Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Ahhhhhh.......The Joys of Flying............

I recall my first airline flight.  I was 21 years old and I got to fly from Atlanta, Georgia to my college in Greenville, South Carolina.  It was a thrill.  Heck, it was a distance of only 135 miles, but what an adventure!  I had my face glued to the window as I marveled at the world racing past 20,000 feet below.

Gosh, the flight attendants (we called them "stewardesses", or "stews" back then, as this was the age just before political correctness) were nice and polite and always smiling. 

After I got into the work force, my duties soon required me to fly on a weekly basis.  Sometimes, I would fly to several places during my workweeks.  I became very schooled in flying, scheduling, rescheduling, etc.  I knew the major airports like the back of my hand.  I knew how to navigate most efficiently to obtain the best car rentals and where all the best airport lounges were located.

Up until around 1980 or so, flying was great.  But then, things started to change.  Suddenly, it seemed, all the flights were crowded.  And there seemed to be more delays than ever before.  And the issue of smoking on planes and in airports became a somewhat contentious matter that spilled over into everyday discourse.  The service on the flights began to be cut back.  Meals that once were tasty had morphed into a bag of peanuts or a few pretzels. 

Flight attendants became something between businesslike and surly.  Soon, I wasn't enjoying flying all that much.  Soon after that, I wasn't liking it at all.  It was a chore...something to be endured so that I could remain employed. 

Then, when the events of 9-11 occurred, the "friendly skies" truly became decidedly UNfriendly.  Wait in line, take off your shoes, boot up your computer, take off your belt, empty your pockets, hurry up!, spread your arms, spread your legs, show your driver's license (what would someone do if they did not drive?), etc, etc...

I could no longer stand to fly.  I began following a self-made rule:  if I could drive to my destination in an 8-hour time frame, I would drive instead of fly.  Sometimes, this meant I would leave on a weekend when before I would fly out on a Monday morning.  And that was OK.

But my truly worst moments while flying over the years were these:

---Flying from Atlanta to Dusseldorf, Germany.  Changing planes in Paris.  A Frenchman, nicely dressed in a business suit sat down next to me.  All was fine until he took off his shoes.  O.  My.  God.  I didn't know feet could smell that bad.  I cannot even describe the odor.  It was the worst thing you can imagine...times six.  I gagged.  Thankfully, he got up to go to the restroom and left his shoes there.  I got a towel and covered them up while he was gone.  It didn't completely eliminate the odor, which was beginning to peel the paint from the plane's interior, but it helped.

---On a domestic flight at the end of a hard week, I flew home late on a Friday evening.  A grandmother sat down next to me with a baby of about two months in her arms.  The baby had deposited a huge load into its diaper.  The woman had no intention of changing said diaper and the odor was intoxicating.  I had to sit there for three hours, asking God why He was doing that to me.  I guess He's got a wicked sense of humor.

---On another domestic flight, again at the end of a tiring, hard workweek, I found myself sitting next to a man who weighed 500 pounds if he weighed an ounce.  His body spilled over from his seat into mine.  He raised the arm rest between us so his frame could fit into the seats.  I couldn't breathe.  There was nothing I could do but "enjoy" my flight. 

---On another flight I inexplicably got hit with the ole diarrhea bug.  I was able to get to the restroom time after time after time after time after time, but it made for a less than fun flight.

---Got hit by lightning somewhere over New York state while flying from Canada.  We were in a winter storm at the time, and when the lightning hit the plane, it manifested itself as an explosion and a fireball in the plane's galley, which was right behind the cockpit.  The passengers went completely silent.  Of course we did---we all thought we were going to die immediately.  It took the captain an eternity to come on the intercom and announce in a folksy drawl..."Ahhhh, sorry about that, folks........everything's OK........it seems we were hit by lightning........enjoy the rest of your flight".

Yeah, right.


  1. I was afraid of flying until I was widowed, if anyone would have said many years ago I would fly to America quite a few times and to Spain I would not have believed them, My first flight was from Bristol UK to N. Ireland all of an hour. from then on it was fine.
    I enjoyed reading your account of flying Clint. I'd be afraid if lighteneing was about I admit and although one can NEVER forget 9/11 I suppose it goes to the back of ones mind when you have to fly.


  2. thanks for the laughs - although at the time all of those occurrences would have been dreadful!

  3. My wife just had her first flight a month ago! It was a hoot watching her get ready! It was a funny experience!

  4. Oh my gosh what a story and what memories you bring back. I worked for United Air Lines in Chicago - as a ticket agent and I flew a lot too. We would be put up into first class if there were seats empty and flying used to be so much fun. How times have changed it is all full of stress now. Nothing really fun about it - except when you get to your destination. Thanks for the memories. sandie

  5. All those were pretty bad, but I'll bet the lightning strike had people saying their prayers!

  6. I can relate to most of that, including getting hit by lightning while on short final going into Montreal. It fried all the instruments. I have not flown since 9/11 and have no desire to do so.
    When working, I overdosed on flying and lost any desire to fly commercial airlines. Too much hassle!FWIW

  7. Five years ago from Tenerife to Hamburg I have had a "stormy landing". The Lady in my back became sick and after landing a doc has to come.

    But thank's God I had never a lightning- experience.


  8. those are some horror stories! i have a strong sense of smell and would have been gagging!

    i'd rather not fly these days with the bodyscans and pat-downs. i can't afford to anyway so that's settled.=)

    enjoyable post, mr. clint!

  9. Wow I am a little nervous about flying back from Vancouver Island next month maybe I should not have read this. Lightning Canada yikes.
    Great stories I love flying. Well I did LOL B

  10. I have only ever flown twice and loved it and would love to do it again........although you stories does give on pause for thought but hell I would still fly again

  11. My wife and I left Hawaii and was two hours into our flight when the pilot announced we had to turn back because of a problem in the cockpit. We had to dump fuel into the ocean because it would not be safe to land with almost full tanks. When we touched down in Hawaii I could see fire trucks everywhere with lights flashing. I will never forget that close call.

  12. You had some pretty hair raising experiences. Domestic flights are awful but Bob and I love to fly Cathay Pacific.It is still like flying in the good old days. They even serve free wine and on long flights serve noodles on request. That is in addition to 3 full meals and standard snacks. First class must be incredible if we get service like that in steerage. Have a great day. Blessings...Mary

  13. Clint,
    Well, you just nailed one of the main reasons I retired. FLYING - ugghh! I was getting too darned old to be dozing off at the Denver airport.

    Thanks for the chuckles, though. :)
    Have a good one - Marsha

  14. My dad was one of the very first pilots. He flew for Delta when the company name was Chicago Southern and they had 3 airplanes! I think he would be very disappointed in the state of flying today. My last flight was almost two years ago because I just decided there was no place I want to go bad enough to get on a plane again. Of course, I'm sure something like a wedding or a funeral will get me on a plane someday, but until then....

  15. Trust me, I read your post and burst out laughing...sorry for your misfortune when flying those times, can understand you going in a car when you could.

  16. I went up ONE time ....a little twin engine plane ....I became green with sickness and that little hole in the roof ... well, I turned it so I could breathe in fresh air to keep from spraying my co-flyers .... I begged the pilot ...take me to the ground....I was sick the rest of the day ....aweful experience...my memories and your memories are completely in opposite directions... lol ....happy your memory is pleasant ... mine is still vivid enough it KEEPS ME OFF FLYING TOYS....

  17. Hi Clint -

    Some adventure, huh. Flying the friendly skies...