Fly The Unfriendly Skies

Fly The Unfriendly Skies

“This is the story of America. Everybody’s doing what they think they’re supposed to do.” Jack Kerouac

Flying is stressful these days.  Passengers are more nervous to fly than ever. Going on a plane gives people a lot of anxiety. It is annoying to get to the airport an hour or two before a flight. Security is a headache. Fear of terrorism makes flying scary.  Flights are crowded. Fewer people are willing to volunteer to take a later flight. By the time you are on the plane, you just want to get where you are going safely.

My older cousin worked for United Airlines. It was at a time when stewardesses were always beautiful and families of employees could travel for free. Planes weren’t crowded and he was proud that he could always score first class tickets for his parents. My cousin’s license plate was FTFS    Fly the Friendly Skies. He loved his job. He was sick for a while and died young – a week before 9/11 happened. We were glad that he missed that.  What would he think about this particular incident?

There is no explaining away the forceful removal of a person with a ticket from an airplane seat who is bloodied in the process, because the airline has overbooked the plane. Computers are not always able to solve human problems. People who fly on Sunday nights tend to have to be in work Monday as well. We have no idea what was going on in his head, how he felt about flying to begin with or what he had to do to cause that reaction.

I read an article about this particular passenger’s character and mental state.  An unknown number of passengers travel with every kind of mental disorder. Many have sat next to me. It is alarming that they are trying to turn this around and blame him. I don’t know how I would have reacted being told that I was randomly selected to leave the plane so a stewardess could get to work. It wouldn’t have been pretty.

If airlines are going to throw people off flights where they will be losing income from their jobs, vacation days, non refundable hotels or activities, they have to offer better compensation. My price is a first class cross-country ticket or 50,000 frequent flier miles but that is just me. 

Several years ago, my friends and I were walking slowly through an airport to change flights to return home from a school ski trip. When we got to the gate, we were told that the flight was overbooked and we would have to spend twenty-four hours in Brussels. It made sense not to let us get on, if we couldn’t fly.  I was a bit surprised because we were sixteen and seventeen years old, part of a chaperoned school group and in a foreign country for the first time.

No one paid us, took our luggage off or called our parents who were waiting at the airport the next day. It was clearly a different time and a European airline. We were escorted to an elegant old hotel in the center of Brussels.  Dinner  had a dress code and since we did not have the correct attire or any attire with us, they asked us to eat an hour early and prepared a special dinner so we could taste some local food. We walked around the city and went to some bars where no one asked us for ID. In the morning we saw more of the city and then they came and picked us up and escorted us to the gate for our flight. We had fun and got to see Brussels. 

I still get nervous if I am at the end of a line going on a plane that it will be overbooked and I will not get on. Do I have to worry about being dragged off a flight as well? Given all the highly mediated flying incidents, did they really need to do this?  Bad behavior doesn’t stop being bad behavior just because the airline says it is legal.

Fly safe, (and I mean it)

JAZ

Global Peace Index

Global Peace Index

“Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love, mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”Talmud

The Global Peace Index measures each year the national peacefulness of a country based on  perceptions of criminality, security officers and police, homicides, incarceration, access to weapons, intensity of internal conflict, violent demonstrations, violent crime, political instability, political terror, weapon imports, terrorism impact and deaths from internal conflict.

I’ve done blogs about it before rating the safest countries and the not  safest countries to visit.

But what really shocks me  is that the US  is a slacker when it comes to promoting positive peace. It is rated 103 on a list of 163 countries. This means that there are are a 102 countries that are safer to visit and live in than the US. Our performance  number is lowered because of the number of people in our prison system and our involvement in conflicts overseas.

There are the usual but many were surprising to me. Uganda is rated 101. Uganda is safer to visit than the US – apparently. Jordan (where I just was) is much safer at 96. Angola, Dominican Republic, Guyana, Jamaica, Gambia, are all in the nineties. Haiti, Burkina Faso Peru, Cuba, Bangladesh  and Paraguay  have a rating in the eighties. Liberia, Benin, Oman and Senegal are in the seventies. Nicaragua, Argentina, Mozambique, Lesotho, United Arab Emirates, Bosnia and Herzegovina are in the sixties.  Madagascar is above Italy  which is rated 39. Chile and Botswana are in the twenties.

