When you think about flying, it’s nuts really.
Here you are at about 40,000 feet, screaming along at 700 miles an hour and you’re sitting there
drinking Diet Pepsi and eating peanuts.
It just doesn’t make any sense.
Top Ten Whines About Flying
#3 Increased Security
#4 Lost Bags
#5 Jet Lag
#6 Big Crowds, Small Seats
#7 Crying Babies
#9 Flight Delays
#10 Food, or the Lack of it
If God had really intended men to fly,
He’d have made it easier to get to the airport.
There is nothing like an airport for
bringing you down to earth.
Whine A: I hate going there.
Why: Unfortunately, airports have become our worst nightmare. They are too crowded, too confusing, too big and too frustrating for the average traveler—whining heaven for the constant complainer. It all begins going downhill when you try to find a parking place or, God forbid, attempt to sit in the arrivals lane for more than two seconds without security chasing you off. And then there are those loud, obnoxious, repetitive Announcements that hound you from all sides, and all those annoying tourists…
Whine B: It’s such a mob scene.
Cure: The “red-eye” cure is a brutal but effective way of dealing with impossible airports, especially for sound sleepers. Red-eye flights depart around midnight, when all sensible people are at home asleep, and arrive in the early hours of the next day. Red-eye fliers are easy to spot because their eyes are bleary and puffy and bruised-looking, and their clothes look like they have been slept in…because they have. On the other hand, they usually also display a serene smile and immitigable calm for having slept through whatever small amount of whining may have occurred while their eyes were so deliciously busy getting red.
If god had meant man to fly,
He would have given us tickets.
Whine A: They always put me on hold.
Why: When you try to make reservations with any airline, it is like navigating a minefield of modern technology—and the people who are there as a last resort to help you with it are even less customer-friendly. As soon as your call goes through, you are put on hold—and then your problems begin. Endlessly circling in a telephonic holding pattern, you wait so long that you forget where you are or where you want to go. The worst part is that you’ll never speak to a real person—and it’s just not fun complaining to a machine.
Whine B: I hate talking to a machine.
Cure: The “express easy check-in e-ticket” cure is a new innovation that has made flying almost bearable. It is quick, easy and enjoyable once you have gone through the initial learning curve; and though it isn’t quite instant and doesn’t exactly involve the human touch, it is far less time-consuming and alienating than booking airline reservations on the phone with disembodied, oddly cadenced voices that sound only vaguely like real people. With most airlines, you can even print out boarding passes 24 hours before your flight, thus circumventing all human interaction until you have to deal with those fine professionals at security, which is the subject of our next whine.
#3 Increased Security
Whenever we land safely in a plane,
we promise God a little something.
Whine A: These lines are too long.
Why: Sadly, ever since 9/11, increased airport security measures in the name of preventing terrorism have made traveling by air a dreaded ordeal. We now have to endure long lines waiting while pretending that we aren’t mentally profiling everyone else in our line. It creates an atmosphere of distrust and disgust. The stripping down and shedding of all outerwear is demanding and demeaning. As for shoes, who can remember to wear slip-ons? I never do until I find myself laboriously undoing my tie-ons in a supremely unflattering position.
Whine B: I hate having to strip.
Cure: The “check everything” cure is just a band-aid for getting through security. By everything I mean everything except your ID and ticket. This is the only chance you have to zip through security unscalded by suspicion and humility, and even that is not a given if you have a foreign accent, forget to take off your sunglasses or just have “one of those faces.” I’ve thought of going through nude but I suppose that would be seen as a protest of some kind. My objective is purely convenience-oriented; besides, I wouldn’t want to repulse staff or fellow travelers—or, God forbid, put the idea of a cavity search in anyone’s head…
#4 Lost Baggage
The scientific theory I like best is that the rings of Saturn are composed entirely of lost airline bags.
Whine A: Oh, No! Not again!
