Now, I understand that when you’ve paid a fortune for non-changeable, non-refundable airline tickets and you didn’t bother to get trip insurance, OR if you’re traveling for business and your life depends on it, sick or not, you’re going. But if the airlines are really sincere about “friendly skies,” they need to consider installing isolation booths on their planes.
I am not a germophobe. Or wasn’t until I caught a cold twice in one month and it came back again after my 11 hours snuggled next to a raging germ on an airplane. We all know that colds are caused by viruses and that antibiotics don’t cure viruses. Unless you ingest the antibiotics, which is extremely hard to do because doctors don’t like to prescribe them for colds because if they did and you were cured, there would go their winter annuity. And that is exactly how I cured my third cold. (If you need the dialogue for getting antibiotics, call me.)
So, I was not about to risk getting another cold so soon after that near-death experience. I had to be careful; I mean, drugstore computers are networked now. But the need arose again for me to become airborne. So here’s what happened.
MyHusbandTheEngineer and I arrive at the holding pen pre-flight waiting area where I spot five hacking and coughing “carriers,” whom I want to avoid. We queue up for boarding passes, and I tell the nice flight attendant that regarding seat assignments, if it comes to it I’ll trade her a giant germ for a screaming baby.
They overbooked. The loudspeaker system announces, “We need five passengers to relinquish their seats in exchange for a bag of peanuts.”
“We need four passengers to relinquish their seats in exchange for a bag of peanuts.”
They get down to the last double-booked seat, and the group’s magnanimity dries up. “We need one more passenger to relinquish his seat or this plane ain’t leavin’ the ground.” I suggest that a stewardess give up her seat; based on my last United flight, we’d never notice.
Meanwhile (the airlines have such clever ways to amuse us as we wait), we watch the connecting of the tube that sucks passengers out of the terminal and onto the plane — the first positive sign that this trip might actually happen. The next encouragement we get is the food truck pulling up and transferring pristine cellophane-wrapped mystery meals that will begin to self-contaminate as soon as they enter the hold. Boarding begins.
As we inch sideways down the aisle through business class to coach (the only discernible difference being that passengers in business wear more designer brands), the captain’s voice booms, “This is your captain. I want to welcome you and advise you that there may be a few bumps along the way.” (In addition to the ones just getting to this point?!) “I challenge invite you to sit back, not recline your seats, and enjoy the flight.”
This is the sign to implement my next guarantee that I will not get sick ever again on an airplane as long as I live. I pull out the surgical masks. Fortunately, fate has put us next to a man who confirms that to the best of his knowledge he isn’t sick; wasn’t sick prior to booking this flight; and if he has any sick thoughts he’ll let me know.
The upside to wearing a surgical mask onboard is that it discourages conversation with the stranger seated next to you in case you want to “sit back and enjoy the flight.” Also, if the person next to you has been traveling in the same suit of underwear for a week, the mask will mitigate that. The downside is that you get very warm and humid inside it, and you definitely don’t want to eat onions before wearing it for several hours.
Next task: negotiating my trip requirements with the flight attendant. I tell her,
“I want the whole can of Diet Pepsi with a straw, not a cup with three inches of surface exposed to the contaminated air.” Well, I didn’t say “contaminated”—no point in reminding her of her own vulnerability. She returns with my Coke, which is a sorry substitute for Pepsi, and says,
“Ms. Turney, you are seated in steerage coach, over the wing, next to the emergency exit. You will assist in case of an emergency.” I didn’t detect a question mark in her tone. Answering for me, my husband says, “She’ll mark the exit; just direct everyone to the screaming.”
Here’s how I look at being in charge of the emergency exit: I’ll provide a greater service by getting out of the way — I’ll be the first one off the plane. Which brings me back to the “friendly skies.” If you need a friend on an airplane, I hear they allow dogs on board now.