she wants that old thing back

My first time on a plane was sometime in 1997. Pudong airport was still on its way to being the newer, badder, more asskicking airport of Shanghai. Nevertheless, my ten year old self embraced every square meter of HongQiao, in spite of its crummy state of being, its lack of accessibilty, its littered sidewalks, and its permanently (or so it seems) installed dirty Chinamen. I FRACKIN loved it. I loved moving past the checkpoints and beyond security and customs to find an oasis: sparsely occupied, clean, sparkling even. The duty free shops provided me with endless grounds for frolicking. Once on board, flight attendants were attentive and amiable. And the AMENITIES. Oh, the amenities. Back then, food on flight was respectable, good even and came with actual silverware [understandably improbable now what with all the security concerns]. I was handed a bunch of toys courtesy of JAL. The pillows were cushioned and blankets were more than a flimsy cover that only serves as a vehicle for germs and static.

Maybe it is a matter of novelty, but fast forward twelve years, and the travelling bit has become a rather dreadful leg of a trip. Checkouts are inefficient, despite attempts at efficiency with “self check-ins”; the glitzy dazzle of airports cedes to the purgatory of energy saving flourescent lighting. Duty free shops now sell …Hershey’s Chocolate. Horrifying sight to be sure, but more tragic if you consider the trend. As flying becomes more and more accessible, especially with Europe’s disgustingly budget airlines, the airline industry also becomes more and more lazy. Flying is no longer fun. And with the amount of unfortunate mishaps lately, maybe no longer smart.

By the time I boarded my flight back to New York, I was disillusioned with the fantasy of flying and escape. Instead, one of the most tragic moments of modern day living: the first glance at economy after having walked through First Class and Business Class. Capitalism at its finest. The walk from the door of the plane to your seat amidst 100s of other miserable beings is probably the most convincing argument for the maxim, “money does buy you happiness [if not a flight without pervasive back pain]”. I want it, I want it now. Not for the comfort, but for the old allure of flying – an escape out of the ordinary.

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