Monday, June 28, 2010

My recent flight from KY to AZ and its general unpleasantries

 About 10 minutes after Peter dropped me off the airport last week, I had to call him to turn around because I’d left my laptop in his car. He obliged uncomplainingly – love ya, Peter!

The lady at the luggage check-in was inexplicably hostile with me. First she tried to get me to use the machine, and I told her I didn’t know how. Then she glanced at my ticket and ID and caustically said something to the effect of I had what I needed, I didn’t need else anything from her, what did I want? Well, I still needed to check my luggage. She appeared to now be ignoring me, so I hoisted my suitcase onto the scale unsolicited. I was about to tell her off when I remembered it’s best these days not to get belligerent in an airport.

Lest you think I imagined her rudeness, about 30 minutes later at the gate, some man said to me out of the blue, “That lady at the counter sure was giving you a hard time.” He then told me that another man had gotten so angry with her that she had to tell him not to get in her face. I replied that if she keeps acting that way a lot more people will be getting in her face.

Two men in front of me in the security line smelled so strongly of … well, I’m hoping that one of them had merely stepped in the source of the smell. I kept backing away from them so that the lady behind me couldn’t get close enough to smell them and think I was the culprit. I prayed they weren’t on my flight to Dallas.

The flight was a bit rough and I panicked a couple of times, such as during take-off, the duration of the flight, and the landing. The man next to me was maddeningly oblivious to my anxiety. As if that wasn’t irritating enough, two young women a few seats up (that had already annoyed me by laughing too loudly), kept throwing up their hands during turbulence, as if they were in a roller coaster. You might think this would have lightened the mood for me, but it only resulted in my wanting to smack their joyous hands back down where they belonged. It just looked so stupid and I was so scared and nobody cared. “Everyone is a jerk!” I vented to myself, and somehow that made me feel better.

The coffee on the plane was terrible, and it took me most of the flight to figure out that it tasted exactly like mildew smells.

The next flight got interesting even before take-off. As with the previous flight, there was not an empty seat and people kept holding things up by forcing oversized carry-ons into the overhead compartments. I watched in disbelief while one lady attempted to push in a carry-on that was sticking a good four inches over the top of the storage lid. I guess other people were staring as well because two of us jumped in with suggestions and one motivated young man grabbed it himself and shoved it in.

Eventually, the flight crew began pleading with people to quit holding things up. They asked two or three times for people to get out of the aisles and take their seats. Astonishingly enough, people responded by continuing to take their time and even started switching seats with other people. “Would you and your wife like to sit together?” “Honey, do you want this seat or this seat?” At one point, a man who appeared to be the only sane one besides myself said to his wife “Just sit down!” in exasperation. I couldn’t believe the number of seat-switching I was witnessing, as if the flight crew had pleaded with them to please take more time.

And then, as if that weren’t enough, my seatmate finally appeared, a tall, young , red-headed girl with several facial piercings. And guess what. She asked me to switch her seats so that I had the window and she had the aisle. That was fine with me since it didn’t require holding anyone up. However, rather than sitting down, she got into the seat on her knees and peered overhead to her friend who was several rows back. I knew what was coming next, and sure enough, she asked me to switch seats with her friend. Now I was going to be one of those annoying aisle walkers.

I dashed to my new seat to find a man in probably his 40s who had a strong Texas accent and a cavalier attitude. He continued a conversation on his cell phone even after the instructions had been given to turn cell phones off, and he would simply say “hang on” and place it in his lap whenever the flight attendant passed by.

When we began lift-off, I informed the man I am afraid of flying. After my last flight, I was determined that, whether he cared or not, he would be aware. He asked if there was anything he could do and I told him no, but thank you. During ascent, the pilot began a turn which caused the wing dipping that I hate most of all. “This is the part I hate the most,” I said to the man, determined not to be ignored. He obligingly said, “OK.”

I tried after that to avoid bothering the man, and the rest of the flight was relatively uneventful, except for a small moment of discomfort when the flight attendant mistook us for a married couple. (She asked if we were going to share the peanuts he had purchased. I should have said "Yes, that would be very nice.")

Moral of this otherwise pointless story: if your job requires you to work with the public, don't be an ass. If you are going out of town or even just out of your house, make sure you have no fecal matter on you of any kind. If you find yourself sitting next to nervous people, tell them that you know for a fact they will not die today. (Just say it.) If you are boarding a plane, remember that yours is not the only plane in the air that day and the pilot is on a time schedule. And don't assume people of the opposite sex who happen to be seated together have also been united in matrimony.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Dig Allen, Space Explorer

Once in awhile I am drawn to vintage teen literature. I guess my Trixie Belden reading past (which smoked Nancy Drew) causes me to wax sentimental when I stumble across any G-rated novel for yesterday’s youth.

This week I was browsing in a used bookstore and I came across a book that looked, at a glance, much like the old yellow-spined Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys books. This one, however, had a cover illustration of three boys and a grown man in spacesuits kneeling down and examining what appeared to be an elaborate city under ice. The title read “Lost City of Uranus,” and at the very top it said “A Dig Allen Space Explorer Adventure.” The copyright was 1962. I was immediately drawn to the nostalgia of 1960s sci-fi, a time of innocent wonder at space exploration before sophisticated cynicism, in my opinion, perverted much of sci-fi into the borderline horror of today.

The penciled-in price read 12.00, and even though that seemed a bit steep for Half-Priced Books, I took it to the counter along with two other books. I was startled when the lady said my total would be 7.00 +. I hesitated, wondering if I should count my blessings and run. But curiosity got the better of me and, pointing to the Dig Allen book, I asked, “How much was that?”

“1.00,” the lady said, opening the inside cover to have another look. “Oh no! “ she exclaimed. ”This is 12.00!” Of course, I expected her to reward my honesty, but instead she thanked me for it and charged me the correct amount.

Now feeling incredibly stupid, I paid for and took my purchase. As I explained the situation to my mom, mom suggested I ask the owner of the bookstore, who was currently behind the customer service counter, why this particular book was so much. The man explained that the Dig Allen series , of which there were six total, had been intended to be the new Hardy Boys. However, they had not sold well, and as a result there were only so few printed. That’s why my book cost so much.

Upon hearing this, Mom said to me, “Well, you just paid extra for a flop.” The man hastened to contradict her, but his explanation had already done the damage.

Feeling even more ridiculous, I left with mom. She encouraged me to return the book if I had reservations (and I really should have between the clerk not sticking to the price she originally named and the man explaining to me what a disaster the series had been), but I didn’t.

So last night I started the book, which I thought would be a quick and semi-delightful read, but so far it hasn’t captured me. However, the cover -- the boys in spacesuits exclaiming over a brilliant, extra-terrestrial city under ice – makes me very happy to look at. So I’m keeping it. And I WILL read it, since I paid for it. But from now on I will ASK why a book is so expensive, just in case it is, ironically, because nobody wanted it to begin with.