If I had any readers they might have noticed my postings are sparse. That’s because I’m in the clutches of that great Kafkaesque clusterfuck called air travel. Nothing can save me.
A vengeful impotent rage developed when I couldn’t get on-line to check my travel arrangements while at the terminal. At first I was pretty blasé but every twenty minutes a recorded announcement blared that Philadelphia Airport provides free WiFi “because they care”. It started drilling into my psyche. I care too. I care that Philadelphia once was the heart of a fledgling experiment in democracy and (based on this airport) it’s been in decline since 1790. A pox on the disembodied recording telling me that which I have verified is untrue. (Note: if you’re from Philadelphia and wish to defend your fair city; don’t. Even if your city is Paris in Pennsylvania, the seat of the next Renaissance, and the savior of civilization…without WiFi in terminal F it’s just a third-world slum with a different smell.)
Commercial travel is not measured in miles or dollars but indignities. It could be delightful! You can get from East Cowschitt, Montana to a bordello in Bangkok using intermodal technologies that would make our forefathers gape in clueless admiration. But the indignities are too relentless. Airlines shovel crap at the innocent customer that go beyond merely annoying and descend into creative evil. Why should a trip from point A to point B cause me to become a chew toy for “Fuck You Airlines”? (F.U. Airlines is a wholly owned subsidiary of Halliburton, the US Government, and a group of companies that regularly go bankrupt as part of our business plan. We care.”)1
Everyone knows the spirit of failure that is the TSA. But making fun of the TSA is shooting exceptionally stupid fish in a small barrel so I’ll ignore them to look at the bigger picture. The real travesty is that everyone in an airport is lying all the time. A politician might redirect your attention while he grabs your wallet (or ass) but the airlines punch you in the face while telling you they love you. I’ve had airline agents insist a flight is sure to be on time when anyone with an IQ above room temperature knows it’s not true. Once, during a blizzard in Fargo that would kill a sled dog they insisted the plane would fly. I’d nearly died like a scene from a Jack London story just getting across the parking lot. This same person announced (with surprise!) three long consecutive delays before they admitted that the plane, like sanity in Washington, was never coming. By the time she was done screwing me over the nearest hotels were booked…including rooms for the flight crew on the plane which everyone (including apparently the airline) knew wouldn’t fly. Who makes a business plan like that? Stalin?
Airline indignities are so ubiquitous they seep into your pores. A company with hundreds of multi-million dollar planes insists it can’t afford magazines to read in flight? Bags of peanuts have shrunk to sub atomic size and a vending machine quality sandwich costs six bucks if you’ve got correct change and beg for it. I’m supposed to sit amid 200 passengers knowing that no two of us paid the same price. I’m told that a peon flying steerage like me can’t use the first class crapper “for safety reasons”. (Be honest and say it’s because I’m a chump!) I’m supposed to believe that putting the seat back upright somehow makes the plane land better. I’m supposed to think oxygen tubes and floating cushions will matter when a Boeing disintegrates at 30,000 feet. I’m supposed to “feel safe” because they’ve searched for nail clippers and knitting needles. Nobody wants to fly on a plane that can be taken down by knitting needles. I want a plane where you can carry a chainsaw because it’s tough enough to handle it. I also want pilots who swagger like John Wayne and should anyone threaten the cockpit they’re willing and able to dismember the bastard with their logbook and a bic pen.
Planes inherently suck so they should try to liven things up. I want stewardesses to be so hot I can’t think straight and keep me pumped up with a steady supply of cheap booze. Keeping me liquored up is an excellent way to make me happy about levering my American ass into a seat that was engineered to fit a four year old Asian midget.
And the electronics thing is just pathetic. If an iPod is going to hose the navigation computer then improve the damned computer. Telling the pierced degenerate two rows ahead of me to turn off Depeche Mode because otherwise a nav computer malfunction will corkscrew us into the dirt near Des Moines isn’t even trying.
The airlines are failure writ large. They have a natural monopoly. (If you could get from NY to LA in a day with anything else you’d never fly again.) They have an immense subsidized airport infrastructure. And frankly flight itself is pretty cool. Yet they still go bankrupt on a regular basis. They could lose money selling air to people chained underwater. This is all you need to know about airlines and their customer service.
But you all know this. The last person to like air travel was a Croatian pig farmer who died in 1986. Right now I want to talk about someone else who met his match. While I was languishing in terminal hell, steward Steven Slater2 finally blew a circuit and told the whole world to “take this job and shove it”. He grabbed two beers and bailed. I’m with ya’ there Mr. Slater. Nobody, even convicted felons, should have to fly commercial air day in and day out. That you lasted this long makes you a man among men. Being a steward has got to be the most unpleasant job this side of an ethics officer for congress. I hope you wind up on Letterman and get rich with a book titled “Peanuts and Assholes”
1I favor the return of dueling as a conflict resolution technique. I guarantee that airline service in an age of dueling would improve!
2Hat tip to Joe Soucheray.