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Saturday, October 08, 2005

"Hauling the Meat"

This caveat will appear in this post and all future ones just to remind you that what you are reading is mostly opinion with an occasional fact or two thrown in.

"Hauling the Meat" is a part of an unpublicized lexicon used by airline pilots to somewhat jokingly refer to what they do for a living. People on the ground fill this large, long aluminum tube with passengers (the "Meat") and then the pilots haul it to some far-off destination. Of course bus drivers and train engineers do about the same thing; I think the thought perhaps never occured to them.

When I was young going somewhere on an airliner was nearly always an enjoyable adventure. Visibility from the slower, lower flying airplanes was great and if you had any map-reading talent you could figure out where you were, not needing the current p.a. announcements to tell you. Windows were large and easy to see from. Seats seemed roomy enough, the meals ranged from mediocre to excellent, cabin attendants (nearly all women, and in the early days nurses), were attentive, attractive, and did not appear overworked.

Of course a lot of my posts will have a bit of nostalgia in them and for that I consider myself quite lucky. Will there be any happy nostalgic thoughts about airline travel as present-day travelers grow older?

I think not. It is hard to imagine a present-day air traveler having fond memories of today, even including first class passengers who do have it a bit better. Airplanes have become too large making loading and unloading a challenge. Even though carry-on luggage is controlled as to size it is always a hassle to load things into the overhead bins. Winter time only makes things worse. Aisles are narrow and, when occupied by a serving cart, make passage to a usually in use restroom impossible. The cabin attendants, now often men or older women, strive hard to keep their cool but are so busy that they have little time for idle chit-chat.

I remember one DC3 trip when the stewardess had time to sit in an empty seat next to mine and even rest her head on my shoulder while she caught a catnap. (I was a GI in uniform at the time). If that happened today the attendant would be fired and you would be lucky if she did not, in turn, start some sort of lawsuit against you for getting her fired.

The less said about the waiting rooms and the loading procedure the better. And security? Chalk one up for Bin Laden. The absolute refusal of this country to use any form of profiling and the consequent harrasment of ordinary citizens as they move about the country reflects how rapidly our freedoms are deteriorating. You've heard all the stories so I won't go into them here. But do you really think that the level of security in place today will significantly improve safety for the traveller?

Unfortunately when the evil ones work out a plan to cause more mayhem we will be almost powerless to prevent it. It is somewhat like the more mundane regular police work. The police are really not very good at preventing crime. They are, however, very good at solving crimes after the fact. I'm afraid that may also be true of international crime.

But, I digress. What this post is trying to convey is the fact that airtravel still remains the best way to get from place to place in a hurry when necessary; it is just no longer very much fun.

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