Magazine article The Christian Century

In-Flight Disciplines

Magazine article The Christian Century

In-Flight Disciplines

Article excerpt

On a recent plane trip I I read the in-flight magazine and found the letters column especially interesting. One reader wrote that he loved the airline, saying it "has all the qualities I look for in my future bride: always on time, greets me with a smile, welcomes me home and takes care of me during our time together. OK, so I'm a hopeless romantic who thinks I will meet my future wife on my next flight." Others wrote that they found their flights "comforting" and "enjoyable."

I shared the letters with a friend who was traveling with me, and we agreed that such enthusiasm wasn't typical of our experience of air travel. Always on time? You must be kidding.

Flight attendants and pilots generally are courteous and friendly. But air travel is arduous. It begins in the ticketing line, with the hectoring computer that demands fees for checked-in baggage and wheedles for upgrades, extra legroom and the purchase of additional mileage. The ordeal ramps up in the security line, which tends to be long and requires waiting. Once one winds through the maze and arrives at the front of the line, there is the virtual undressing--off come shoes, belt and jewelry. One does this while juggling a briefcase and perhaps a second bag onto the conveyor belt running through the X-ray machine.

The next move on the other side of the X-ray machine is to clumsily gather bags, belt and shoes and pad to a nearby bench, where you re-dress and regroup. Then, if it's near mealtime, you partake of some expensive airport food and drink, since there won't be any semblance of real food on the plane.

Heading on to the gate, it's time to sit and wait some more. Eventually you board the airplane, jostling with other travelers down the jet-way. If you have an aisle seat, your shoulders, elbows and head are likely to be bumped by the baggage being dragged through the close space of the cabin. The seats themselves are of course tight and cramped. There's more waiting for the plane to take off.

The tightness of the seats makes any trip at least somewhat unpleasant. Other factors-crying children and odorous or garrulous seatmates--can make a flight positively grueling.

Once the plane lands, one waits again to deplane and then again to collect one's baggage. That's the last wait, unless you also have to wait--now hobbling along with rolling and hanging baggage in tow--for a taxi or shuttle bus or rental car. …

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