I Love Vets Enough to Fly Delta

Crammed into the window seat on the Delta late night flight to Philly from Salt Lake I can barely type the keyboard is smashed so close against my stomach.  The woman in front of me has decided it would be a good idea for her to recline her seat as far as it will go.  She’s so much inserted into my space I think I can actually hear what she’s thinking.  I never fly Delta if given a choice.  I never in fact fly anything other than Southwest unless absolutely necessary.  I am a huge Southwest Airlines fan.  I had to work at Edison Elementary and I have to be in Philly first thing in the morning so Delta was the only way to do it.  I’ve come to think of this airline as the airline of “no.”  If you have any question, any request, simply walk toward the person at the counter and you’ll notice that before you even reach them they’re already shaking their head no.  I have way too many negative experiences on this airline to list.  Suffice it to say that they would have to get a ton of “attaboys” just to make up for the hundreds of dollars of bag fees I’ve had to pay over the last few years.  And many of those bags they apparently were charging me to lose! This flight was booked for me.  I never book myself on Delta anymore. They will charge you for everything imaginable from checking even one bag to the in-flight wi-fi to anything more to eat than the measly scraps more appropriate to the Eastern Block airlines of yesteryear.  And before you ask, yes, I took more than one flight on Aeroflot before the soviet breakup.  The choice of drink was warm Georgian wine, vodka or tepid coffee.  They actually took a vote at the beginning of the flight from Moscow to Leningrad (now again St. Petersburg) to determine if it was to be smoking or non-smoking.  I found that to be very democratic and far removed from the totalitarian dictatorship I’d learned about in fourth grade.  The plane was large, about the size of a DC-8 but before we took-off, they moved about ten passengers from the back to the middle of the plane.  The interpreter and guide for Intrav, the company that had arranged our trip had a pretty profound Russian accent but I was pretty sure she said something about weight distribution.  I thought, “If this plane’s ability to fly well can be so profoundly affected by moving a few passengers around in the cabin, I don’t know if I want to take this flight.”  Too late.  The cabin door was closed, the Russians had voted “smoking,” and we were about to take off.  Could you pass around that vodka tray again?  Those were the days.  Sometime I’ll have to tell y’all more about that trip.  The saddest thing for me personally about what has happened to Delta is that I was such a huge Delta fan when I was a little boy.  I used to draw Delta planes and make “Delta fuel” by pouring everything I could find in the cleaning closet.  I’d build little wooden planes out of scraps and paint the Delta logo on the dorsal wing. We always flew Delta to see my grandparents in California and what wonderful trips they were.  I remember the tasty meals they served—included in the price of your ticket, going to the cockpit to visit the pilot, proudly wearing my Delta wings and taking home a deck of Delta playing cards.  But alas those days are no more.  And now that Delta has swallowed Northwest, they’re the biggest airline on the planet.  So I guess that makes them one more of those “too big to fail”  monsters and they seem to know it.  It’s certainly reflected in the attitude of most of the employees.  “What do we care?” their smirks seem to say, “If you don’t like our airline, we got a hundred thousand other people who are willing to cram into our tiny seats, take what we give them and keep their mouths shut!”  (To me, anything that is “too big to fail” is actually too big not fail.)  To me, that wonderful American competitive spirit is a thing of the past.  Now Corporate giants rise to the top by lecherous means and not by trying their best to please the customer.

Wow, who’s in a nasty mood?  I guess that’s what I get for tacking a cross-country flight onto the end of a long workweek.  But this trip is about veterans.  And thinking about them and how much I care about them and how much I want to help them is about the only thing that could get me through the excruciating pain of folding up my 6’5” 220 lb body and packing it up against this icy window for four hours.  Thinking about being part of the efforts this weekend to help my fellow OIF/OEF vets is enough to get me through.  After all, compared to what some of my brothers and sisters are going through tonight—those who are still deployed and those who’ve come home, this cramped, unfriendly, freezing, hungry trip to Philly is a pleasure cruise.

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