According to the data, we are further away from World Peace then ever with the Middle East dragging us down. 

The most peaceful countries continue to improve their rating while the least peaceful ones are getting worse. Violence and conflict are escalating.  The world continues to spend enormous resources on creating and containing violence but very little on peace.

In case you just woke up from a coma, the world is less peaceful this year than it was last year.

Fly safe,

JAZ

I Am Not My Passport

 I Am Not My Passport

“Should such an ignorant people lead the world?  How did it come to this in the first place?  Eighty two  percent of us don’t even have a passport. Just a handful can speak a language other than English (and we don’t even speak that very well.)’  Michael Moore

I have the passport of an international drug smuggler. It has visas from Myanmar, Brazil, Argentina, Cambodia and Viet Nam and stamps from  Mexico, Thailand, Turkey and Colombia. There are stamps in it from six of  the seven continents on this passport. My passport says to passport control, airport ticket counters and security, “Yes I know to take my shoes off. I know the weight my suitcase should be regardless of whether it is or not. Of course I have global entry.” Now that security screening is more efficient,  I am no longer being racially profiled for having a Middle Eastern sounding name when pronounced wrong. This passport says that I am a World Traveler.

 Every ten years there is a new passport and  a ten-year older photo.   My passport is full a lot earlier this time because of all these visas.  I went to get more pages and was told that as of January first  you can no longer do that and you have to get a new passport. If you travel a lot you have to ask for extra pages when you apply.  I’m devastated. I can get through another trip as long as I don’t have a visa. I’m going to plan to travel to a few countries where I don’t need one. It’s only five years and I’m just not ready.

Our possessions do make up our identity and express who we are to the world to some extent. Or maybe we acquire certain things to project the kind of identity we want to have.

When I lived in New York City, you were judged by the neighborhood you lived in. No one ever had to see your apartment. You were from the East Side, an Upper Westsider or a Downtown girl. Brooklyn was not cool then and if you lived anywhere but Manhattan you were Bridge and Tunnel people.

 In LA, it was all about what car you drove. I proudly had a new Jeep Cherokee. I felt so Californian.  One day I drove my husband’s new Jaguar. It was a different world. It was like I had suddenly become a blonde. The valet parking guy at the restaurant ran to open my door. The parents at the mommy and me class engaged me in conversation. I hadn’t noticed that I was the only one not driving a foreign car.

I hate to see this passport go. It has stamps from some of my favorite countries. I take it out and look at it because I can’t believe that I really went to all these places.  The first entry was a visa for Myanmar. That was cool.  It has a new South Africa stamp from my daughter’s wedding, I made them do it very dark. This is the passport that I learned to travel alone with. I’m not ready for airport and hotel staff to think that I have not been anywhere.

The next one will start with Australia (because I need a visa) and New Zealand. This one will get just as crowded. I’m ordering the supersize.

Fly safe,

JAZ

Do Not Cancel Your Travel Plans Because Of Fear

Do Not Cancel Your Travel Plans Because Of Fear

“Not I, nor anyone else can travel that road for you. You must travel it by
yourself. It is not far.  It is within reach. Perhaps you have been on it since
you were born, and did not know.  Perhaps it is everywhere – on water and
land.” Walt Whitman

The US State Department has a worldwide travel warning in effect.

“U.S. citizens should exercise vigilance when in public places or using transportation. Be aware of immediate surroundings and avoid large crowds or crowed places. Exercise particular caution during the holiday season and at holiday festivals or events”

What this warning does is play into our culture of fear. If something should happen anywhere in the world, the State Department is covered.

When you look at the statistics, your likelihood of being killed by terrorists when traveling are less than your likelihood of being struck by lightning when traveling. Unless you are a single woman over the age of fifty.  In that case, your likelihood of getting killed by terrorists is higher than your chance of finding true love and getting married. The number one cause of death abroad for tourists is car crashes.

Here are a few things that will probably kill you. Heart Disease is the number one cause of death in the US. The death certificate for my ninety-one year old mother said that.  Prescription medication, brain parasites, something large falling on top of you and police officers kill a lot of people.

It’s the media’s job to give us a play by-play of every horrific thing happening in the world and it’s my job to fight my resulting anxiety and paranoia. We put a lot of power into the idea of a potential threat.

