My recent trip to Chicago only served to remind me why I don’t like to travel on airplanes. It’s not that I’m afraid to fly. It’s not that dealing with airport security, delays, and airport food is just such an unpleasant experience. It’s not even the minuscule snack they claim to give you. It’s the simple fact that airplanes were built for people who are under six-foot-two.
The plane on the way there was a Boeing 757 and had a whole bunch of little TVs on the ceiling of the cabin — in the aisle — about 12 feet apart from each other. The clearance of the TVs were about six-feet. It’s hard enough walking down the aisle with bags, trying not to hit the people that boarded ahead of you, but to also have to worry about not knocking yourself out is just annoying.
Once in the seat, the middle of three mind you, I had about one inch of space between my knee and the seat in front of me. This is normal, but because the two people to the left and right of me were also of average to above-average height, I was not able to spread my legs a bit without encroaching on their space. It was then that I felt a twang of sympathy for a sardine in one of those cans, before quickly realizing that they were dead, and the cramped space was the least of their worries.
We reached our cruising altitude rather quickly, and the flight attendants started the beverage service. As they made their way down the aisle, I could see they were handing out some sort of “breakfast bar” along with a drink. As they were serving, the flight started getting a bit bumpy. Nothing too bad, but it felt like were were in a car driving over cobblestones. The pilot announced that he was going to leave the seatbelt sign on because of the turbulence, but that we could get up and go to the bathroom if necessary.
As the flight attendants got to the row in front of me, we hit a definite bump, and one of the attendants sort of lost her balance. She didn’t fall, but she did need to brace herself. It was then that the pilot made an announcement that did not inspire confidence in the situation…“Flight attendants, take your seats NOW!”
It was a bit bumpy for the next few minutes, and then it settled down. The flight attendants did not resume serving beverages. So there I was, stuck between two above-average males, my knees wedged up against the seat in front of me, and I was denied a glass of OJ and a breakfast bar. And this was just the start of the day.
The return flight was a bit better. On one side of me was an average size male who was nice enough to recognize my problem, and on the other side of me was a woman who might have been five-feet tall. This made it possible for me to at least spread my legs a little bit and have a somewhat comfortable sitting style (this is objective, and really depends on your definition of comfortable). I was able to get a can of Diet Coke and a package of pretzels, but the tray table in coach class does not clear my knees, even with them spread out.
We cruised above the storm clouds that were causing rain storms from Ohio to Boston, but landing was one of those that I really don’t like. You finally break through the clouds at about 150 feet above the ground. It’s nighttime, and you can see the rain streaking over the windows, and the ground rushing underneath you. At about 50 feet above the ground, you wonder if the plane should be banking and rolling and pitching as much as it is. You see the runway lights rush by, and then you feel and hear a very loud “thud” as the landing gear hits. At the same moment, an overhead compartment door opens. It’s a few seconds before the reverse thrusters kick in, and the plane slows to a more acceptable speed. As we do, a collective sigh of relief is let out by all those holding their breath. It is then that I start to feel the pain in my knees because at the exact moment that the plan thudded onto the runway, the seat in front of me thudded back onto my knees.
As I was getting off the plane, I found out that the pilot was a wise-ass: “Thanks for flying American Airlines. I guess I don’t have to tell you to watch your head?” < Actually, you do, because I did bump my head on the door. I’m still not sure how, because I did duck.