Airport Rage

I used to tell people that I’d never travel anywhere far because you’d never get me on an airplane. I was terrified of the things. I figured you wouldn’t get me past the gate without landing yourself a large pile of vomit to clean up. I held on to that belief until my 28th year. My first ever trip on an airplane brought me out west for work. It wasn’t a choice to step on that plane; it was a financial necessity. Surprisingly I found that airplanes don’t bother me at all, at least not as far as my stomach is concerned. Traveling by plane, however, has brought to my attention a host of other issues that bother me a great deal, and because that’s the way I roll, I’m going to share some of them with you today.

Plane Peeve #1: The lack of space
I know that this is a common complaint amongst all airline customers who can’t afford first class, but until I began traveling via plane myself I never really understood the true insanity that is the lack of space in airplane seats. For those of you who may have never traveled via plane, let me paint you a picture. I am 5’1″ tall and approximately 155 lbs. A lot of my weight is also muscle, so the woman you are now imagining is probably thicker of body than I am in reality. I’m not saying I’m a skinny bitch (not by a long shot), but I am not a large woman. I’m short and small, and in other words I don’t take up much space. But when I’m in an airplane chair I feel like I’m obese. Even if people of similar size sit next to me, and we all try to take up as little room as possible, chances are our arms are going to be touching for most of the flight. And that doesn’t even consider the leg room, which for most people is effectively non-existent. I’ve had flights where I was getting kicked in the spine every ten minutes just because the person behind me was uncomfortable and needed to shift a bit. This kind of thing is annoying at best, but when your flight is several hours long it becomes a very difficult test of your patience.

Plane Peeve #2: The lack of food
Admittedly, this one depends on the airline, so for the sake of this post I’m going to talk about the worst offender: Air Canada. I’ve been on a lot of Air Canada planes over the past four months. And in those four months I’ve gotten exactly two free snacks, both tiny bags of pretzels that my toddler would have wolfed down in 2.4 seconds. And both of those were on flights from Sydney to Halifax, which for anyone who doesn’t know, is only a 45 minute flight. On my longer flights, the ones ranging from 2 hours to 5.5 hours, I received nothing and was expected to purchase food if I was hungry. I know, I know, some of you are probably saying, “Dear lord, you poor thing, having to pay for food” in a terribly sarcastic voice, but consider something for a moment: my flights are costing my company somewhere in the range of $1000 per one-way trip…..at $1000 a pop, you’d think Air Canada could afford a freakin’ candy bar or something.

Plane Peeve #3: Seat-Swappers
Okay, here’s the thing: if you’re booking a flight and you want to choose which seat you’re going to be sitting in, you have to pay a fee. I don’t know what the fee is with other airlines, but with Air Canada it’s something like $30. A silly fee, really, but if you’re already spending several hundred dollars on the plane ticket that extra $30 isn’t going to break the bank. And yet, on almost every plane I’ve been on thus far, there has been at least one parent with a kid who refused to pay the fee in order to ensure that the two of them would be sitting together, and then went around the crowd during boarding to try and convince some sucker to swap seats with them. I hate this. For one thing, if you want to make sure you and your child are sitting together, pay the damn fee like everyone else who wants to choose their seat ahead of time. For another thing, you’re holding up production, trying to convince strangers to do you a favor while a line of people behind you are trying to get to their seats. Oh, and one more thing…these parents always get PO’ed when the stranger says no, without considering the fact that this person probably paid the fee to choose the seat you’re asking them to leave. Just…just smarten up, people.

Plane Peeve #4: Overbooking
I don’t think I’ll ever be able to understand why or how this happens, but nearly every flight I’ve been on so far has been overbooked. First off, how the hell do you sell seats that don’t exist? There should be some kind of system put in place to stop this exact thing from happening. I know, I know, it’s probably the airline’s way of ensuring that as many seats as possible are filled if someone cancels or doesn’t show up, but it’s a sick and twisted way of going about such a thing, especially considering that most people don’t find out that they don’t actually have a seat until they show up for boarding. Just as bad as overbooking in the first place is how the airline goes about dealing with the issue if the person who doesn’t have a seat absolutely HAS to be on the plane…..that is, they ask for volunteers to give up their seat. The reward for giving up your seat and (maybe) leaving on a later flight? A $200 voucher for a later flight. Call me crazy if you wish, but I really don’t think $200 that you have to spend on the same airline is a fair exchange for giving up a seat that probably cost you three times that much in the first place, especially considering you have no real guarantee of getting on a later flight any time soon.

