Las week the wife and I flew to the east coast to spend Thanksgiving with our daughters and their families. The daughter whose house we stayed at in Northern Virginia, always serves a sumptuous feast, with each course prepared from scratch. No store-bought prepared dishes like stuffing or sweet-potatoes for her. And being the especially good-hearted person that she is, she likes to invite as many people over for this feast as her house will hold. And then some. A cast of thousands I used to call it. This year, however, because she has had to contend with certain health issues, it was only a cast of hundreds. Much quieter that way. In any event, I was able to discern a number of items affecting the human condition during this journey that I believe are interesting enough to comment on.
Point I. Self-Loading Freight. No business or company would last more than a month if it treated its patrons as shabbily as the airlines industry treats its customers. From ever-shrinking seat and aisle-room, to the lack of anything resembling edible food, to the often lack of on-time performance, to grossly over-priced tickets etc., airline customers have to contend with a whole lot of crap to get from here to there. If you fly coach-class, which about 99% of the flying public does, airline crews will refer to you, derisively, as self-loading freight. Behind your back, of course. And why shouldn’t they. You’re herded onto the aircraft down the narrowest of aisleways, until you’re shoved into a tiny cubicle, laughingly referred to as a seat. The leg room is so minuscule that if you’re any taller than a dwarf, your knees are often pressed up against your throat. You have to practically arm wrestle with the person sitting next to you, to obtain a quarter inch of arm rest space. If you’re broadly built, and sitting in an aisle-seat, be prepared for the flight attendants to continually bang into the shoulder that’s resting on the aisle side, as they hurry up and down. If you’re not in an aisle seat, be prepared to hold it in for 4-5 hours, since your opportunity to make it to a bathroom ranges from slim to none. I’m old enough to remember when the airlines actually served meals on their flights. Now you’re lucky if they throw a small bag of pretzels your way, and tell you to gorge yourself on that.
We flew from Las Vegas to the east coast via Southworst Airlines…..uh, I guess they call themselves Southwest. In addition to all the discomfiture on the plane, there’s the endless monotony of hanging around the airport when they so capriciously decide not to arrive on schedule. On our return flight, the airline decided how delightful it would be for the flight to show up 55 minutes behind schedule. There was no bad weather anywhere, or any real excuse for the delay. If there is bad weather, forget about it. It would be faster to travel by mule-train. I guess Southwest felt that their passengers were having too much fun. Can’t have all that frivolity going on. Meanwhile, the price of an airline ticket keeps going up, even though the price of jet fuel has been plunging. Oil prices haven’t been this low since 2010, but none of those savings, god-forbid, are being passed on to the consumer.
Yet virtually every flight on every airline is almost always jammed packed. So why are people willing to put up with all this crap. I guess the answer lies in speediness. If your plane leaves early enough on Thursday morning, you can fly coast-to-coast, and still have Thanksgiving dinner with your family that evening. As for me, I think I might like to leave a fews days early, and give the mule train option an opportunity.
Point II. The Free Lunch Syndrome. As we all know, the day after Thanksgiving, now known as Black Friday, has become almost as big a deal as Thanksgiving itself. Some people, after they’re finished gorging on turkey and stuffing, will head for the nearest mall or department or electronics store, and camp out on the sidewalk overnight, if that’s what it takes to be among the first ones that get into the store on Friday morning. After all, who can pass up such huge bargains on the latest I-Phones, TVs, mattresses etc. being offered at deep discounts. Not one person will stop to think that none of this consumer frenzy will ever radically alter their life-style, which is usually pretty crummy to begin with. And that all the merchandizers’ are doing is reducing the already over-inflated profit margins on these goods, to more reasonable levels. And that what they think they may be saving on certain items, they will likely spend on other items in the store that are not discounted. I mean, as long as you’re in the store to begin with, why not shop til you drop.
I call this type of mentality the free-lunch syndrome, and you see it in abundance where I live, here in Las Vegas. I truly believe that there is no human passion stronger than the quest to obtain a freebie, even though almost everyone will admit there’s no such thing as a free lunch. The local casinos in Las Vegas, (those that are off “The Strip”) readily understand this human lust, however, and are ready to profit from it. So they will often issue to local residents, two-for-one coupons for their buffets, which generally cost in the $15-$20 range per dinner. Residents, and sometimes tourists, will often stand on line for over an hour at these buffets, just to save 20 bucks, and then knock down the slop that’s usually being served up. Then, after dinner, most will wander onto the casino floor, and drop maybe $200 or more without blinking an eye. After all, the important thing is that they got their free lunch, or dinner as the case may be. Human nature is so immensely fascinating, especially in its predictability.
Well, I had intended to explore other human foibles, (outside of the political follies ever on-going in Washington), but I feel fatigue beginning to set in. I believe it to be that senior-thing, again. So I’ll have carry these thoughts over for the next chapter in trying to categorize the human condition.