Anyone who thinks we're a classless society hasn't flown coach lately. And coach is no longer called "coach"; it's "economy." Economical for whom? I'm guessing for airlines. They certainly don't waste money on meals for economy class. Those of us in economy are tossed a bag of peanuts while business class passengers a row in front of us are served a meal.
That really bites! Before business class was established, passengers in coach could only dream of what was being served to the favored individuals in first class because the drawn curtains kept us from seeing how lousy our meals were by comparison. But there are no curtains separating business class from economy ... only an invisible line between the get and get-nots.
So what if airline meals are mediocre? We learned as children that it's rude to partake of something while someone else goes without. Candy or chewing gum, for example. Remember your teacher asking, "Did you bring enough for everyone?"
Airlines can't answer that question in the affirmative. You don't have to be a child to want what someone else has, especially when you can smell it. Even when - like with coffee - you know it probably smells better than it tastes.
I recently booked a flight to Las Vegas where husband Ray and I plan to meet sister Lesta and her husband, who are driving from California. I tried to talk Ray into driving, but no luck. So I'll have to sit at the airport and watch the privileged few line up for first class.
Ever notice that people in the VIP line don't look any richer than the rest of us? When I see young adults in ragged jeans and flip-flops in that line, it makes me wonder. Perhaps they are rock stars whose faces are familiar to viewers of MTV. I'd never know. I haven't watched MTV since I quit exercising to Duran Duran and Wham! ... but never Tears for Fears (I had my standards - when those guys showed up on the tube, I'd shout and let it all out). But I digress.
Commercial flights may get me someplace relatively fast, but no one said I have to enjoy them. As a teenager, I liked flying with Dad in his little Cessna 140, mainly because he'd buzz Ray's family farm. Also, I knew Dad wouldn't let the plane crash because Mom would never let him hear the end of it.
Best of all, no one pulled me out of line and searched me. I understand the necessity of searching passengers today, but it's hard not to feel like a criminal when I'm hauled out of line and patted down. The first time that happened, Ray and I were making our first (and so far only) trip to Hawaii shortly after 9-11. Yes, I was skittish of flying then, but the tickets were nonrefundable. I'm not brave, just cheap.
In the wee dark hours, as we waited in line at Kansas City International, I was pulled out by a security guard who searched me with an electronic wand. I didn't beep, so he inquired, "May we pat you down?"
"Who?" I asked.
"I'll get a lady," he replied.
The lady guard instructed me to stand with my legs spread and arms outstretched. "Wouldn't this be easier," I asked, "if we had a car hood for me to lean over?"
Trust me, airport security guards aren't required to have senses of humor.
Ray breezed through KCI security, but had to take off his boots in Denver and San Francisco. He flew home in sneakers. During the entire trip, I only had to take my shoes off on a short hop between islands. Seats on that plane were first-come, first-served, and I told the security guard (and meant it), "If you make me so late that I can't sit with my husband, I'm not going."
This summer, we will make a long flight to Alaska, where Ray and I plan to take a Wilderness Inside Passage cruise. We hope to see there some of the same whales we saw in Hawaii. Ray actually saw the whales in person because he was running all over the boat videotaping them. I saw them on video because - in my seasick state - I was sitting very still in the boat, my eyes locked on the nonmoving tops of surrounding islands.
Some travelers say that "getting there is half the fun." The only way that is true for me is when we drive. No worries on auto trips. I know I'll always be sitting next to Ray ... close to terra firma ... which isn't moving.