Plane Peeve #5: They just don’t give a rat’s backside
As I’ve mentioned more than once, I’ve had some pretty rotten luck with some of my flights thus far. I’ve had some pretty ungodly delays, missed connections because of delays in previous legs of a multi-segment flight, and I’ve had flights cancelled all together. And in each of these situations, Air Canada (oh look, them again) has given me the customer service equivalent of a shrug and a grunt. The most frustrating example I can give is when I was heading home on a re-booked flight after the night that my flight home from Alberta was cancelled due to thunderstorms. I had numerous issues with this particular excursion, but the most unbelievable was when my flight from Montreal to Halifax was delayed so long that I missed my connection from Halifax to Sydney. I asked an Air Canada representative what I should do and she told me to try to rebook on a later flight. I then explained that the next closest flight I could find would have me waiting in Halifax for over 24 hours, an amount of time during which I could easily drive the entire length of Nova Scotia three times. Obviously I wasn’t going to hang around in Halifax for over a day when I could rent a car and be home in 3-4 hours. The representative literally, and I mean literally shrugged at me. And that was the end of the conversation. She didn’t give a flying [expletive] whether I got to the end of my route or not, and felt no obligation to reimburse me in any way for the leg of the flight that I clearly wasn’t going to take. This is the exact same attitude I’ve dealt with every time I’ve had an issue (which has been all but one flight). I can’t speak for other airlines, but Air Canada couldn’t give two pinches of [expletive] about their customers, just so long as their seats have been paid for in full.

I’m not an angry person, I’m really not, but I feel that these are issues for which I am justified in feeling some level of rage. Disagree with me? Okay, whatever, I can’t make you see my point. But agree with me? Let me know! Share your horror stories! You know what they say: misery loves company. 😛

I totally forgot to title this post

A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnagin’s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.

38. How the books you read as a teenager affected you

This one is a little harder than the one about books I read as a child because, although I’ve always been a reader, I read significantly less during my teenage years (which I choose to think of as “high school age”). Let me explain why.

As a younger child and a preteen, I was fairly awkward. I was smart, a little shy, and easily embarrassed. I got along perfectly well with pretty much everyone, and I had a tight-knit group of close friends, but I was not a social child, and I don’t believe I came off as someone who wanted to be social. I was the kind of kid the other kids thought of as a nerd. I wasn’t the kind of kid that got invited to parties and events (unless it was a birthday party of the type where you invite your entire class just because), and as we got a little older I was not the kind of girl who got attention from boys. But as we moved on to the teenage years of high school, I started to blossom a little. I somehow mustered up the courage to ask the boy I liked to a school dance, and from that came my first real romantic relationship. That relationship opened up my world a lot. I became exposed to things that other kids my age already had sussed out. My boyfriend introduced me to things like sports, fishing, and non-campsite camping, and I gained a bit more of a social circle which lead to parties, hanging out, and all those things that teenagers are supposed to do even though they’re not technically supposed to (*cough*booze*cough*).

The picture I’m trying to paint here is of a nerdy girl who had suddenly realized that there was other stuff to life than being nerdy. During those years things that had always been an important part of me, like reading and writing, took a bit of a back burner to all the new and exciting stuff I was experiencing.
For that reason, it’s hard for me to talk about the books that affected me as a teenager, because I find myself thinking, “What frickin’ books did I read as a teenager?”

But I wanted to be able to write a proper response to this prompt, so I thought long and hard. And then I remembered something that happened in my second year of high school. My best friend and I were taking a Sociology course, and I was in the first seat of the first row closest to the door, right up against the wall. On that wall, right next to my head, was a photocopy that our teacher had made of a newspaper article. Obviously I can’t remember the exact details of the article, but the basic idea was a story about how a bunch of “good Christian” mothers had gotten together to protest the availability of the new Harry Potter book in public schools. They scoffed at the book and called it satanistic, claiming that the author was attempting to lead their “good Christian” children away from God and into the arms of witches and devil-worshipers.

