By David Berry: I fly somewhat often; let’s say twice a month on average. And even the minutiae of the experience – like why the hell a ‘tray’ is called a ‘tray table’ or why we can’t just call ‘the bulkhead’ a wall – sends me into twitching fits of rage. Even as I sit here to write this, from the peace and placidity of my living room (Maxwell is playing on my Amazon Echo), I am reaching a tipping point of anger.
It wasn’t so long ago that you could search a fare that matched your price and schedule needs and book the thing. You can only half do that now. First you find the fare. Oh, you think $250 round trip is a great price? I bet you do, you hardworking fool! Well, a carry-on bag is now gonna cost you $30 – each way. That’s $60 for the opportunity to bring literally the smallest bag possible, because heaven forbid you somehow thought it was critical to bring – gasp – toothpaste and clothes on your journey.
Want a seat where there’s enough space for your testicles? You can sit in an exit row – seats which used to be available with a stroke of good like (kind of like the old American Dream) – but that’ll cost you another $30. The exit row, of course affords you the ‘privilege’ of saving your fellow passengers in the event of a water landing (plane crash in the ocean). So now you’re at $340. And since you’re pot committed, why not another $20 to board in Zone 2? That doesn’t sound so bad – only one zone ahead of you! Okay, $360.
Thirsty? No more complimentary soda or water – you can pay $4 for a bottle of water if you think that you somehow need it to survive, you helpless peasant. Hungry? If you didn’t drop $10 on trail mix at the Hudson News store, then you can get a snack pack for $12. And it’s filled with the snacks you’d never eat on land, but all mashed in to the same kit – and you’ll like it if you know what’s good for you, loser. So now you’re at $376.
There are two lines at the terminal check-in (and this is making the bold assumption that you went there in the first place, instead of paying $10 to have your ticket printed by your gate agent for being an indentured servant without a printer at home). At the check-in, you see two lines, and you think “well, I see one long line, and one short line. I’m smart; I’ll go to the short line!”
But then the TSA-agent, who seems as jovial as anyone at a dentist’s office, tells you – no, scolds you – “that line is only for TSA-PreCheck! Do you have TSA-PreCheck?” And you say no, because you’re not in Disney Land, and you never expected to have to pay for FastPass. “I don’t, sir. What is that?”
The TSA-agent huffs. His gut sways and his eyes blink hard. “You pay $85 for it for five years, and then you can go in this line.” Well, “it costs $85” isn’t exactly telling you what it is, but he goes on to explain that you don’t need to remove your shoes, or take your laptop out of your bag to go through security. What a privilege – to wear your own shoes! And to leave the computer that you bought inside of the bag that you bought!
But since your broke ass doesn’t have TSA-PreCheck as of yet, you go through the poor people’s line. You remove your shoes. You take off your jacket. You remove your wallet from your pocket. The assigned TSA agent is screaming, “People! For the third time, you must remove your belts and jewelry.” Finally, you make it to the front of the line to
get your bar code stamped on the back of your neck go through the 3D scanner with your arms lifted over your head.
The TSA agent on the other side explains that they need to pat you down – right on the upper thigh, so please just stand still. And now there’s a man with a single hoop earring and frosted tips pressing near your loins. Everyone else is watching you with a lifeless look on their face. Some old lady has just been told for the second time that she needs to empty out all of the change from her pockets – “yes, all of it, ma’am.”
“You’re free to go,” says the TSA agent, who has just released you from prison.
But now it’s time for the fun part – you get on the plane! Well, almost.
Remember when you paid for extra leg room, and you thought that upgrading your seat meant you could board earlier? Wrong. Turns out, zone 2 is right after the gold, platinum, titanium, cubic zirconia, medallion, ruby medallion, Ruby Tuesday medallion, gold and ruby medallion, Visa MasterCard diamond executive upper middle class leases a car and has a 3/2 in the burbs, disabled, those traveling with small children, or just flat out annoying children-classes. Oh, and then zone 1. Eventually, patience pays off; zone 2 is up.
First thing’s first – you get paraded by the passengers in first class. Sure, they technically paid for their early boarding and extra leg room, but the real price of admission was to watch your homeless ass make eye contact with them on the way to your cattle car seat in the exit row, which is basically what ‘middle class’ looks like to the ‘working class.’ And their judgmental eyes, resting just above their suit coats, iPads and ‘free’ glasses of Makers Mark, watch you with disdain as you drag your Kohl’s brand carry-on past them. You find yourself nodding to them in admiration, like a Kardashian. “Wow, so glamorous” you think. “I bet these people wore their shoes the whole time.”
Sadly, all of the overhead space was taken by people who spent more money than you, so that $30 per-way carry-on you paid for is going under the plane anyway. But don’t worry, they’ll
lose check it free of charge to your final destination.
And you haven’t even taken off yet. Ugh.