No Pan Am, Only Sans Glam


Pan Am CastDid you happen to catch any episodes of ABC’s Pan Am before its cancellation? It was beautifully stylized, historical fiction that made me long for that elegant golden age of air travel. Sure, the flight attendants were weighed weekly, and harassed daily, but air travel sure seemed more glamorous. Travelers were dressed properly and behaved in a civilized manner.

Well, not anymore. The Holiday travel season has just ended. Anyone who has flown at this time of year, knows that this can be the least civilized time to travel. For the average passenger, there is no glamour or civility. It is not just the airlines, it is us, the flying public. I started thinking that we can all do better in 2013, so I offer the following:

Yelling at the ticket counter and gate agents is a mistake. First, any seasoned traveler knows that these folks are accustomed to being on the front lines, and are immune to ranting and raving. Second, acting like a jackass will get you nowhere with them. Treat them with respect, not only because it is the right thing to do, but they might just be more willing and able to help you. The Laughing Mom recently blogged about Making 2013 The Year Of Nice. I couldn’t agree more. Air travel is an excellent place to start.

In the past couple of years, the practice of confirming, but not actually assigning seats, has become common. I can handle a middle seat. However, I think we should all agree, and make it a universal code: Whoever ends up in the middle seat gets BOTH arm rests. Did you hear that, Mr. Self-important wanna-be-executive in your roomy aisle seat? Please read your WSJ in the boarding area, and kindly quit turning pages in my face. You’re blocking my ipad, and believe me, I have a very important game of Drop 7 to play.

I understand planes can be stifling hot, especially when delays occur on the tarmac. During warm weather, I see fellow passengers wearing less than most folks wear to the gym. I don’t want to look at hairy armpits or bare feet. Ick. All that exposed, sweaty flesh on airline seat upholstery is just plain gross. Think about it. Let’s agree to be fully clothed when flying.

The close quarters and recycled air demands that personal grooming be done prior to boarding the plane. In private. One time, I sat next to an unbathed gal who had just attended the National Zoology Conference. I had the middle seat and she was in the window seat. Midway through the flight, she decided to trim her nails…..yes, all 20 of them. I imagined her working with primates, and for 3 hours, to ease my anxiety, I sang “you act like a monkey and smell like one, too.” only in my head, of course.

We need to be aware of our own annoying habits, since we are sharing this tiny space. My friend Jen has a disdain for gum snapping. During a few recent flights, she has been seated near some serious offenders. Like the cool, witty, fun (and a teensy bit skeery) Mom that she is, she handles the offending snappers good-naturedly: “OK snappy, you’re gonna have to knock that off!” This is both good-humored and nice.

Crying babies? No problem. If you complain about a crying baby or toddler, you heard it here first: you are a First Class jerk, even if you are flying Economy Class. Plop a pair of noise canceling headphones on your tender ears and quit rolling your eyes. It’s not nice.

Last week as I departed my hometown in Indiana, a very stylish 30-something couple was seated across the aisle from me. They wore a confluence of designer labels. Behind them was a young couple with an unhappy 2-year old boy. He was over the Holidays and over-tired, with a just a dash of sickness thrown in. But he was no bother – he was just really whiney and crying. An hour into the flight, Mrs. Stylish stood, turned around and yelled, “I get that traveling with children is difficult, but could you please hold him tighter or restrain him so that he doesn’t touch the back of my seat?” She dropped back down in her seat in a huff, and resumed watching a movie on her ipad with Mr. Stylish. Sure. Fabulous idea. Nothing soothes an unhappy tot more than being restrained.

I was mortified. I was also missing the little ones that I had just spent the holidays with, so maybe I was extra sympathetic towards this little family. In my mind, there was only one thing to do: I opened the Angry Birds App and surrendered my iPad it to the little fellow. It wasn’t the perfect solution but it did provide a diversion for a good 30 minutes. It seemed like the right thing to do. Sometimes we all need to work together to be a part of the solution, not add to the problem, Mrs. Stylish. It makes the world a nicer place.

Of course, Mrs. Stylish handled the situation poorly. Now, if there had been a young child behind her slamming the tray table closed, and kicking the seat backs, that would be another matter. While the little one doesn’t know any better, the parents do. In contrast to Mrs. Stylish, I have seen this situation handled differently.

A few years ago, I sat next to a kindergarten teacher who was repeatedly pitched forward every time the little boy behind her slammed his tray table closed. Instead of snapping, she stood up, casually leaned over her seat, and in her most patient, classroom voice, gave him what was basically an age-appropriate lesson in Newtons Laws of Motion. Not only was this a brilliant idea, she was actually nice while she did it.

Speaking of Newtons Laws of Motion, air sickness happens. On my most recent flight I was seated in 10E. Prior to take-off, the young male college students in 11E and 11F were getting acquainted. I wore headphones for the duration of the flight, so I don’t know if the conversation continued. Perhaps they had became best buds. During our initial descent, the gentleman from 11D was standing in the aisle. The flight attendants asked him to take his seat in order to comply with FAA regulations. He didn’t. Then I heard “We’re gonna need a bigger bag.” Uh-oh, cue the music from Jaws. As 11E got sick, 11F said, “Did you eat Chinese?” 11E’s response was unintelligible. 11F continued, “Dude, that totally smells like bad Chinese!” Not nice.

If someone is airsick, I think it is best to look the other way and refrain from any analysis. Or, just do what I did: Pull your turtleneck over your mouth and nose, and pray to God that the passenger isn’t returning from a Family Pa-Flu-Za,

In regards to the freaky germ-a-phobe seated next to you who pulls out their Clorox wipes and furiously scrubs the arm rests, seat belt buckle, and tray table until they are positively SUDSY: allow me to introduce myself. I’ll gladly share my antibacterial wipes with you. It’s the nicest gesture I can think of.


6 responses »

  1. “Nice” post. You should get a badge of honor for handing over your iPad to the little one! And may I add that in this day and age, one might get arrested when the stewardess cuts them off after a few too many cocktails and the retort is offered, “Are you gonna give me an “FUI”?” Well, we may be super uncomfortable flying in this day and age but at least we don’t have anyone blowing cigarette smoke in our faces like in the 70’s.


    • It was 2 gin & tonics. Remember how we just looked at each other? Apparently that no-humored gal thought the only way 2 girls could laugh so hard at each other was if they were drunk. I totally forgot that there used to be smoking sections – how gross is that to think about?


  2. Very funny and disgusting with the barfo bag, thank-you! I won’t be having Chinese anytime soon now. 😉 Every time I get on a plane I always think, in the old days I could never have been a stewardess. I’m vertically challenged and I just can’t reach the overheads. But I think I could give flyers their monies worth if they gave me the microphone on Southwest Airlines. Don’t you think that would be a gas?


    • So sorry for the gross out. I realize I mentioned barfing in 2 consecutive posts – tis the season I guess, but I promise I’m finished with that topic. Yes, if only they allowed guest speakers as an in-flight entertainment option. You sure would beat NBC re-reruns!


  3. The back-of-the-seat kick is the worst. I can’t imagine any parent allowing it. I’m with you on the year of nice. Let me start by saying you have done a wonderful job on this post, especially since one of my best friends is a flight attendant. I hear some doozies!


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