Psychologically we are more afraid of a terrorist attack because it is a new unfamiliar fear than car crashes and heart disease that we hear about all the time. One incident with multiple deaths is scarier than many incidents the same day of single deaths. This is why plane crashes are scarier than car crashes which are far more likely to happen. The uncertainty of where to travel is scary. We don’t know where they will hit next so you really can’t plan and control what will happen. Chances are small to none that it will seriously affect your trip. The best thing to increase your travel safety is to plan to drive carefully to the airport.

Drive safe,
JAZ

How To Survive A Long Plane Ride

How To Survive A Long Plane Ride

“I fly because it releases my mind from the tyranny of petty things.” Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Long flights aren’t pretty.  I start thinking about the amount of fidgeting I will be doing. i imagine a kid kicking my seat or a screaming baby for 15 hours straight. I think about the inflight meal and what the bathroom will start to look like half way through. I picture the bad movies and tv sitcom reruns i will be watching to pass the time.

The first hour of the flight is pretty manageable. Then it starts to dawn on me that I am stuck in an aluminum can for an interminable amount of time. Sometimes it helps to make a schedule and break the flight up into time chunks. Two hours to do work, three hours to watch movies, an hour to blog, etc. This can work better than constantly looking at the time.

It is so important to stay hydrated. Airplanes dehydrate you quickly which can make you feel bad and also do a number on your skin and eyes. Bring travel sizes of moisturizer, hand cream, eye cream, eye drops, water spray, chapstick and a reusable water bottle. Vapur water bottles roll up to fit in your pocket and can hold a liter of water. Eating protein is better than carbs because carbohydrates hold water making you bloated, Caffeine and alcohol will dehydrate you even further.

Flying takes a toll on everyone’s freshness. Colgate wisps or a toothbrush, breath mints or mouth wash and deodorant will help you and the people around you feel better.

Slip on shoes and compression socks for health risks such as blood clots are good to have with you and will help with circulation. Wear comfortable loose-fitting clothing. Sweat pants don’t have to be your go to travel attire. (I did wear them for a long time. I’m not proud of this.) You can wear leggings and a long sweater or comfortable jeans and a loose-fitting shirt.

Anything that helps to pass the time is useful -Tablet, iPod, book, magazines, movies, etc. For me it  is Hollywood, Hollywood, Hollywood. I bring a stack of trashy magazines and watch as many movies as I can.

Noise cancelling headphones, fuzzy socks and a scarf/blanket makes it easier to sleep.
I wrote another blog about that. https://travelwellflysafe.com/2015/11/03/how-to-sleep-on-a-plane/

I always get off long flights feeling like the Tin Man – creaky bones, cramped muscles, neck and back knots, and all around uncomfortable. Now I do some stretches and yoga poses that are conducive to small spaces and it definitely helps.

Long flights are usually exciting because it means you are going somewhere amazing. A long uncomfortable flight is a small price to pay for seeing the world.
Fly safe,
JAZ

How To Sleep On A Plane

How to Sleep On A Plane

“Most travel is best of all in the anticipation or the remembering; the reality has more to do with long uncomfortable flights and losing your luggage.” Regina Nadelson

I hate hate hate people who can sleep on planes.

I’ve always been a terrible sleeper. During the day I’ve been the tired friend, mother, partner, student, employee who is drinking coffee to stay awake. At night I’m someone who makes ridiculous sleep deprived decisions, does crazy internet shopping, sends weird incoherent emails, googles everything, signs up for online classes and watches
reruns of shows that I would never watch when they were on. Once I cut bangs. Another time i joined an online dating site while i was dating someone. Now I write blogs like this one.

A plane just makes it worse for me.

Obviously the best way to sleep on a plane is to travel in first class, followed by business class, three seats together in coach, two seats together in coach or an empty middle seat. New Zealand Air has “couch,” three coach seats for two people.

The next choice is the window seat. It is definitely better for sleeping. But I don’t like feeling locked in so I have to take the aisle.

Make some kind of footrest and take your shoes off. Use your carry on luggage if you need to. It is helpful to have your feet raised.

