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May 2011 Trail Head

Posted in Features on May 1, 2011
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I'm not sure why anyone would want to stuff themselves into an overly crowded metal tube filled with sick, grumpy passengers and screaming kids. Most people would rather be kicked in the groin than shoehorn themselves into a greasy, germ-soaked, stained seat that no doubt is being kicked in a non-rhythmic manner by the brat behind them. Adding insult to injury is the fact that we typically pay hundreds of dollars to be there. With these kinds of experiences, most people would really have to reconsider ever traveling by airplane again. It's not the airlines that have made me uncomfortable-it's the people I have to fly with.

I am by no means a professional traveler-I don't fly in a private jet, I don't have any gold status membership cards, and I don't get free upgrades to first class. But I do fly frequently enough to know the ups and downs of air travel, and if given a choice, I would rather drive if I'm only traveling a couple of states away.

One of the reasons I have to show up at the airport two hours early is because many of the travelers are unorganized. Everybody has to go through the security checkpoint. So how is it that so many people are unprepared for, and irritated by it? Get over it. It's necessary in today's world. Pockets empty, shoes, jackets, and sweaters off, laptop out, and go. It's really frustrating being held up by someone who must have been living under a rock for the last 10 years. Maybe there should be a security checkpoint line for both inexperienced and experienced travelers. Large unorganized groups, bumbling families, and generally needy passengers would be funneled into the inexperienced route, where they could rot and make each other wait in line. Individual travelers with small carry-ons could hit the express lane.

And speaking of carry-ons, I've always thought a carry-on bag was just that, carry-on. Since most airlines have begun to charge an extra fee for checked baggage, many people have gone overboard with the size of their carry-on luggage. Next time you're at the airport, sit back and people-watch. You'll see what I mean. A carry-on bag is supposed to be no larger than 45 linear inches (length+height+width). A typical acceptable carry-on bag size is 22x14x9 inches. Somehow most people believe this rule only applies to others and not to them. I think it's hilarious (at least if I've already sat down) when they get on the plane and their bag doesn't even fit in the overhead compartment. They typically stand there in amazement as if the plane's storage compartments have magically shrunk right there in front of them. And then they expect someone to go out of their way to help them figure it out as if they didn't know this would happen.

Oh, and If you can't lift your own bag over your head by yourself to put it in the storage compartment, it's not a carry-on, at least not for you. Do me and all the passengers waiting for you to get out of the way and sit down a favor: pay the $25 and check your oversized bag next time. You're not sticking it to the airline by not paying the baggage fee. You're sticking it to all the people who have to wait for you to find a place for your bag.

When I fly I really try to be considerate of other people and their space, and I guess I kind of expect the same in return. When you sit next to me, don't even think about lifting the armrest because it digs into your hips. Sorry, but why should I be uncomfortable because you don't fit in the seat? I have a similar problem, but I plan for it. I have wide shoulders, so I generally get a window or aisle seat so I can lean to the side to make room for whoever is sitting next to me.

On my most recent flight, I was sitting next to a woman with a child. Supposedly kids under two years old can ride in the parent's lap. Well, this woman had what I considered to be a large 4-year-old who constantly shuffled and kicked during the four-hour flight. The little girl even tried to migrate and sit on the armrest and partially in my lap. Her mother's belongings were spilling into my seat and my foot space. I rested easy knowing my revenge would surface days later. They were both sure to catch the miserable cold that I had at the time.
-John Cappa
john.cappa@jpmagazine.com

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