If I were to guess, I would say it was around 1973 when I took my first trip on an airplane. My Grandmother and Mom were taking my brother Greg and me to Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
I remember it being a big deal; this whole “going on a plane” thing, and I remember being excited about it. I also remember projectile vomiting into a little bag through the entire trip because of turbulence. It was horrible. Back then, though, they actually fed you on an airplane and, truth be told, the food wasn’t quite that bad. It certainly wasn’t gourmet cuisine, but it was certainly good enough to make you thankful that you had something in your stomach which would “come up” should the need arise.
At some point, though, the airlines decided that food was an unnecessary commodity, and they did away with their meal service. Now, they’re charging more than ever before for air fares, and they’re giving you as little as possible in return (and, unfortunately, it often seems as though the bare minimum is a challenge for some carriers). You can certainly get a meal on an airplane these days, sure. But you have to pay for it, and the quality is often far below what the airlines used to provide for free.
Now, if you’ve been keeping score, I’ve been a non-smoker for a little over seven months now (August 16 came and went without me even remembering to mention it). It’s made life quite a bit easier when I travel.
Not long ago, my routine when traveling was this:
- Get to the long-term parking lot
- Light a cigarette and try to smoke it before the shuttle shows up
- Get on the shuttle
- Get off the shuttle at the terminal and light a cigarette, and smoke said cigarette in its entirety
- Check in
- Scope out the security line to see how long it is and estimate how much time I have to smoke
- Go outside and light a cigarette
- Depending on length of line at security, continue to smoke
Now, as humorous as this may seem, the reality was that I would adjust my traveling around my smoking habits. I could, and would, sometimes smoke a half a pack before getting on the security line. This was especially challenging when traveling in Canada, when I’d always have to deal with Customs officials, as well. There was no way to accurately gauge how long that could take.
But it wasn’t just with getting to, and through, the airport. I would also schedule my itinerary based on which airports had security-side smoking areas. Denver was always a favorite. One smoking lounge was a bar, and another (in the other terminal) was a coffee shop. Now, not only would I make sure I was able to smoke, I would make sure I had ample time to have several cigarettes and coffee. I’d jump online and surf for a bit. It was a nice break in my trip.
Other airports with smoking areas? Dulles in Washington DC, Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta and Salt Lake City, to name a few. The entirety of McCarran International in Las Vegas used to be open to smokers, but they did away with that. Vancouver and Calgary both used to have smoking areas, but they, too, are gone.
This was never a concern in years gone by. Remember the “smoking section”? I used to avail myself of that all the time. I would be flying home on leave, say, and would gladly relegate myself to sitting in the back of the airplane if It meant being able to fore up to my heart’s content. And, gosh, didn’t it make sense to have a separate section for it? Yeah, let’s let the last eight rows of people light up cigarettes, because there’s just no way that smoke would ever find its way to the forward part of the plane. In hindsight, of course, it makes sense that they did away with the smoking section on airplanes. But that didn’t mean it wasn’t a sad day for Marlboro Men everywhere.
The reality is that smoking truly impacted how I managed my travel. It would often even dictate what hotels I would stay in, cost be damned. None of that’s a concern any more. By quitting smoking, I’ve been able to streamline my travel a bit, and that’s a good thing.
One of the things I remember most vividly about that first airplane trip was getting dressed up. Okay, maybe not “Thanksgiving dinner with the family” dressed up, but I recall wearing a collared, button down shirt, and there were no sneakers to be seen. Greg and I were in our Buster Brown’s for this trip. Mom insisted on that. It seemed to make sense. Only rich people took trips on airplanes and, despite not being rich, at least we could look the part.
As I travel on my own, now, I’m able to make the aforementioned fashion decisions for myself. Normally I’ll fly in sneakers, for comfort’s sake, but will, on occasion, wear my boots (they’re ankle high with a zipper on the side. I’m such a cheater). I’ll wear jeans and, usually, a polo shirt. The bottom line is that I’m presentable when flying. I could go from an airplane seat to a business meeting if need be.
Such is not the case with many, these days.
Like it or not, 9/11 changed how we travel. We need to allow more time to get through security. We have to damn-near get undressed at the security check point (which I have no problem with, I’m just mentioning it), and gone are the days when you could go to the gate to meet an arriving flight. Apparently, these changes seem to have manifested themselves in the way people dress to travel.
I’m only 50 years old, and I enjoy being as comfortable as the next guy. But the style of dress I see in airports these days is more appropriate for a locker room or a swap meet than for traveling on an airplane.
I think my biggest pet peeve is footwear. Like I said, I wear either boots or tennis shoes. Either seems like a reasonable choice to me. What doesn’t seem like a reasonable choice to me is flip-flops, or sandals:
Seriously? You’re going to subject an entire Boeing 767 to your toe-jam and foot stank? Really? That’s disgusting. That’s all it is. If you wear flip-flops on an airplane, at the very least, wear some socks. Hey, you’ll look goofy as Hell but, then again, “appearance” doesn’t seem to be a major concern for you, anyway.
Now, something that’s not nearly as offensive, but it still a fashion train-wreck, is those shoes that have individual toe sleeves.
Oh. My. God.
I think these are the new “Crocs” of the new decade. They’re hideous looking. Seriously. Here’s a shot I took of some kid wearing them. Aside from how ugly they are, I just can’t imagine them being very comfortable. But, hey, at least they’re not flip-flops:
Someone once asked me if I'd ever tried the hideous toe-sock shoes, to which I replied "Oh, Hell no". Their retort was "Well, how can you knock it if you don't try it?" They were left kind of speechless when I said "Well, I've never shoved a screwdriver through my foot, either, but I'm pretty sure it would suck".
So, I hear you asking yourself: “Steve, is that all there is?”, and the answer would be a profoundly resounding “NO”.
Again, I understand the need for comfort, I really do. There’s nothing worse than sitting in an airplane seat for three to six hours without being comfortable. I’ve done it, and it sucks. But, if nothing else, we should give, at the very least, a passing nod to decorum.
Here’s a picture of a young lady; I’m guessing early 20’s. She’s got boots on, which is always good. She’s wearing jeans; a sound choice. Her blouse is perfectly acceptable except for, wait, what’s that? Ma’am, is that your bra?
Don’t get me wrong, please. I’m a big fan of the female form, and I’m a big fan of the female form in lingerie. But I’m also someone who believes there’s a time and place for everything, including lingerie but, insofar as I can tell, United 1073 from San Diego to Houston probably isn’t the place for it.
In all honesty, there are countless more examples of people who just don't seem to care how they present themselves in public. Frankly, the examples I've shown here are tame.
In a time when practically everything we seem to want to do is more difficult, I guess it's understandable that we lay aim at something as innocuous as the travel industry and put a shot across the bow. We know we're not going to actually change anything, it's just as if we want to let them know what we can get away with...