Life in the Pededstrian Lane: Fear of flying

Author’s note: This column was written and submitted before all the tragic news this week regarding plane crashes around the world. The horror of those tragedies can never be alleviated by levity but maybe we need to remember that one’s chances of being in a plane crash worldwide is one in 4 million, and in the U.S. and Europe one in 25 million. That doesn’t make it better, but it maybe brings perspective.

We made our annual sojourn to Idaho Last month and I probably don’t need to mention that flying has become less and less fun. We fly outside a couple of times a year most years, and each time I swear is worse that the last. The only redeeming factor being that it is probably better than driving both ways now that we are past the adventurous stage of life and go more for comfort and convenience. “Comfort” being relative, and likewise “convenience.”

I remember when it was actually fun to get on an airplane. Usually there were extra seats so you could spread out a little. No more! Every space is occupied and I’m a little surprised no one is standing in the aisles, sometimes. It is nearly impossible to fit your carry-on into the overhead, unless you are among the first to board. Since I don’t have a toddler in tow, that’s never me. I have considered shuffling up to the door clutching Hubby’s arm and pleading infirmity but I feel like I may be tempting fate if I were to use that ruse. I have taken to carrying only what I can fit under the seat. However, I see others carrying their life’s belongings on their back, expecting to cram it into the overhead.

We flew to Kodiak one summer in the late 1970s. No. 1 son and D-I-L went with us. While there she discovered a huge patch of salmon berries, and we picked a big paper grocery bag full. On the trip back, she had to hold them on her lap all the way from Kodiak to Anchorage to prevent them turning to juice, something that would not only be impossible today with the crowded planes, but regulations wouldn’t allow it either.

That same flight was about an hour late leaving Kodiak, and we sat on the runway all that time. About 20 minutes into the wait, realizing it was going to be awhile, the attendants brought out the carts and served complimentary wine to everyone until takeoff. Again, unheard of today. The airlines don’t even let you know how long the wait may be, let alone try to make it more comfortable.

When discussing flights with anyone these days, price is the first thing mentioned. No one can believe the cost of flying. Everyone one remembers when you really could fly cheaper than you could drive. In the 1970s (the early fish site days) my nephews from the valley made the trip down to spend time on the beach for $15 each, one way. Now it costs nearly as much to fly that 20 minutes as it does to go from Seattle to Portland. And I remember Wein Air Alaska offering flights to Seattle for $50 during their inaugural week of flights to that city. In the time lapse since then, besides prices sky rocketing, the service has deteriorated. The meals, which were never that great, have become pay as you go. Pillows and blankets are a thing of the past, you pay for luggage, and we hear rumors that soon passengers will have to pay a premium to use the overheads, or to be seated in favored rows, much as passengers pay extra for first class.

I’m sure we have all suffered through security, also. Remember the days when you and all your family could go to the gate to see the kid off to camp, or the parents off to Hawaii, or whatever? We all know that is no longer possible, and maybe for the better, but some of the so-called precautions are really nonsense. Hubby invariably forgets to put his pocket knife in his checked luggage and is run through the gauntlet in a certain small airport outside (who are beginning to know him very well). Eventually, they take the knife and put it into our checked luggage, a courtesy we’d not see in a larger airport, but nevertheless, unnecessary. I think we are lucky that TSA in Anchorage is for the most part sensible, but we’ve all read about other airport security being out of control. I have to concede that the airports I have had to use are for the most part easy to get through security. Of course I don’t go to many big airports in high profile places where someone may be wanting to make a statement,

Flying has never been one of my favorite things to do. Some people actually like to fly and would get on an airplane just for the fun of it no matter what. I spent a number of years where that was the major form of transportation, and it pretty well wore out any sense of awe or romance or just plain fascination with the process. I always approach it as the easiest way to get from A to B although these days it’s not always that easy.

Virginia Walters lives in Kenai. Reach her at vewalters@gci.net.

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