Come prepared. Bring something to block out the noise – ear plugs that you buy in the airport or toilet paper will suffice in a pinch. Noise canceling headphones are a good investment if you fly a lot.  While you still have Wi-Fi, and before you put your phone on airplane mode, download a few relaxing songs and apps. Sleep Machine and Ambi Science Pure Sleep are recommended apps. Anything that can calm down your brainwaves will work.

Bring an eye mask to block out the light. Yes it will mess up your hair but the chances of looking great after a twelve-hour flight are not good anyway.

The neck pillow is controversial. There are certain people who don’t like to look dorky in an airport carrying around a blow up neck pillow. I get that. But it is worse to wake up with a creak in your neck and you will sleep better if your head is not rolling around.

Keep warm. Bring extra socks, a blanket, a snuggly or a shawl. Airlines like to freeze you out and if you should fall asleep, you will wake up if you are cold.

Wear something comfortable on the plane. Or if you are a person who likes to look cute in airports (single) bring something comfortable to change into. I do that as soon as I get on the plane. Sweats and cuddly socks are always in my carry on for flights over six hours. It is not as easy as you think to change in those tiny bathrooms. I don’t recommend tight jeans.

Eat something before you fly so you are full but not bloated. They say healthy soup, kale and salmon are good for this. But they say that those foods are good for everything. You can not sleep if you are hungry. You definitely don’t need those salty snacks that make you feel bloated.

It helps if you schedule flights when you are actually tired. An early morning flight without coffee is good and if you stay up late the night before packing, you have a chance of falling into an exhausted sleep. (a trick my son uses)

Make sure to fasten your seatbelt over your blanket. Stewardesses who may never talk to you otherwise will wake you up for this. Then try to get back to sleep.

Everyone should smell neutral on a plane. Why do I even have to include this? Are their cultures, religions or countries that don’t believe in showering before flying? I don’t think so. Do we really need to be smelling your perfume from three rows behind? I am allergic to perfume so it is a problem for me.

Many people love to drink alcohol on planes to relax. It does help at first but then you wake up with low blood sugar, have bad jet lag and sometimes a hangover. It’s a personal choice.

I’m not sure if you are supposed to advocate pharmaceuticals in a blog. As a non sleeper I have tried everything. A rule of thumb is do not take anything that puts you out until the plane is in the air for a bit – especially if you are a snorer or a drooler. I think snorers and droolers should not fall asleep in a public place anyway. One time there was a problem with the plane and we had to get off after everyone was seated. They had to wheel off a famous person snoring loudly with drool all over her face. It was frightening. I live in fear that total strangers will see me like that. I never take anything strong enough to put me out.

Homeopathics and prescription medications that you have taken before can be useful. I use melatonin and valerian root, Melatonin sometimes gives you bad dreams so make sure you have taken it before. I had to fly two weeks after 9/11. The few people on the plane, stewardesses and pilots all looked terrified. I took ativan. It helped. I took it for a few years every time I flew after that. Now I meditate and only take it on long flights to help me sleep. I’ve tried Nyquil, Tylenol PM, Sleepy Time tea, warm milk, downloaded weird guided meditations, taken strange things from the health food store, a sleep remedy from a Mexican pharmacy and I once took something that was only legal in Canada. None of that works for me but feel free to try them.

The best thing is to do whatever it is that alleviates stress for you and relax. That will help you sleep.
“Looks like I picked the wrong day to give up smoking”.

Fly safe,
JAZ

Annoying Things To Say To Stewardesses

Annoying Things To Say To Stewardesses

“A little girl turns to the stewardess as the plane is taking off and says,”When are we going to get smaller?” Anon

I can’t get this window to open.

Can you get me a blanket and a pillow?

I didn’t get upgraded because I’m too pretty. Flight attendants hate pretty girls.

Can you help me find the box cutter in my carry on luggage?

I’ll have a water and two sleeping pills.

I was using my cigarette lighter in the bathroom because I couldn’t see.

I have no idea who left this crackpipe in the bathroom.

How much more time do we have?

Can we lower the engine noise?

Am I going to make my connection? (like they know)

You went to college?

How is the pilot feeling today? Happy, sad, suicidal?

So are we just going to see clouds?

And my personal favorite. Could you help me put this heavy bag in the overhead compartment? (I heard a stewardess tell a 90 year old woman that if she couldn’t carry her luggage she should not be traveling.  I had “blood in my eyes”)

Fly safe

,JAZ