If You’re Looking for Glamorous Travel, Take the Bus

Check out this site, 11 Central Ave, which is billed as an audio comic strip: http://11centralave.com/.  The series is very funny and beautifully produced — and I wrote this week’s segment, on being “fired” by a hairdresser.

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Flights were delayed at the San Francisco airport yesterday.  I stood in a long line with other downtrodden passengers, hoping to snag a flight so I wouldn’t miss my connection in Los Angeles.

“That does it,” said a man behind me to the woman next to him.  “We’re never flying Southwest again.”  She murmured in agreement.

I don’t know about that.  I still like Southwest and its oddball spirit.  I watched the young guy behind the Southwest counter who played his computer and constantly ringing phone and complaining customers like a concert maestro.

“You told me I could get to Little Rock tonight,” a hostile, blue-eyed man said to him accusingly.  “Well, I can’t.  I’m going to have to spend the night in Los Angeles.”

“Can I get on an earlier flight?” somebody else asked the Southwest guy, as his phone rang again.

“You gave my your word,” the Little Rock agitant said.  “I guess your word doesn’t mean anything, does it?”

It was at this point I realized the whole scene reminded me of Casablanca, with the desperation to be flown, the fury, the frustration, the long lines, the hopelessness, the despair.  But I have to get out of here, monsieur!  I have to get to Little Rock!  (Wouldn’t not getting back to Little Rock be an advantage?  Evidently not.)  All we needed was the piano music and the romantic black-and-white imagery and maybe the Marseillaise and a bunch of aggressive Nazis at some critical point.

“People used to keep their word,” the Little Rock guy grumbled.  “Not anymore.”  The guy behind the counter apologized and his phone rang again.

Finally, we shuffled onboard the plane and sat there for about an hour because of a backup in LA.  Little Rock wasn’t getting any closer, but nobody complained this time. 

Finally, takeoff.  The Southwest flight attendant commandeered the microphone, telling us to shut off our cell phones because he didn’t want to hear our embarrassing ring tones.  That’s when I realized the movie theme had shifted.  The flight attendant, with his bored, world-weary voice, was more like Addison de Witt in All About Eve, more George Saunders than Humphrey Bogart.

“Did I tell you you can’t smoke?” he said.  “FAA regulations.  If you’re smoking, you’d better be on fire.”

An hour or so later, we landed in LA.  The flight attendant warned us not to leave anything behind or he’d be selling it on Ebay the next day.  We yanked suitcases out of the overhead bins and shuffled off the plane.

In an era of spiraling energy prices and a plummeting economy and crowded skies, why blame the guy behind the counter?  Just try to enjoy the sheer inanity of it all and stow your expectations under the seat in front of you.  If you expect to get to Little Rock on time, if you think flying’s still glamorous and effortless, look at it this way: You’ve been misinformed.

(Copyright 2008 by Ruth Pennebaker)

2 comments… add one
  • Funny–my American Airlines flight from DFW to Albuquerque was delayed and then canceled last week and everyone in MY long tedious line was grumbling that they are never flying AA again and next time they’re going Southwest.

    My little jaunt to Albuquerque took 12 hours, door-to-door.

  • rachelbirds Link

    Just went through a bomb
    scare at Anchorage airport —
    no one grumbled then.


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