Why: As soon as people find out you’re an airline type person, all they want to talk about are their lost bags. It’s as if they think you could do something about it or that you even care. Lost bags are the universal complaint that does not discriminate against any class of flyer. Whether you fly first class or economy (known to flight attendants as low or no class) your bags are all treated equally—without the slightest care in the world.
Whine B: But I need my clothes.
Cure: The “carry-on bags only” cure works for me. It is the only way of making sure that you don’t end up languishing at the lost claims counter. The officials there pretend that they really care but they don’t. To them, one lost bag is just like any other. If they’ve seen one, they’ve seen them all—except for your bag. Do not under any circumstance hassle your check-in person. To do so could mean that while you are flying to Los Angeles, your bags could be going to London. Trust me. It happens. And don’t forget to pack all of your explosive perfume and toiletries in that soon-to-be-lost bag, as you are no longer allowed to carry on such dangerous and subversive items.
#5 Jet Lag
Airplane travel is nature’s way of making
you look like your passport photo.
Vice-President Al Gore
Whine A: Oh, God, I look awful!
Why: Everyone knows that traveling through time zones creates a feeling of malaise and displacement we have come to call jet lag, but few of us are ready for the natural irritability it breeds or the dehydrating and depressing physical effects that always come with it. Ready or not, though, jet lag is one of those unavoidable annoyances of air travel that causes lots of whining, and no one ever seems to have any good advice about how to cure it..
Whine B: I’m never going to feel normal again.
Cure: If you can swing it, the “extra day” cure works best. This should be easy for leisure travelers: simply plan an extra day at each end of your trip, to consist of nothing but getting over your jet lag. Whatever comfort means to you, that’s what this day is for: stay in bed watching TV, nap the afternoon away with an eye-mask on, take a long, meandering walk, fall asleep watching a foreign movie with no subtitles in a warm, dark cinema, or sit in a park people-watching until your eyes glaze over—the possibilities are endless when you have no plans. If you’re a business traveler, on the other hand, willing to withstand jet lag—up to a point—for profit, power naps, moisturizers, plenty of water intake and a well-timed cocktail or two will have to do.
#6 Big Crowds, Small Seats
Elementary, my dear Watson, elementary.
Whine A: It’s so cramped!
Why: Yup, it’s true: more and more people are flying, which means more and more passengers are being squeezed on more and more planes with smaller and smaller seats. It’s very simple when you think about it, but that doesn’t stop it from being frustrating. Only contortionists can accommodate the fold-down table nowadays; and good luck negotiating which one of you is going to get the armrest. Lack of space is also another way airlines stop us from whining about their lack of food service, since even the smallest meal will make husky and slim people alike feel too big for their cramped quarters.
Whine B: These seats are ridiculous.
Favorite Cure: The “dress for comfort” cure is one that many of us from earlier generations still can’t get used to, having had mothers that dressed us up before boarding a plane as if we were going to meet the President; but the days of looking sharp while flying have sadly gone by the wayside along with legroom, head space and three-course meals. The only way to stay comfortable in the downscaled seats of today’s jam-packed flying buses is to make sure your clothes won’t bind or discomfort you in any way. Throw your vanity out the window and fly in your jammies if you dare; but at least slip into something more comfortable.
#7 Crying Babies
In America there are two classes of travel –
first class, and with children.
Whine A: Why me?
Why: It is one of the laws of airline travel that you will always be near the crying baby or the kid kicking the back of your seat. Do you think it’s because the airlines know that this will bother you more than any other passenger and they’re doing it just to get your goat? I do! They want everyone to have something special to complain about so that they won’t turn their attentions toward the crowded plane, small seats, lack of food or surly service.
Whine B: Will it ever stop?
Cure: I advocate that you “ask for a new seat” right from the start. If you are serious about your peace both inner and outer, it is worth the risk of being thought of as a “child-hater.” The parents will get over it, and even if they don’t, who cares? They’re the ones stuck with the crying brat. Your bravery will bear itself out when you see that, by the end of the flight, everyone will wish they had done the same thing. If the obnoxious kids making everyone’s already trying flight all the more miserable happen to be yours, just pretend that you don’t know them.
