There is very little dignity left in flying. Once upon a time we traveled with stacked heels, hats, gloves and ample leg room. Nowadays, we line up in flip flops and work out clothes only to be shoved into an aluminum tube like cattle in a sheet-metal stable.
When we first step on the plane it’s all smiles and smooth sailing through first class until you move back back back through the not-quite-first-class-but-not-as-bad-as-economy class that allowed airplanes to make more money on middle of the road seats, until we step through the narrow doorway into the real economy class. Every time I get there I can only imagine that this is how Leonardo di Caprio’s life on the Titanic was.
There are people everywhere. Nude stomachs easily sneak out of ratty t-shirts as people raise on their tip toes to put suitcases in the overhead bins. Those already seated stare at the new comers with wide cow eyes, unashamed of their staring. People are struggling with bags, grunting, awkward to be so close to strangers in such a small space. Some already have their computers open, their iPads inches from their noses. Others are already praying, hands held in their partner’s tightly as they clench their entire body like an irritable bowel syndrome sufferer without a bathroom. Still other, inevitably, are already sprawled in their seat, legs reaching for the little bit of extra room they might be able to find. Shoes off.
Don’t get me wrong, I get it. An international flight is interminably long. It’s not right, not sane and we all start to lose our head a bit. That said, is it impossible to sit for at least the half an hour it takes until the airplane taxis out and takes off? Is it impossible to tuck in the ratty t-shirt, put your seat back upright and keep your damn shoes on until the lights are off and everyone’s sleeping, like the rest of us?!?
Like I said, there’s very little dignity left in flying, but I don’t think we’re helping our situation any.
I know that traveling is difficult. It’s tough. The insecurity, the new surroundings and the exhaustion that often come with travel can easily take away our dignity. Here, however, we’re doing a good job of giving it away at the door. “Good evening, I’m seat 28G, I am also a mouth-breather ok with public scratching. Oh, and here are my smelly-ass shoes.” We’re flying at 30 thousand feet in an aluminum tube of recycled air, body odor and sneezes. We don’t need your foot fungus to go with it.
The first time I noticed someone walking around without shoes on (yes, I wrote walking around) it was a child. Probably about 10, I wrote it off. Children are weird. Yet with each additional transatlantic flight (I do about two a year) I began to notice the shoeless phenomenon more and more. I’m talking grown adults walking to the bathroom in their bare feet!
There are very few places where it’s acceptable for a grown adult to go without shoes. Those would likely be, in order, your house, your yard (for us hippie-folk), the beach, or a pool. Not public transportation.
Just because travel has become a right of the Everyman doesn’t mean that we need to give reason for those like the first class Titanic passengers to think they were right about our class. We might be crammed in economy like cattle, but we can tuck in our shirt, close our mouths and keep our shoes on with dignity.
That’s something the cows can’t do.