Frank Sinatra once asked me to take a trip with him. Ok, full disclosure. His exact words were “Come fly with me, let’s fly away,” and yes, he didn’t actually say that directly to me. It was a song. But Ol’ Blue Eyes had a way with a song that made me feel like he was singing to me and me alone. And even if I wasn’t the one he had in mind (and grant you, that’s a distinct possibility) he sure made the idea of flying sound breezy, romantic and oh, so fun. Though, if truth be told, I don’t think he had in mind flying today.
Nowadays, flying is no longer a getaway adventure. It’s more of a sentence or a banishment to the not so friendly skies. If you’ve been on a plane in the last decade then you know what I’m talking about. You know the new rules, the perp-like walk they make you take through security. The feeling that you’re guilty until proven innocent. The ban on liquids. The extra fees for roomier seats and for checked luggage.
If Frank asked me to come fly with him today, he’d have to add a few stanzas to that song. Mind you, I’m no rhyming whiz, but it would go something like this:
“Come fly with me and wait on line in security where we’ll take off our belts and shoes! Checking our Samsonites will cost extra but maybe we’ll be lucky and find some overhead room on the plane!”
Assuming, of course, that the flight’s not full. Yes, stories of airplane travel of yore is one for the history books. I remember the early days of travel, how wonderful and amazing those times were. And for the record, I’m not reaching as far back to the Wright Brothers or Amelia Earhart days. I’m talking the sixties and seventies era of flying. Back then, I used to get excited about travel. I remember my family getting all dressed up for the trip. Once on board, we’d receive fancy menus listing the meal options.
When I moved to Seattle, I discovered that United Airlines offered “Coast to Coast” travel service to New York. Non-stop, I might add. During the flight, there’d be two meals offered. One of the meals was served buffet style—and it didn’t cost extra! Plus, the airlines kept stacks of magazines for your travel enjoyment, handed out decks of playing cards emblazoned with their logos and gave out airplane pins to the kids. All the seats had plenty of room to get comfy and to stretch out. And friends and family could walk up to the gate to see you off and greet your return.
Though, I must say, there actually was one downside to these glory days of travel. Smoking, which was allowed, usually in the last five rows of the airplane. Last five rows? If you ask me, this was an unnecessary rule. I mean, who can light a cigarette and limit the smoke to just five rows? Who were we kidding by pretending the smoke wouldn’t filter beyond that? Let’s just say there was no force field prohibiting the smoke from moving beyond those rows. It didn’t matter where you were sitting. By flight’s end we were all gasping for air and stinking of nicotine.
Ah yes, the heyday of flying. Someone should have warned me this was temporary, fleeting. I would’ve taken photos, kept souvenirs as proof to one day show my grandkids that airline travel was once the most exciting mode of transportation, There were no limits to the joy that the clear blue sky could behold. Frank, indeed, had good reason to sing about getting “up there where the air is rarefied, we’ll just glide, starry eyed.”
It was swell while it lasted. So a moment of silence, please, for the end of an era. Frank, if you’re listening, know this: Should we decide to “beat the birds down to Acapulco Bay,” then we’ll first have to take a red eye to Salt Lake City, switch planes in Chicago, then fly to Mexico City where there’s a flight leaving the next day for Acapulco.
Flying. In the words of yet another Frank Sinatra song, “It was just one of those things.”