Category Archives: flying

How Not To Fly

With all this recent attention to airlines and flight safety, I thought I’d share my most recent flying experience.

It was June of 2009. My sisters, my mother and I were having some only-occasionally-productive talk at my mother’s home in Charlotte, NC. My mother left for her adult day care, and my sisters and I continued on, though I was trying to end the conversation at every opportunity.

One of my sisters was driving my daughter and me to the airport. She asked me the night before when I wanted to depart for the airport. I said that I wish to leave the house by two hours before the flight leaves. That would be 9:25 a.m. for an 11:25 a.m. flight. With a 20-30 minute trip to the airport, this seemed reasonable at the time for a domestic flight.

Except the talking continued, though I was no longer initiating any of it, but rather, periodically, whirling around my arm like an NFL field official restarting the clock. Finally, at 10:10, we left.

We’ve both been to the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport before a number of times, but somehow, this trip, we miss the exit. We end up four miles away and have to double back. I do not panic. I do not shout. I do, however, say, in the most rational tone I could muster “I am now officially concerned about this situation.”

She drops me off at the airport and suggests that I check my luggage in at the kiosk in front of the airport. I considered this a useful suggestion. The only trouble was that none of the kiosks were for Delta, my carrier. So that was not an option.

I go inside and go to the the first Delta counter. Unfortunately, and it was marked, though I didn’t notice in my haste, that first line was only for three cities, Minneapolis and two others. But not Albany, NY.

By then, my sister has parked the car. I am in another long line waiting to get to either a person or a check-in machine. By the time I DO get to the machine, I have no idea how to operate it. It is asking for my password. I HAVE A PASSWORD? Fortunately, some kind gentleman suggested that I ought to swipe any of my credit cards. Sure enough, that worked. Scary, but good.

Not so good was the fact that it was, by then, 11:03. As I said, our flight was at 11:25. So my daughter and I could get on the flight, our carry-on luggage could get on the flight, but our checked bag could not. Was there another flight I could take? Not that day.

What took then was probably very comical to watch. My sister and I are switching items from bag to bag in the TSA line. Books, dirty clothes and whatever else I were schlepping. I didn’t NEED my worn underwear at that moment, so that went into the suitcase staying behind, whereas some medicines, except for the liquid ones we knew wouldn’t get past the screeners, went into the carry-on. I think that any sense of possible mortification was trumped by panic and adrenaline.

At one point some TSA guy barked at me, “You’re holdin’ up the line.” I replied in kind, “No, I’m NOT.” Which I wasn’t, actually. Still, note to self: don’t yell at TSA screeners, even if they yell at you.

My daughter and I are running to our gate as they are calling our names at said gate, and we got home together in one piece. I did forget a couple things I wish I had taken, but we got them eventually, as my sister sent the suitcase to the Greyhound bus station, and I retrieved the bag when it arrived two days later.

Not recommended.
Since I’m thinking about flying, I should note that I’ve been hearing a lot about the potential change of rules, but I’m not clear exactly what I that means, even after looking at the TSA website. Of the ideas that have been floating around, I particularly hate the idea of not getting up during the last hour of the flight to go to the bathroom. Do any of these people suggesting this have a five-year-old? It doesn’t make me feel safer; nor the “nothing on the lap” rule. And I must wonder: If the government can somehow create safe air travel, will this mean that the other forms of transportation are at greater risk? I have to think so.

Maybe I should just stay home? Nah, but air travel, which I’ve long described as a flying bus – remember the old days, when flying was considered special? – can only become less comfortable. What is the tipping point at which travelers will consider increased security and restrictions to be unacceptable trade-offs? I don’t fly enough for it to be a large issue for me personally. But I must believe that frequent fliers and the airlines that serve them must be worried what this will mean to the industry’s bottom line.

Forsooth! A final week of 2009 meme!

I was not looking for a meme, but I did think I needed to write a post or two about end-of-year stuff. As it turns out, I found one from that American expat in New Zealand, Nik at spatulaforum, that met my needs. Oddly, Nik has written about spatulas only once.

Not incidentally, Nik’s meme was stolen for this week’s Sunday Stealing, which I usually purloin. Like a circle in a circle.

1. What did you do in 2009 that you’d never done before?

Go to a bunch of kindergarten events, such as the “Apple Run”; the daughter is fast! Go on a vacation with the wife, without the daughter, for our 10th anniversary; it was surely the highlight of the year, though we were only 30 miles from home. Saw Bruce Springsteen live. Flew on an airplane with the daughter, her first flights.

2. Did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I don’t make the things. Less grief.

3. How will you be spending New Year’s Eve?

Watching my wife valiantly trying to stay awake but likely failing.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

No, though the husband of a fellow choir member did.

5. What countries did you visit?

None, including the US. In fact, the longest trip was the aforementioned flight to Charlotte.

6. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009?

More sleep. More democracy. Less war. Steve Bissette wrote What I Won’t Miss About 2009, and I really can’t argue with any of it; re: the year, this video Steve found will do nicely.

7. What date from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

April 3, the massacre in Binghamton, NY. May 14, Springsteen.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Getting through my wife’s two weeks away at college, taking care of the daughter while trying to maintain a semblance of a work schedule.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Controlling the temper, especially during the aforementioned trip to Charlotte.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

The usual minor aches and pains. My neck is a little stiff. I have a cut on the heel of my left foot which makes walking without at least slippers, and preferably thick-soled sneakers, painful. And I suffered with some sort of head congestion/lung congestion/coughing up phlegm thing for two weeks in December which seems FINALLY to be over.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

The Top Pop Singles book. Fun! Actually, I liked buying Wonder Pets DVDs for the daughter; she enjoyed them.

