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I’m so old, even stewardesses feel sorry for me

February 12, 2011

The days of yore

Okay: flight attendants, flight attendants. I hope you’re happy. Jeeze.

I’ve noticed that flight attendants are allowed to age now. This is a clever marketing gimmick, because I’m aging too, and flying has become so unpleasant that any tiny sop intended to calm me down is good for business. They pass me by, pushing their narrow silver carts down the aisle, and I watch to see if their joints work better than mine as they kneel and bend, their little wrinkly hands passing me flimsy paper cups of lukewarm tasteless tea.

It’s like being at a teeny-tiny tea party for aging ladies at 35,000 feet. I am glad women flight attendants are allowed to work longer than they used to be. It used to be that women got to a certain age and that was it, they were kicked out the hatch, no parachute, dropped like hot, aging potatoes. Not so anymore.

It’s a good thing too, because these women are nice and helpful and cluck in empathy when they see the inflatable cushion I now carry with me so that I don’t have to sit on cardboard. They seem to have real sympathy for me these days. This last trip, one of them even clucked in empathy as she passed me a cup of tea over the heads of the vegetarian Bangladeshis. The Bangladeshis were screeching demands and questions about chickpeas at the flight attendants, who don’t have time to decipher broken English, and so I offered to intercede. This apparently was enough to endear me to the flight attendants, who are a tough crowd, let me tell you.

So many moments in life have the potential to embarrass you, and traveling provides fertile opportunities for more embarrassment these days than almost any other enterprise. There’s my inflatable cushion, for one thing. That’s pretty condemning; it screams “old lady sitting here! old lady sitting here!” You hope your seat mates understand and don’t sneer. Then there’s the thrill of being touched intimately by the TSA, who can be so much more effective at their job when they let a woman pat you down. There are no boundaries when women pat down another woman; they go places men won’t go on me, dammit.

I always wonder what a water landing would be like

Actually, everything to do with going through security involves potential humiliation. Gone are the days of casual dressing and breezing through the metal detector. I never worried in the old days if my socks didn’t match, or had holes in them, because I could wear any shoes I wanted, not just slip ons. I never had to throw away an inch of bottled water simply because it obviously resembles an inflammable fluid.

I never used to have to worry that the person in front of me hasn’t yet learned Line Etiquette, and has therefore worn a belt, a sweater, a jacket, a coat, heavy jewelry, has three buried phones, a laptop in a locked bag, and a Nikon camera. And when those are accounted for, the metal detector goes off anyway.

I never used to have to worry that the much younger guy sighing behind me, carrying his three possessions in a beat up backpack, and taking up less space on the planet than a Transformer, is pissed with me for having the temerity to carry a laptop, a camera, two cellphones, and a coat. I feel compelled at times like this to turn to this guy, who is remarkably unencumbered, and explain why I need both cellphones. And smile like his mother. If that doesn’t work, I play the pity card, and show him my inflatable cushion.

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