I went away to boarding school at the age of 13, already a relatively well-traveled youth of civil upbringing, and soon to be a regular onboard US Airways flight 702 from Montego Bay to Hartford, CT. Traveling these 1639 miles about eight times per year, I noticed a few things. For one, SkyMall is the greatest magazine known to man, a point I’m more than happy to debate on a separate occasion, although this site pretty much makes the argument for me: [http://skymall.tumblr.com]. Secondly, crying children are easily silenced by tranquilizer darts – society is just not progressive enough to accept this yet. Sigh, one day. Finally, and most importantly, there is a certain culture that exists aboard airplane cabins, an etiquette of sorts, a code that travelers live by in efforts to traverse harmoniously from wheels up to touch down. These are simple decrees of negligible inconvenience, principles that make being strapped in a chair and catapulted from one mass of land to another a relatively enjoyable experience; The tray table is a convenient surface, not a drum set…If you’re boozing, book an aisle seat…No farting when the seatbelt sign is on. The list continues, but you catch my drift…very simple criterion to avoid confrontation while glued to cheap cloth beneath an overzealous overhead fan.
There are slight exceptions – cultural variance, if you will. Not unlike the drinking age aboard a flight from Hartford to Jamaica, which changes from 21 to about 12 over the southern coast of Florida, these conventions have a tendency to change from country to country as well. For example, dancing in the aisle, while frowned upon in transatlantic settings, is highly encouraged onboard flights to, say, Trinidad (it may actually garner you some bonus frequent flyer miles). Oscar winning movies preside on flights from LAX to JFK, while any film that lacks J.Lo lacks an audience when destined for Miami. It’s safe to say, however, that amidst this mild variability there is a core of considerations that remains consistent, no matter where or with whom you travel. We, as decent beings, are expected to hold to these standards of behavior.
Alas, the world is not perfect. There are crying babies and restless handbag dogs afoot. Obesity bears heavy on the center seat while the continuous increase in height of the European population grows out into the ever-narrowing isles of their similarly slim-fit vessels. Air travel is becoming progressively polluted with ungraciousness; a plane is now a place where seamless coexistence goes to die, the sky a graveyard of comity and tact.
This is all becoming apparent to me at once. As I write this post I occupy seat 31H onboard Virgin Atlantic’s red-eye flight from Montego Bay to London Gatwick, living through an absolute assault on common airline decency. You see, Virgin had the brilliant idea of installing touch screen TV’s in the head-rests of economy seats, a revolutionary space-saving decision turned nightmare when some idiot decided to put Fruit Ninja in the Games section of Virgin’s in-flight entertainment. For those of you unfamiliar with this game, it involves belligerent swiping and tapping motions of the index finger, each of which cuts the fruit that appears on the screen. Literally, that is all you do – cut fruit. It is a game that reflects nothing more than complete, utter boredom with one’s surroundings (not to mention a fundamental misunderstanding of what a Ninja does)…and Jamaicans LOVE it.
Of the twenty or so people in my field of vision on this plane, approximately twelve of them are playing Fruit Ninja – an inordinate amount of people when you consider the following: all twelve of them have daily access to the exact same fruits in real life, six of them probably brought the fruits with them on the plane and one of them is actually eating fruit while playing Fruit Ninja (I can’t make this stuff up)! Needless to say, the 65-year-old gentleman behind me has too succumbed to the calling of the Fruit Dojo, and is now digging his fingers into the back of my headrest with the fury of a thousand Samurai.
Meanwhile, in 31J, a 300lb woman’s arm fat attempts to make love with my ribs. Sadly this is the least of my worries, as her equally obese, window-seated husband has an overactive bladder, turning every third song on my iPod into a possible score to the stampede scene in the Lion King. It is at this point that my in flight recreation has become 400mg of ibuprofen and a bottle of 2013 Chardonnay.
While this is the first time my flying frustrations have driven me to ink, a gradual change in experience started about 5 years ago, when the act of flying ceased to be a novel experience for most human beings. Nowadays 35,000 feet is less impressive to most people than Angry Birds or Doodle Jump, and in the absence of that euphoric feeling we once achieved with flight, human beings are free to return to the inconsiderate pieces of shit most of them are when their feet are on the ground. But at what point did the miracle of human flight cease to be enough? At what point did we peer out from the window seat onto rolling hills and placid oceans below us and say “man I wish I could chop some fruit right now”?
As I sit here, planning my next passive-aggressive attempt to regain control of the middle arm rest, contemplating the consequences of punching a crying baby in the face as I eat the crackers and cheese I purchased for $12, I cannot help but wonder what happened to the joyous event that was once air travel, and if I may see it yet again. Perhaps one day, and until then, I suppose there’s always Fruit Ninja to keep me occupied.
Next time pack a parachute,