I would rarely classify myself as the irritating one on any flight, but working on my laptop and communicator, with 2 glasses of water (filled about 7 times on the red eye flight), and elbows sharply pointed out, I might see why some would find me difficult to be with. I was enjoying a blast from China past, with Chinese opera blaring on microphone speakers only slightly less irritating then the constant jabbering and cholera induced hacking by sexually frustrated middle aged ladies. There were sunflower seeds littering the aisles and tiny curious heads peering at my angry typing, through the setbacks.
In the China I started my business in, this would classify as a “relaxing flight.” you cannot imagine how filthy and uncomfortable they used to be. With globalization and modernization, these sort of experiences are slowly fading away. Pity. They brought a raw, poetic beauty that can only be fully appreciated from a foreign point of view.
I was rudely jolted from this cheerful reverie when my seat mate, while crossing over during turbulence, abruptly landed square on me, pausing briefly like an overeager Mexican stripper and catching me quite by surprise. So much for my water and communicator. So much for her dignity. As our eyes met and she gave an awkward but warm, over the shoulder smile, my mind reached back several hours to the cross eyed check in agent that put me in between a bathroom frequenting Shanghainese and a comatose Yunan government official.
The eyes, the steely, mismatched eyes. I felt ever so slightly ashamed to continue to stare at this China Southern manager, noticing the small details that might elude one less frustrated. A small and crease lined mouth (no doubt from years of spitting), His aggravated posture and translucent skin, a mutant cross between Gollum and your common Napoleonic stance. And the non symmetrical eyes that gazed in different directions, piercing and confusing as I couldn't figure how he could work a computer??
I refused to acknowledge his argument in broken English, because I knew it insulted years of classroom drills and quite frankly because It pleased me to see this troglodyte get even more incensed. Of course, my insistence in answering in broken Chinese probably did not help the situation much. It was a battle I lost before I even started and I took home the grand prize of 20 kilos for overweight luggage-- or roughly the full price of an economy class ticket.
I have little doubt that the onslaught of these new “fees” are due to the staggering rise in oil prices, I just wish there was a more graceful way for airline companies to handle their spreading costs. My Italian friend says it best when he angrily haggles with the airline personnel: “look at me!!,” 6ft, toned and in a nice suit, “you see, I weigh little but my seat mates are fat and heavy. They have bags that are 1 kilo under limit, but weight 10 kilos more as a person! It is fair, you should not charge me overweight!” When you are tired, in need of a shower, and waiting in line... that sort of philosophy makes a whole lot of sense.
Things are not going to get any easier for airline companies or frequent fliers. The last decade of battling between low cost and premium carriers has slimmed margins across the industry. Oil prices may level but will most likely remain in the vicinity of their current levels and the American economy is in a recession and with it the rest of the world. We will be seeing a good number of mergers, buyouts and bankruptcy's in the coming year or two. I'll bet my value-diminished frequent flyer miles on it!