If black boxes survive air crashes, why don’t they make the whole plane out of that stuff?
Whine A: I don’t feel good. Here we go again.
Why: Turbulence is God’s way of reminding you to say your prayers and start living the way you promised you would during the last terrifying time you thought for sure you were going down. As a former flight attendant, I can safely say that turbulence can happen out of the blue no matter how great the pilot is. The only thing that can be predicted about turbulence is that when it occurs, the coffee your friendly flight attendants rush through the aisles to serve you afterwards is bound to be less than piping hot, and the stronger the turbulence, the colder the coffee.
Next Whine: We’re all gonna die!
Favorite Cure: There are all sorts of great cures for turbulence besides saying your prayers. I have tried them all and my favorite one is the “pass out” cure. You can accomplish this most expediently by taking sleeping pills or getting drunk. I recommend the pills because they are quiet and painless. Getting drunk can be loud and obnoxious, and you run the risk of a horrid hangover to go along with your jet lag. Nobody likes a drunk, but they will admire someone who can calmly doze through chaos, commotion, or—God forbid—a freefall to a certainly painful and fiery death.
#9 Flight Delays
Hell, which every frequent traveler knows,
is in Concourse D of O’Hare Airport*.
*There is no concourse D at O’Hare
Whine A: But I’ll be late for…
Why: Delays are caused by events that are beyond anyone’s control, especially the airlines’—or at least that’s what they want you to think. It’s either too many passengers, not enough planes or crews, unreliable mechanicals or an always-convenient natural disaster, all of which you’re sure are perfectly good excuses, but that doesn’t change the fact that you are going to miss whatever you’re going to miss and—more enragingly—that you’re bored out of your head.
Whine B: They’re not telling us anything!
Cure: The “It’s better than being in prison” cure is the only one that seems to work in this situation. When stuck in a windowless, over-crowded airport with bad food, disorienting lighting, stale air and brain-teasing acoustics, I always think about how much more panicked, bored, fatigued and restless I would feel if behind bars. Not that I have ever done anything that would even remotely come close to landing me in the slammer, but it’s the only place I can think of that would be worse than being stuck in an airport on a forcefully extended layover. Putting this in perspective will allow you to go with the flow and weather your wasted time like a pro.
#10 Food, or the Lack of it
The most dangerous thing about flying is
the risk of starving to death.
Whine A: What food?
Why: Ever since all the airlines decided to declare bankruptcy, there has been little or no food service offered on most flights, at least in coach. In short, your would-be meals are now paying for upper managements’ golden parachutes. This may be good news in that the average traveler no longer has to deal with the proverbial poor quality of airplane food, but as bad as they were, somehow I miss those cute little trays of beef or chicken covered in mystery sauce, with their hard-as-rock dinner rolls, overcooked veggies, and doll-sized desserts. These days, we get a “snack”…
Next Whine: But I don’t like peanuts.
Favorite Cure: The “food kiosk” cure is a new and exciting food option at all airports these days. After you get to the airport for your mandatory two to three hour early check-in and thorough security inspection, you can take your time selecting your own carry-on grub supply from any number of suppliers that provide everything from greasy fast food to fresh fruit, sandwiches and salads. You will pay prices double what you’d pay in the outside world, but since you can’t bring fresh food through security, this expense falls under the category of “just desserts” for hungry and deserving travelers.
Best Overall Remedy for Whining About Flying
The Chocolate Cure
More than anything else, the sensation is one of perfect peace mingled with an excitement that strains every nerve to the utmost, if you can conceive of such a combination.