12. Where did most of your money go?

The mortgage, of course. Also house renovation; the attic is being insulated this very week to take advantage of a tax credit.

13. What song will always remind you of 2009?

Tennessee Jed by Levon Helm, from his new Electric Dirt album, one of the very few albums I actually got in 2009.
I also bought A Very Special Christmas 7, and it had a bunch of newer artists that don’t cut it; Kellie Pickler doing Santa Baby is unconvincing. A Christmas Song by Charice was the best tune, though Gloriana’s Silent Night I liked as well. Still, it’s for a good cause, the Special Olympics, and I’ll probably buy the next one when it comes out in 3 or 5 years.

14. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Playing racquetball. Also wish I had bought my bicycle earlier than June. I saw no live baseball – bummer.

15. What do you wish you’d done less of?


16. What was your favourite TV program?

“Glee”, for sure. It’s a show I get to watch with my wife, which doesn’t happen that often. People say it’s not realistic, as though it were a docudrama. No, the cheerleaders wouldn’t wear the outfits ALL the time. Sheesh. I bought the wife both soundtracks for Christmas. Al;so been watching The Good Wife, which is a show I watch sans wife.
Whereas The Office has lost something, and I can’t put my finger on it – Jim & Pam being married? The co-managing thing?

17. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

Well, not hate. What’s interesting is when there is someone everyone in a certain circle seems to love. But you’re just not that enamored, and it seems to be mutual.

18. What was the best book you read?

The Jack Kirby book by Evanier. Or was that last year?

19. What was your greatest musical discovery?

Well, there’s this British band called the Beatles that I seem to be newly into. Also, to a much lesser degree, Queen. About as little NEW music as I’ve ever experienced.

20. What was your favorite film of this year?

2008 movie I saw in 2009: The Visitor.
2009 movie: Up or Amreeka or maybe District 9. Though if I just got the Julia part of Julie and Julia, it’d be that. But there are a LOT of films I haven’t seen.

21. What did you do on your birthday?

Played (hearts) cards.

22. What kept you sane?

This assumes that I am sane. There’s no evidence I’ve seen.

23. Who did you miss?

Nobody, really. I mean I wish I saw some people more often, but that would be a shopping list. And because of the magic of electronics, I feel I DO keep up with them and/or know they keep up with me. Without that, it’d be pretty tough.

24. Who was the best new person you met?

There are some new folks in church I’m rather fond of, but I won’t name names.

25. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009:

Left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot…

Actually, it is the wisdom of Satchel Paige:
“Age is a case of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it don’t matter.”
“Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.”
“Don’t pray when it rains if you don’t pray when the sun shines.”
“Not to be cheered by praise, not to be grieved by blame, but to know thoroughly one’s own virtues or powers are the characteristics of an excellent man.”
“Work like you don’t need the money. Love like you’ve never been hurt. Dance like nobody’s watching.”


The Lydster, Part 64: A Fly Girl

Lydia flew for the first time in June, as she and I went to Charlotte, NC for my niece Alex’s high school graduation.

Last time I flew to Charlotte, there were reasonably-priced direct flights from Albany to Charlotte and back. But the last time was in November 2007, on Delta, and that was before the Delta-Northwest merger that stifled competition.

So this time, my options were c. $370 for a direct flight or $230 for one that would stop at JFK, Cincinnati or, heaven forbid, Detroit. (That was not a knock on Detroit or its airport, only the idea of traveling that far west before going south.) I’m talking $370 or $230 EACH.

We got to the Albany International Airport – it’s “international” because one can fly into Canada from here – in plenty of time, but I was we were at the wrong gate, and we had to rush through the airport as we heard our names announced on the loudspeaker.

All of these short flights had limited storage, so the small suitcase, which met the carry-on regulations, was nevertheless stowed under the plane; had I realized that, I would have packed differently.

I know that due to circumstances, smaller children ravel by air. But I’ve BEEN on those flights with screaming children on the flight and I didn’t want my child to be one of them. To that end, Lydia, a few days before, got her first pieces of chewing gum ever. She liked it – though she hasn’t asked for more since a couple days since the return trip.

One of the smart things I was able to do was book the same pair of seats for all four legs of the trip. It made MY comfort level much greater. As I suspected, she wanted, and got, the window seat each time.

All the takeoffs and landings were uneventful – that’s a good thing. I was particularly vigilant in making sure that she did not hear the news about the plane that had crashed between Brazil and France before her first flight. Indeed, the followup news about the crash near Buffalo, and our plane was more that size, also got quickly changed if she happened to be in the room; thee’s lots of news she hasn’t seen yet, but she will in due time.

There were no snacks on the ALB-JFK part of the trip. But there were a couple choices from JFK to CLT. One was a pair of cookies and the other was peanuts. When the flight attendant asked if we wanted anything, I asked to see the packaging so I could read the label. I noted that my daughter had a peanut allergy. Horrified, she asked if she should retrieve the half dozen rows of peanuts she had already dispensed. I assured her that Lydia’s allergy is not airborne but tied only to actual consumption.

Lydia was very well behaved throughout, although she was slightly annoyed at one point that I had to put her tray in the upright and locked position until she realized that EVERYONE had to. It wasn’t Daddy’s rule, it was the airline’s and thus less onerous. On a later flight, she heard a signal and she prematurely put up her tray until I advised her otherwise.

Getting to the Charlotte airport…that’s a story for another day, but it’s not Lydia-specific in any case.

I must say that I was a little bit worried about the trip, especially four takeoffs and landings, but that Lydia provided to be a very pleasant traveling companion.