There was a time when getting on an airliner was not only glamorous, but fun. Flying involved hot meals served at regular intervals, lots of beverages, offers of pillows and blankets and quite often, empty seats right next to your own.  

Population pressure, security concerns, lifting of government regulations, the airline industry and possibly the church all conspired to drain the fun out of flying. I now drive to a destination when distances under a thousand miles are involved. But that was not the case when my wife and I recently embarked on our 30th wedding anniversary vacation trip to Hawaii. Let me provide some high points from my notebook on this flight that at one time was pure fun....

Avoiding any fistfights and rude behavior, we stand last in line to get on the aircraft. As we make our way inside I am horrified to see how close people are seated. They are elbow to elbow, squeezed in like books on a shelf. And that, sad to say, is 1st class. 

We find our seats toward the back of the plane. They are the only two seats vacant. As I approach, the man in the aisle seat starts to cry as he gets up to let us in.

I have not flown much since the fun was wrung out of flying. At that time you could easily get to your window seat and if you had to get up for any reason, you could simply ask the other people sitting between you and the aisle to move their knees so that you could get past. If they were sleeping, you could sometimes slip past without them noticing.

We have tickets that put us in steerage. I have 5 inches between my knees and the seat in front of me. Don’t tell anyone; if the airlines get wind of this they will adjust the seats even closer to get in an extra row or two of victims. To get out, everyone in my row would have to get up and move into the aisle. Other people would have to move to accommodate that movement and if the chain reaction goes bad, the flight attendants would throw one or two people out the emergency exit to keep the plane from breaking apart. 

Today, if you make a movement at a window seat to go to the toilet the person in the middle seat will usually threaten you with a shiv that they made from plastic cups hidden away during the beverage service. I vow to stay put the entire trip.

What’s this coming over the seat in front of me? Oh look, it’s a baby. Hopefully a well-behaved one. We don’t know, as we have not yet departed. Well, of course he is well behaved; he has two servants on either side and plenty of legroom, he has his own private seat strapped into the regular seat, and, oh yes, he has his own ticket. If you do not want to hold your baby on your lap the entire agonizing trip, then pony up with another ticket.

We depart and taxi into position. As we lumber down the runway I can’t believe how lucky we are to get a seat right next to the engines, feeling the full force of the noise they emit, a noise that can be topped by only one thing: a crying baby. Suddenly the plane with all of its 7,000 passengers and all the very important things they brought with them is airborne. Twenty minutes later we are in patchy blue skies and sunlight, the storm below us. Amazing.

One hour out, with “Keeping Up with the Joneses’” playing on the TV screens, my legs start to lock up. Because the air is so dry my nose closes down completely. I cannot walk and I cannot breathe. The beverage service starts but I am wary as it will only lead to the inclination to use the toilet. My wife is already collecting plastic cups when the flight attendant is not looking. 

Watching the movie helped somewhat. I am now permanently molded into the seated position, sort of like the figures of Pompeii. Time passes. My mind is hazy as I ... go in and out of consciousness. I manage to calculate our remaining flight time. Just two more hours. Two more torturous hours before we get there — to Los Angeles where we will change planes. We are almost halfway to Hawaii.