I recently flew on an airline that advertises deceptively low fares; every single service or amenity beyond the time you purchase to sit in the “air chair” costs extra.
For instance, you can wear one shoe, but if you want to wear the matching one, there’s a footwear fee of $50. Your carry-on must fit comfortably in your upper palate, and you must be able to close your lips over it. There are no snacks or beverages provided, but you can purchase them by cashing in your IRA. Sit erect with your elbows jabbing your own ribcage and enjoy your free in-flight entertainment—the guy across the aisle who has decided this is an appropriate time to clip his fingernails.
As I write this, I am in the terminal about to board my flight home back to Myrtle Beach from Fort Lauderdale. For the past three hours, I have been treated to an endless loop of smooth jazz over the terminal sound system. Here comes another non-objectionable, non-memorable saxophone solo now! This motivates me to pass the time with a tepid burger from the only open concession here at Gate D-6.
Though there is a cash register with an employee standing behind it, make no mistake—there will be no unnecessary human interaction. I watch the employee gesticulate with a surly head-toss to every approaching customer: there is a computer touch-pad on a pedestal for entering your order just to the left. She does not deign to speak with you. Evidently, she is the Burger Queen.
I decide to get a cup of coffee instead. A man cuts to the front of the line and shouts at the employees behind the counter, “Hey, I’ve just been to your store on Concourse C and they are out of caramel frappes. You got any?”
The employee apologizes: they, too, are out of caramel frappes. The man exclaims “I can’t believe this [expletive]!” and storms off. I find myself reconsidering the merits of the computerized order-placing system.
Though I don’t need to use the restroom, I hear my Mother’s voice in my head insisting I “try,” so off I go. The bathroom on land is free and exceptionally roomy—once in flight, I might have to swipe my credit card for the privilege.
My flight is boarding soon. I can tell by throngs of people who are crowding the gate, though they all have assigned seats. It’s a ridiculous assemblage of anxiousness. I remain seated until the last call.
Please excuse the weary tone of this week’s column—this is my second flight on the same day—my earlier one was this afternoon, to escort my mother back to her home here in Florida. Mom’s health precludes her from travelling alone; we had picked her up the week prior for a little vacation at our home. I am understandably fatigued.
But this is my privilege. Back in the day, my mother was a Skidmore graduate and an English teacher. I figure she must have been bone-tired for more than a decade, having to listen to me read my sappy, predictable homework-assignment essays aloud for her astute comments throughout my K-12 years.
I noticed Mom had packed a fat envelope of my columns in her purse when she came to visit us; my husband mails them to her monthly. I discovered that she reads them more than once—not because they are worthy of that level of attention, but because she cannot remember if she read them.
Earlier today, on the plane, she had chuckled and leaned over to read me one of my own sentences.
“Janet,” she said, “you are such a good writer.”
“Thank you, Mom,” I said. I know my response was inadequate.
Janet Combs is a freelance writer living in Georgetown County. Her column is published regularly in the Georgetown Times and the South Strand News. Contact her at www.janetfrickecombs.com.