have first class meals and jet-set around the world and not have to worry about the passengers once the plane landed. I could see the world and get paid for it!

There used to be more leg room on flights, too. When did we all start getting squeezed in like sardines? You used to be able to put your seat back and sleep, without landing in the lap of the person behind you. I can't remember when all this started to change. And with less room to move, passengers became more cranky. We stopped wearing our nice clothes - who wants to come out of a cramped space with a wrinkled suit? We also became less friendly and less civil. We stopped tolerating people who took up more than a seat width.

When the passengers became more surly, so did the flight attendants. I recall one domestic US flight where the flight attendants all seemed angry - even though we had all just boarded the plane and there had been no incidents. It was probably because the flight had been delayed by several hours and it was now 2am. Everyone was cranky.

Now, flight attendants have to deal with cranky passengers, screaming children, and crazies trying to open the emergency exit in mid flight. And don't even get me started on "terrorists." The security screening in airports is over the top ridiculous. A million illegal aliens come into the USA every year, but grandma is having her boots checked before her flight in case she's smuggling gelignite.

We used to be able to fly into a friendly country and get a tourist visa on the spot. Now you have to apply online and declare your intentions before you leave, and even after that, you may not be let in.

Yes sir... flying has changed. I'm kind of glad I was too short to be eligible to be a flight attendant. Now, I'm just a passenger and I try to grin and bear it with everyone else, including the flight attendants.

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posted by Melanie O. at 5:59 PM -
  • At 6:04 AM, Blogger gardenbug said…

    This is so sad. Flying used to be an exciting experience. Now it is an ordeal to be endured. When I fly, security people treat me like a criminal. They Xray my luggage. They took away from me, my Swiss Army knife. I had forgotten that it was in my suitcase. They took away my companions toothpaste. The tube was too big. Could it be holding an explosive?
    Once I forgot that you have to take off your shoes. I was wearing sandles at the time. I showed the security person that I had sandles on and they could see my feet. There was nothing hidden in my shoes. They made me take my sandles off anyways and Xrayed them. I had to stand on that filthy floor in my bare feet.
    Another time, I was taken aside and searched. A woman attendant poked my bra to see if i was hiding anything.
    These experiences offend me.
    Now I learn that airlines are charging extra for suitcases that have to be stowed . I think it is $50..each way.
    I've made up my mind that there are plenty of places in the US that I can explore by car or by train. I won't be flying anymore unless I absolutely have to.

  • At 3:41 PM, Blogger David said…

    I remember as a child in Northern Ireland looking up and watching the planes fly high above on their way between England and the US. I thought how excited the passengers must be at going somewhere.
    Now I know they were all uncomfortable and bored out of their minds :-)

  • At 8:07 PM, Blogger Melanie O. said…

    I used to love flying. It was as exciting to me as the actual destination and part of the whole travel experience. Now, I just can't wait to get through it. It's something to be endured instead of enjoyed, and I really think that cramming more people into the space has played a huge role in that. If I ever get to a point where I can afford it, I'll fly business class everywhere.

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About Me
Name: Melanie O.
Home: Durham, North Carolina, United States
About Me: Female, American health and beauty-conscious professional who has rekindled a childhood love of dolls.
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