“You are not going out with that boy unless his parents are driving and that's that. I'm not just Spitting Grits here, young lady!”

. . . My father, John Thomas Cravey, USAF, to me in 1956.

The Plan: A Train Ride to Innsbruck

The plan was this: Since Munich’s Bahnhof, train station, was only two blocks from the Kings Center Hotel where we were staying, we would walk, which would coincide with check-out time and give us plenty of time to figure out the train logistics; we would meet Susan there at the station, as she would take the subway from the airport to the train station a little after 11 a.m.; we would rail to Innsbruck, meet Roland in person (for the first time), pick up the rented car we reserved months ago, and follow Roland on the autobahn over the Brenner Pass and into Italy to the Sterzing-Vipiteno exit. We’d turn right at Sterzing (coming from the Pass), and, if I was reading the maps correctly, it’s a short ride to our ultimate destination, the Sonklar hotel in the Ridnaun-Ridanna Valley. Simple.
 
Except when it’s not.
 
No way we could walk to the Bahnhof from the hotel with all the luggage, get everything up stairs, wander into shops to pass time, and get past whatever other barrier there might be. Then, “tweet,” a text from Susan landed on my phone. Problems with her flight from the U.S. and then the layover in Frankfurt wiped out any chance of getting to the train station in time to meet the 2 p.m. trip we had tickets for.
 
Great. Except when it’s not.
 
Suddenly it was time to punch either the Panic or the Flexibility button. I hit the Panic button. I, a 71-year-old grandmother, decided to sit down on the edge of the bed and cry, a wonderful example for my granddaughter.
 
Don’t even think about it.  I told Joanna Leigh we would go down to the desk and get help with these problems. I shot Susan a quick text, saying (ha ha ha) “sit tight. I’ll figure this out.”
 
Two incidents helped me out. First, the staff at this small hotel knew us; they had already solved a couple of things for me. Second, (and it will be hard to admit what I’m about to confess) thinking that this small hotel wouldn’t have a hair dryer, I had stopped at a local beauty salon, where no one spoke English and somehow made them understand I needed a hair dryer. The young woman nodded yes, she understood. She and an older woman went back to a storage room and came out with a new unopened hair dryer. I was delighted when she said 18 Euros.
 
She shook her head and wrote down the price on a piece of paper: 80 Euros. I nearly fainted, but I was in a bind. I paid. Please don’t do the conversion. It’s disgusting. When we checked into the hotel, there was a hair dryer. Feeling completely stupid, I took it down to the desk and gave it to the man in charge; he said, with a wide grin, his wife needed a new dryer.
 
Great.
 
I explained our plight and he said, “I will call you a taxi to take you to the Bahnhof.”
 
I protested that the driver might get angry over a two-block trip. He said, “No, it’s his job. Don’t worry.”
 
Then he brought up on the computer the train schedules to Innsbruck. There were plenty of choices. I texted Susan with times and said that we’d go on but wait for her in Innsbruck at the train platform. She was pretty grumpy. My nerves were hanging out.
S6300829
 
I tipped the taxi driver adequately, as indicated by his behavior, not his English, and we went to find the right platform. At the platform, we walked up and down looking for the right car. Joanna Leigh pulled her carry on and took turns helping me with mine. The “monster” piece, the largest one in a set, was the problem. I wondered if I could get it on the train and put it somewhere on the floor, as I wouldn’t be able to put it on any overhead spot.


 In the King Center Hotel waiting on the taxi that would take us to the train.
That’s the Kings Center bear on my shoulder.
 
 We got on a car that had seat numbers 25 and 26, as printed on our tickets. One person offered help with the “monster,” and I accepted. We plopped down in our seats and a nice young man helped with the overhead pieces. The Age Card wasn’t necessary; it’s obvious. Sometimes it takes getting out of your element and environment to see the truth of a thing. No one was going to take me for a 55- or 60-year-old anymore. I’m an old grandmother and I look it. “Accept the help graciously and get over yourself,” I thought to myself.

 
A lovely family got on as the train was filling up – a pretty mother and two cute children. She came up to me and indicated we were in their seats. Again, no English, but it became clear to me somehow that she must be right; it became clear to her that I had no idea what to do about it, as both our sets of tickets said #25 and #26. By then the train began pulling out. I looked up, looked toward the door and the space between cars. I looked pitiful. She indicated “never mind.” She sat down with her little boy, about 5, in her lap and her daughter in the second seat. Speaking in a kind of sign language, we learned that our girls were both seven. By now the train had picked up speed and the ticket-checker came into our car. I said, “I think we’re in the wrong seats.”
 
He said, “No, you’re in the wrong car.”
 
Great.
 
She again indicated again that it was ok.
 
Then Joanna Leigh got my iPad and began playing games. The little boy got interested, then the daughter. Things were going to work out. We both kind of laughed in a knowing way, that sometimes a language barrier didn’t really matter.
 
Theirs was the stop before Innsbruck. When they got ready to get off, she indicated up on the hill was where they lived. Joanna Leigh said, “Wait a minute.” She got a stuffed bear that the Kings Center Hotel had given her and presented it to the little girl.
 
