The airline industry is just out of control. There hasn’t been a week that’s gone by this month that hasn’t featured some form of passenger abuse.
As a rule, I do not to travel by air. Unless the chances of reaching my destination are absolutely impossible unless by flight – say from Atlanta to Johannesburg – thereby forcing me to plunk down my hard-earned money in order to purchase an airline ticket, you can count me out of Team #FlyTheFriendlySkies. I would rather bathe in pig guano than take a domestic flight in the United States of America.
Everything about journeying by air is made to make your trip unpleasant, starting from before you enter the airport. Actually, it starts at home; with your wardrobe. Unlike traveling by car where one can dress for comfort, traveling by air requires one to dress in a manner that attracts little attention, while still achieving the goal of attracting the right kind of attention. Will wearing this hijab earn me a ‘random extra security check’? Will this afro puff serve as a magnet for those dreaded blue gloves to be run through my hair? Should I have taken the extra hour needed to straighten my hair to avoid those 15 seconds of humiliation? Am I going to get kicked off a flight for this “Smash the Patriarchy” message tee because the flight crew finds it offensive? How suspicious would I look if I just said to hell with it all and rocked up to the airport in a suit made of bubble wrap?
But you finally decide on a basic pair of jeans, flip flops and an oatmeal colored tee, all which should meet the snobbish airline’s approval. To your horror, you discover it’s not good enough. You CLEARLY look like you’re flying economy and are treated as such…like chattel. Despicable, budget shopping chattel. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Before you get to the check-in counter, you actually have to GET to the check-in counter. Before you can pass’ Go’, you have to get by that omnipresent militarized police manifestation at the loading zone. This is where you hurriedly hurl your farewells at loved ones who simultaneously hurl your luggage from their vehicle in order to avoid a telling off by that one beefy officer who is just looking for a reason to make someone else’s life as miserable as his own. It is only then that you have the opportunity to have your presence tolerated by the overly made up, wretched ticketing agent who after assessing the girth of your hips takes perverse delight in placing you in D5 (center seat, middle row), where you are guaranteed to have no leg room and no joy for the duration of your journey.
“Have a pleasant flight,” s/he chortles, baring fangs like the viper they were hired to be.
Next, you journey on to TSA. The less said about the TSA, the better. It’s a desolate place. It’s the only place on Earth where Christ’s light, life and redemption cannot touch. Every man and woman working for the TSA is Pharaoh, and we are all meek Hebrews, submitting to their coarse touch, dancing and bending and undressing at their bidding. I despise the TSA as much as they despise the public.
But you’re nearly there. You’re nearly home free. Soon you’ll be seated on the plane and on your way to your great aunt’s 85th birthday party in Washington, DC as I was in April of 2016. The stress of the pre-boarding horror show has made you thirsty, and you quench that thirst with a $6.50 bottle of water. To your shock and delight, you find that the exorbitant purchase was unnecessary. The Delta stewardess – the one with the frosty blond hair and turquoise eyeliner applied with the intensity of an artist determined on perfecting his frottage – has been handing out bottles of water for the duration of the flight. You gulp down your water AND hers because free is better and tastier, especially when its plentiful.
Suddenly, you find yourself relaxing, almost losing yourself in the hum of the engine’s jets. Maybe Delta Airlines wasn’t as bad as the last time you swore off them in 2001. Maybe things had actually gotten better with air travel since you last flew domestic. Perhaps the airlines were listening more and harassing less. And maybe – just a glimmer of a possibility – all the mayhem surrounding ticketing agents and that TSA hellhole was just in your mind. But there’s no time to think about that now. You’ve imbibed quite a bit of water and now you have to shimmy your way out of your cramped center seat, past your equally uncomfortable co-passengers and make your way to the equally cramped bathroom. Relief is swift and sweet, and you are comforted in the knowledge that there is only an hour and a half left in your journey.
Finally, you land. You’ve had no more water, but you can feel that tingle in that space beneath your abdomen. You pinch your knees. Everything will be fine. It only takes a few minutes to taxi to the gate and if you play your cards right, you can leap into the aisle and be one of the first people to dash off the plane and into the terminal. But to your horror, you hear the pilot announce that there is some sort of disturbance on landing fare and it will be about another half an hour before you can taxi up to the gate. Thirty whole minutes?!? Panic begins to set in. The tingle has turned into a blaze and your bladder feels like it is alight. Still, you steady yourself. You are a full grown, 39 year old woman with a degree and you will NOT pee on yourself in the middle – the veritable center – of an airplane in economy class. However, six minutes into your ordeal, you discover that while you may be able to do all things through Christ, holding back this deluge in your guts isn’t one of them.
You turn and look helplessly at the stewardess, who sees you, but looks away.
You meekly raise your hand this time, trying in vain to make eye contact. Still, she gives you the side-eye, but stares off into the distance, likely dreaming of the trailer park that Delta lifted her out from.
Finally, it happens. You know it’s risky, but you have no choice. You unbuckle your seat belt and grin sheepishly at her. She picks up the telephone/intercom and makes the following announcement:
“Ladies and gentlemen,” says the same frosty haired whore who’s been drowning your innards with Aquafina, “in the interest of safety, please remain in your seats until the fasten seat belt sign has been turned off.”
“Yes,” you whisper as you advance cautiously, “but I have to pee.”
“Ma’am,” she says over the intercom, “please re-take your seat.”
“I can’t,” you whisper a bit louder and with much more harshness than you intend to. “I HAVE TO PEE!”
Your co-passengers are looking at you with a mix of amusement, compassion and disdain. You’re sweating and clearly desperate, and everyone is waiting to see what will happen next. Will you be allowed to urinate? Will you just piss on yourself for all to see? It all comes down to the whims of the frosty haired wench sitting primly in her stewardess’s chair. Finally, she alerts the pilot that there is a passenger who needs to use the toilet on the stationary plane and nods you by, but not without giving you one, final contemptuous look. As you exit the lavatory, you mumble your thanks like a placid school kid and retake your seat in the center aisle, humiliated. You vow once again never to fly the “friendly skies” and haven’t done so since.
But there is a solution to all of this, don’cha know? Since the aim of the airline industry is to shame, humiliate and inconvenience paying customers, I say we assist them in their goal. As fate would have it, Facebook filtered onto my feed the tale of Kima Hamilton – a Milwaukee resident who found himself in circumstances similar to the ones I experienced – as well as a corresponding memory from 2013.
Unlike Mr. Hamilton, my experience did not end with FBI involvement (for which I am grateful), however we did share a mutual uncontrollable urge to go right now. If the airlines can’t trust thinking adults to know when we need to use the bathroom, then I say we behave like the toddlers they think we all are.
Go ahead and pee on yourself.
No. I’m dead serious.
Every traveller carries essential items with him or her, those generally being ID, a cell phone, gum and reading material. Throw a pull-up or two in the mix. That why, when Frosty Haired Wendy won’t let you pee, you have the satisfaction of 1) Urinating in your seat while 2) fully complying with both the pilot’s and federal guidelines and best of all 3) leaving the plane knowing full well that Frosty the Snow Bitch has to pick up your soaked sack of Huggies.
I’m a big kid now!
Nah. For real. I’m tired of these domestic airlines. Who are they taking notes from? The Amistad?
Have you ever had to pee and been denied access to the toilet on the plane? Are you toying with the idea of taking some Depends with you on your next flight? Admit it…you are. What shall we call our movement? Something catchy…Like the AirKelly: Piss on you in B2.
Let’s work on it.