S Lee Manning: I’m trying to write on a flight to Los Angeles to visit my daughter. It’s a six-hour flight, and I’d planned to get a lot done. The best laid plans – yada, yada. We’re four hours in. I’m currently wedged into a seat where my elbows almost touch those of my neighbor, a nice young woman, but I don’t want to get too intimate. I was going to go over some notes and start revising some scenes. It seemed like a good way to spend six hours when I don’t have Internet access, and
yes, I know you can pay for limited Internet access on a plane, but I’m cheap. The notes are in a folder on the floor under the seat in front. To get them, I’d have to fold up my laptop, put up the tray, lean over, without banging the laptop, my neighbor, or the guy in the seat in front. And even if I managed to get hold of the notes, the laptop takes up the entirety of the tray, so I’d have to juggle notes on my lap without dropping them on the floor or my neighbor.
So instead of working on my novel, I’m writing this. No notes required. I was going to write a post about how I interweave real world political figures and the imaginary world I create, but I decided I’d rather whine about flying. Have I mentioned that I don’t like flying? I even wrote an imitation Dr. Seuss poem about it:
I hate it when we take off.
I hate it when we land.
I hate it when I’m sitting.
I hate it when I stand.
I do not like it with a fox.
I think I’ll wind up in a box.
You get the idea.
So now let me wax poetic on the ever-shrinking seat size.
I’m tall for a woman, 5’9”, which is an average man’s height, and I’m cramped. My husband at 6’2” has his knees jammed against the back of the seat of in front of him – and that’s before the passenger in front decides to decline his seat. Motive for murder? “I’m sorry officer, I was already in pain and then he pushed his seat back – so I smothered him with the in-flight pillow – which took a lot of effort considering that the pillow’s the size of a not particularly large napkin.”
I don’t remember it being this uncomfortable from when I flew back in the good old days of the 1990s – and my legs haven’t grown since – well, since before the 1990s. I look at the young people on the flight and realize with sadness that they’ll never know the joy of sufficient legroom on a flight – not unless they want to pay for it. Which leads me to…
Every time I check in for a flight, the airline offers me extra legroom to upgrade to Economy Plus for a mere $89, or sometimes $189 – per person. Did you know that sitting in a cramped seat on an airplane is a risk factor for deep vein thrombosis? Have I mentioned that along with being a hypochondriac, I’m cheap? Of course I have. Probably several times. So, okay, I’m a walking stereotype. But in the battle between hypochondria and cheapness, cheapness generally wins. I’d rather sit here and complain and plot suits against the airline than pay an extra $200 or $400 each way for what the airlines should be providing – sufficient room to stretch your legs.
Or figure out a cheap way to stretch my legs and avoid deep vein thrombosis: which is why my husband always wants an aisle seat, and for a long flight, I also like the aisle – so we chose seats on opposite sides of the aisle – which is also why I’m rubbing elbows with a nice young woman instead of my husband. He’s close enough I can hold his hand on takeoff and landing; we can pass snacks and drinks back and forth, but otherwise we’re on our own. Every person who passes on the way to the bathroom inevitably bumps into my arm or my shoulder. Sometimes they apologize, but mostly they don’t. On the good side, I can periodically stick my legs out into the aisle, wave them around, and trip people.
|Me, stressed on a plane.
It used to be on cross-country flights, you were served a meal. It wasn’t great, but it was something to keep you from eating the in-flight magazine. It maybe didn’t taste much better, but usually there was cake or cookies. The meal took up time, and making fun of the food was entertaining. Or you could order a kosher meal. It was usually a step up from the regular airplane food. I knew non-Jews who pretended to be orthodox just to get the kosher food.
Now, all you get is a can of soda and some pretzels – if you’re lucky. The air flight attendants handed out pretzels to some of us, but not to others. I’ve been puzzling over who was chosen and why. Maybe it’s just another life lesson, to teach us the randomness of good things – except that I don’t even like pretzels all that much. I just feel I deserve pretzels as much as any other passenger.
I know some people like to write on planes, and I’m trying to understand why. Do they fly first class? I could write in first class, maybe, I’d have room for notes and books, maybe two laptops. I’d have good snacks, and access to all the coffee I want – another thing I can’t get on a plane. Would I feel bad about the people in economy who were deprived even of pretzels? I like to think I would.
The pilot just announced that we’ll be touching down in half an hour. Tomorrow, I’ll have a table, my notes, snacks, and a lot of coffee. While my daughter’s at her job, I’ll be working on the novel – in between exploring West Hollywood. Today, to my surprise, I wrote an entire blog post in an hour and a half. So maybe writing on a plane isn’t impossible after all.
So what about you? Can you get anything done on a plane?