Really, everything was fine. We both had a good time watching the kids play games. We said our good-byes as they got off. They waved.
It wasn’t long before the engineer announced the Innsbruck stop. The same fellow who had put luggage in the overhead, got it down; then he helped get it all off the train onto the platform.


On the train in seats #25 and #26









Then I heard, “Joanna, Joanna” in a German accent. Finally we were to meet Roland face to face after two years of constant communication by e-mails and a growing friendship.

10-2014-08-05 19.19.54

At the Innsbruck train station: (left to right)Susan, Roland, Jakob Mayer,
and Joanna Leigh (no duh!)

Going into Italy, next.




 



The Bavarian Castles: Look at THAT

Travel mirrors life.
 
No, you’re not likely to have to deal with the awful stuff life can dish out, like tragedy or grief. Along with the fabulous facets of a great trip, however, you can expect to contend with mishaps, screw-ups, getting lost, weather, electrical currents, your devices’ cables, and the stuff you’ll encounter from being at the mercy of other people, businesses, and animals. To help mitigate some problems, using a travel agent for a complicated trip is a good idea, but it’s not a magic shield.
 
We traveled by air, rail, bus, car, and foot to three countries – Germany, Austria, Italy. And we had more than our share of fabulous. Nevertheless. . . .
 
As one of Germany’s great international cities, Munich has an extra little bonus tucked into its pocket; it has all of the Free State of Bavaria to offer. It encompasses the German lands between the majestic Alps to the wetlands of the Danube River.
 

The Bavarian landscape en route to the castles
I chose the Bavarian Castles in deference to Joanna Leigh’s immersion into the World of Disney Princesses. So, on our second day in Munich, we made our way to “Mad” Ludwig II’s Bavarian castles Linderhof and Neuschwanstein. Our hotel was only a short walk to the tour-bus stop, except when we rounded the corner we saw what looked like hundreds of buses and lots of confusion. It looked like the floor of the NY Stock Exchange, with lots of hands waving in the air and a jumble of languages and people. We heard English, headed in that direction, found our bus by waiving our tickets in the air, and got on. It was a beautiful day.
 
  As you got further from Munich and closer to the Alps, the foothills’ fields, meadows and countryside got more lush with each mile. It’s dairy cattle country, so you could hear cowbells.
 
I was having an unfortunate mental image of Julie Andrews appearing from a hill in her blue Bavarian dress and white apron and breaking into song.
 
Schloss Linderhof
2SchlossLinderhof-4  2SchlossLinderhof-6Linderhof façade and gardens
2SchlossLinderhof-10Linderhof from the Music Pavilion
 
Schloss Linderhof is high up a mountain. As we went up, up, up, switch-backing as we climbed, I became fixated on how Ludwig’s builders, architects, musicians, decorators, cooks, cleaners, gardeners, tailors, guards, shoemakers, animal keepers and grooms, and all the stuff all these people had to bring with them up that mountain to satisfy His Madness – how did they get it all up there? How many hundreds of trips did they have to make? At a certain height buses could not go any further up; visitors are left with a good walk to the castle. Along the way the lush forests offer plenty of natural beauty to land your eyes on, including the small lake inhabited by the castle’s swans. It seems Mad Ludwig had a thing for swans, both real and as a motif echoed everywhere.
 
But we had been warned by our tour guide.
 
“Yes, they are beautiful,” said our tour guide, “but they are evil. Recently these swans took off after a man who got a centimeter too close, tore his pants leg off, and injured his leg bad enough that we had to call an ambulance.”
 
So, was “Mad” Ludwig II insane or angry? He was probably angry first, because he had not been named Divine and Absolute Ruler of all his domain, as France’s Sun King, Louis XIV, Ludwig’s idol, had been. As absolute ruler, he could have continued his unabated spending on castles and the fantasy retreats he was creating. At the same time, he became enamored with the heroic music of Richard Wagner and the mythology it was built on. His devotion to Wagner, the music, and the themes pushed him to extreme limits;  he became determined to escape to a fantasy world of his own making, and he made it with Linderhof, Neuschwanstein, and other lavish dwellings. He blew out the coffers doing it, and made enemies of powerful people. At Linderhof, he would sleep all day then stay up all night in the Hall of Mirrors to surround himself with the extreme light of many candles bouncing off all the mirrors. That sounds a little crazy. He lived out the rest of his life in this fantasy world until the day of his “mysterious” death by drowning, even though an autopsy revealed no water in his lungs.
 
The grounds and castle interiors at both places have been described as French Baroque. I call it Outlandish Rococo, echoing Versailles to the insane limits. The photography police were out in force, keeping visitors from taking their own pictures, but the stores at both places are overflowing with postcards, and many photos are available on the internet.
 
My favorite Linderhof room was the dining room with its dining room table-floor. No, Ludwig wasn’t mad enough to eat on the floor, but the whole dining room table and the floor beneath it was lowered into the kitchen area below the dining room, the table was set for four, the food served, drinks poured, and sent back up to become the dining room floor and lavishly served table all at one time. The word is that His Madness didn’t have company or dinner parties, but he liked to talk to favorite people he imagined were dining with him. That seems a little Rococo-cuckoo to me.
 
