Lack of SkyMall last straw for this traveler

No one likes traveling by air, except for people who own their own plane or perhaps morning people who just can’t help themselves. I am neither of those, and yet recently I had to take a plane trip.

Getting to the plane is a hassle these days. The airports used to be so friendly and jolly, but now all the employees are kinda mean, which is OK — they’re trying to make it safe. They threw out my pocket knife, which kinda bummed me, since I had always enjoyed whittling on the plane, but I made do.

I tried to be positive as I crammed into my seat with the rest of the sardines. A little imagination and these seats can be fun. The challenge of jostling for position on the armrest with your seatmate along with the pleasure of having some quality reading time should make the situation bearable. Besides, you’ve got a nice warm meal coming. But then airlines began to pull the meal services.

I’ve been told I could feed someone in the Third World for 10 cents a day, and every time I see those airline meals, I can see exactly what 10 cents of food looks like. So taking away the meal is fine with me. In fact, American Airlines even started providing a little gourmet “Bistro Bag” on its flights. That was pretty edible, and you could usually get a few by stuffing two into your bag on the way onboard and then asking for one when they passed them out.

On this particular flight, there were no Bistro Bags to be found. Instead, they decided to sell me pretzels for $4. That really didn’t strike me as all that fair, but I was a team player and bought the pretzels. The airlines are going under anyway, so let’s help them out. All those salty pretzels made me awfully thirsty for water, which didn’t come around too often. That’s why I had brought my own bottled water. I knew it was filtered tap water, and that was OK. I didn’t and still don’t see the health benefits of drinking French spring water. Perhaps the French water would make me bigger and stronger to build a better Maginot Line?

As it turns out, water can blow up planes, so that had to go. Now I have to buy water in the airport and then they offer me food on the plane, which I forgo, since my budget set (finally a practical use of my econ major, wonderful) isn’t adequate.

But spending all this money I don’t need to spend really gets me in the mood to spend more money I don’t need to spend! To slake this desire, I reach into the seat in front of me to pull out my trusty SkyMall catalogue.

SkyMall probably has the best business model of any company ever. They know that people on planes usually aren’t completely broke. They know that you really don’t want to open your laptop to clean out your inbox or put together that presentation. They know that you just want to sit in your seat and slowly wait for claustrophobia to set in.

Feeling cramped, glancing around for snakes, you will open up the magazine as a distraction, and they know you are in a mental state where you will give any amount of money to escape from the plane.

So they offer you an escape, in the form of $80 pet stairs so that you can make sure your fat dog can still pounce on you in bed. Or perhaps a nice $300 digital picture frame that’s smaller than Wal-Mart’s $200 model, or $35 home chiropractic bars that you apparently lie on and they magically fix your spine. And sure, it sounds laughable to read it here, but on the plane we have all felt that sense of “I gotta get me one of those.”

But on this infamous flight, I had no SkyMall. Maybe the guy who sat there on the last flight was so excited by the values that he pilfered the catalogue. Maybe people have smartened up and stopped buying $80 pet stairs, thereby putting SkyMall out of business (not true, seeing that their Web site is still up). Maybe their contract was up with whatever airline I flew on. Whatever the reason, I didn’t even have a SkyMall to distract me from my woes. And that was just taking the cost-cutting too far.

Then again, I need to save that money for landing. I have to pay CT Limo for expertly making me wait an hour for the bus, wait another hour for the bus to fill with people, and then wait two hours while the driver gets lost on the way back to New Haven. At least there I’m getting my money’s worth.

Brian Thompson is a senior in Branford College.

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