Yes, I intimately know the combination of feelings of which Mr. Wright spoke, and the only way I have ever found to meld them together into one of manageable calm is through frequent and liberal chocolate consumption. I have been using this cure to help me cope with many aspects of life for many years. To ward against my terror of flying, I have always taken a chocolate candy bar along with me on every flight. It is my security blanket. I have it with me at all times just in case the plane is going to crash. I rationalize that even if dying is terrible, at least I will die with chocolate in my mouth. Now that I am older, I have started to take two candy bars with me just in case I will need one after I’ve already eaten the first one—which is almost always before take off.
I have been a chocolate addict for over 50 years. It has been my passion and I have blissfully spent countless hours researching and taste testing chocolate. Because I am a woman, I can also be an expert on lots of things, chocolate included. Women have known forever that chocolate has made them feel better. Our bodies crave it. It has been doing medicinal duty ever since Eve found the first cocoa bean in the Garden of Eden, and now modern science is finally validating this fact. This is wonderful news and I intend to spread the word: Chocolate is not the problem. It is the solution.
Aside from helping with my flying fears, it has been the solution to so many other problems in my life. It has improved my blood flow, delayed the growth of gray hair and has helped me get better at Sudoko. Chocolate will even reduce violence. I used to have to continually stop myself from yelling at my husband or kicking the dog before it became one of my major food groups. In any case, my husband can’t hear anymore and the dog died.
As for coming out of the chocolate closet, it didn’t happen overnight. One day at a time, I really had to work the step-by-step recovery program. I had to give up trying to quit and then surrender to admitting it was a healthy habit. Once I did this, I wanted to know more about my new best friend and former addiction.
I turned to the Internet, industry experts and my own circle of close advisors for my research. From the Web, I learned that Christopher Columbus brought the first cocoa beans back to Europe. He was quoted as saying, “It is a divine drink which builds up resistance and fights fatigue.” Later, Casanova, who drank it before his seductions, proved without a doubt the fatigue-resisting properties of which Columbus had spoken. I also found out that, historically, only the rich and powerful could afford the chocolate experience—and thanked my lucky stars that I was born in a time of chocolate for all.
In spite of my yearning to spread the word to one and all, I also desperately wanted to become a chocolate snob, so I used my radio show on BigMediaUSA.com to entice real experts to share their knowledge with me. I interviewed and started to hob-knob with big-wigs from Hersheys, Mars USA, Amber Lyn Chocolates and Sweetriots. I especially enjoyed meeting Tracey Downey, whose handmade Big Mouth Chocolates are named after her dad, the legendary Morten Downey, Jr.
Curtis Stone, the Australian lad starring in The Take Home Chef on TLC and one of People magazine’s sexiest men of the year, visited my show praising Green & Black’s Organic Chocolate; and thanks to John Scharffenberger of the famous and well-respected Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker, I have adopted a new mantra: “Chocolate is the new broccoli.” John explained to me that chocolate can be the ultimate health food, and if he’s comfortable with that, I’m comfortable with that, aren’t you?
As for my personal advisors, Paul, my hairdresser, is a certified M&M expert and lifelong lover of chocolate who has given me much support and input, as have my workout girlfriends at Curves—fellow chocoholics one and all. My associates from National Charity League, all of whom have raised teenage daughters, have also provided expert advice over the years.
Chocolate is not only a quick cure for whining about flying and various other maladies, but it also provides guilt-free gratification without an expiration date. Experts agree with me that it can cure anything, and it may even increase your sexual appetite: hot chocolate and Viagra are said to work wonders together. It is truly a healthy and comforting tonic for all situations—and all ages!
But like I said, it took me a long time to go from low-esteem chocolate addict to confident chocolate lover. I have gone public as an example to my grandchildren, who are just discovering the joys of chocophilia, and for everyone who is addicted to anything or anyone in the hopes that they will stop their current addiction and switch to chocolate.
Believe a reformed whiner when it comes to this indispensable cure: If you consume chocolate daily then you will be a cool, calm and collected character…even when soaring through the atmosphere in a flammable hunk of metal at 600 miles per hour.
The desire to reach for the sky
runs deep in our human psyche.