I remember reading that article during a particularly boring part of our teacher’s lecture, and the first thought that popped into my mind was, well…to be honest, the first thought that popped into my mind was that these “good Christian” moms were well and truly gone in the head. But the second thought that popped into my mind was that I totally had to read these Harry Potter books. There were three or four of them published by that point, but I’d avoided them for the dual reasons of everything I mentioned above, and the fact that the looked like kiddy books. But after having read that foolish article about closed-minded moms on an embarrassing crusade, I decided that I had to read them, and did as soon as possible. To say the least, I fell in love with them, and I absolutely struggled through the next few years as I constantly waited for the next one to be released.

If one book (or series of books, I suppose) can be attributed for bringing me back into the world of reading and writing, it would definitely be the Harry Potter series. Though I never got back into reading as much as I had before until I was well into my young adult years, Harry Potter definitely set the wheels in motion, and for that it is probably the book (or books) that most affected me during my teenage years.

On Discipline

They say that deep down all kids desire discipline. The idea is that young children can’t make reasonable, smart decisions for their own health, safety, and positive upbringing, so subconsciously they want us to do it for them. I’ve read about this time and time again in parenting magazines, on websites, and in the occasional newspaper article. I think it is, for lack of a more proper term, complete and utter b.s.

Yes children need discipline. There’s no argument about that. But no one, regardless of age, wants discipline.

Think about it logically for a moment. Say it’s bedtime. Your kid needs to go to bed or they won’t get enough sleep and will be cranky in the morning. But they want to stay up. Even if you could explain it logically and have the child completely understand where you’re coming from, telling them that they need to go to sleep isn’t going to make them want to go to sleep. You want to know how I know? Okay, now imagine yourself, staying up late doing something you really enjoy, whether it be playing video games, watching a movie, drinking with friends, or whatever. Your spouse/parent/friend/whoever comes up to you and says, “You really need to go to bed now, or you’re going to be worthless in the morning.” What is your reaction? If you answered, “I’d take their advice and go to bed, of course!” then you are absolutely in the minority. Most people, I’m willing to stake my reputation, would shoot a glare at the kill-joy and angrily state, “I’m a grown adult and I’ll go to bed when I want to.” Key word there: want.

We are creatures of ‘want’, every one of us. It’s nothing to get upset or argue about, it’s just the way we’re made. Logically we know that we need certain things (proper sleep, healthy food, etc), but other parts of our brain simultaneously tell us that we want certain things that conflict (to stay up late, junk food, etc). Similarly we want certain things (unnecessary expenditures, for example) even though we know damn well that we don’t need them and could exist perfectly fine without them.

So returning to the idea that kids want discipline. No, sorry, I refuse to believe that. Kids need discipline; no one wants discipline.

And that can make life difficult sometimes, even for adults. I’m going to use myself as an example because, hey, my blog:

I currently have two immediate goals. One is to finish editing my zombie novel so I can try to have it published, the other is to lose at least 30 lbs. Both require a good deal of discipline, and therein lay my problem.

It can be just as difficult to discipline yourself as it can be to discipline a child because a very large part of you simply doesn’t want to be disciplined. I tell myself that I need to do so much editing per day, but then I find something else I want to do more and the want outweighs the need…I go have fun instead of working. I tell myself that I need to take in fewer calories in order to lose weight, but I also want to eat that snack-cake and, oops, look, there it goes down my willpowerless throat. Sometimes I can almost agree with the claims that have been made about kids wanting discipline, because I imagine that if I had someone standing over me telling me exactly what to eat and when to work on my novel, all would be well. But then I realize that if I actually had such a person, I’d spend most of our time together struggling not to strangle them because, let’s face it, no one enjoys being told what to do. That’s why very few people have anything other than disdain for their immediate boss.

It all comes down to attitude and whether you’re able to set aside current ‘wants’ for future gains. As adults we have the ability to decide for ourselves…whether it was necessarily the right decision or the wrong one, at least it was ours. Small children are different. How do you explain to a toddler that she can’t have sweets for supper because it’s not healthy and she’ll get fat? You don’t, because in the toddler’s mind all she knows is that she wants the sweets and you’re not letting her have them, not letting her make the decision herself. Obviously we can’t allow such young children to make all their own decisions because, as previously mentioned, we are creatures of ‘want’, and that road leads to disaster. But we also have to be patient and understand where the kid is coming from. The next time you’re out at the mall and you hear a kid shrieking his head off because mommy won’t buy him toy he wants, think for a moment about how you’d feel if you wanted something and were told, for no other reason than “because I said so!”, that you couldn’t have it.

I bet you’d be pretty angry too.