Outlandish Rococo includes items like a carpet made of ostrich plumes, an ivory chandelier, Meissen centerpiece of bunches of flowers, gilded everything you can imagine, a table inlaid with jewels, mantles of jewels, and so much else, you cannot see it all.
 
Schloss Neuschwanstein
Schloss Neuschwanstein’s famous silhouette
 

3SchlossNsw-6a
The Bavarian fantasy world continued as we spent a little time at Oberammergau, the village of the Passion play, which lasts for 6 or 8 hours, and houses painted in the colorful style of trompe l’oiel with figures from German fairy tales, cuckoo clocks, bowers of flowers and more, seeming real enough to jump to the ground in front of you. Standard dress is Basic Bavarian – men in Lederhosen, knee socks; women in low-cut peasant-type dresses with white aprons.
 
Then on to Schloss Neuschwanstein, up an even more dramatic climb, until you catch a sight of one of the most astounding silhouettes in all of photography. The castle sits atop a huge outcropping over the 300-feet-deep gorge over the Pöllat River. No wonder Walt Disney chose this as his model for Disney Castles. You may recognize it as Sleeping Beauty’s castle and one of its towers as the place where Rapunzel let down her hair.
 
Two caveats: Again, busses have to let passengers off at a certain point; that makes me wonder even more how all His Madness’s stuff got up there. First for Seniors and disabled visitors: it’s a tough walk to, inside of, and from the castle, including a 15-20 minute walk uphill, three or four levels of stairs, and a very long (like 45-60 minutes) and sometimes arduous walk down to the busses.
 
Second: If you have any fear of heights at all, don’t do this: On the way up, as you get close to the castle, you can step onto a bridge spanning the 300-foot gorge. Looking down was unnerving; we felt like daredevils putting our feet on it. Then Joanna Leigh spotted on the opposite side, across that gorge, people! Several people were up there, maybe 100 feet higher than at our level.

4Gorge-1The gorge and the “hikers” on the cliff opposite the bridge
and higher than we were on the bridge
 
“What are those people doing,” Joanna Leigh asked.
 
Here’s what I said: “Oh, my gosh, I don’t know.”
 
Here’s what I thought: They probably think of themselves as hikers; I think they’re dumbasses.
 
I said out loud: “Great, we’re about to witness a horrible tragedy and it will ruin our trip.”
 
Then, a drop out of the sky came down. None of had even noticed that rain clouds had built. Then another, and they were big drops. After checking my Intellicast app before we left the hotel, I grabbed Joanna Leigh’s raincoat and my waterproof poncho. We put them on just as it started coming down, in buckets. I have no idea how those dumbasses across the gorge survived; so far as any of us knew, they did. It had to be slippery as ice on that tiny ledge. Hundreds of people were in the line waiting for their group to be called. Most had no rain gear, and there was nothing to do but start the LONG walk down or stand and take it. Either way you’d be drenched. It rained and rained and rained. People were huddled under anyone’s umbrella, to no avail at all. It poured. Joanna Leigh’s raincoat seemed to be holding. The buckets became barrels. Rain dripped off people’s noses, hair, glasses, the umbrella’s teats, fingers, any bit of a slope it could find. The drips went down on people’s shoulders, their backs, the seams of their jackets, into their shoes. Hundreds of us, standing outside, for at least 30 minutes. I was trying to protect my phone-camera. I reached under my poncho. It wasn’t holding. It was wet inside.
 
I thought, “Wouldn’t it be better to just let everyone in rather than drip all this water onto the castle floors?” But it’s a “small” castle, so we all waited. It was amazing that there was so little grumbling. My guess is that because there were hundreds of us, a grumbler would be banished. The group ahead of us was called. Joanna Leigh must have gone with that group and I kind of panicked. I called and called. I told the women who was doing the group calling that I need to find her. She said, “No.”
 
I said, “Watch me, hag,” and got by her. Some of our group has already gotten to the entrance steps and were looking out for her. Our tour began.
 
It’s funny, but I don’t have clear memories of much except for sneaking to get a photo or two and for the kitchen, which led to a long white plaster passageway out. I remember wondering if His Madness had imaginary dinner guests here too.
S6300747Moments before the Heavens poured buckets of rain
 
I do remember that these interiors could be described as Extreme Outlandish Rococo, which may cause blurred memories. The internet has plenty of pictures, but I doubt that googling Extreme Outlandish Rococo will get you there.
 
People have asked me what Joanna Leigh said about everything. More than saying things or commenting on everything, she seemed to be just sopping it all up. Mainly she said many times, “Jo, look at THAT, look at that.”
 
Downhill has its advantages, but it was hard to keep that in mind for the long wet walk back to the buses. On the trip back to Munich it poured again. It was what we call a “frog strangler” and it was almost impossible to see much out the window. Everyone seemed exhausted. The tour guide sneaked a plate of French fries to Joanna Leigh and put her finger to her mouth to keep it under wraps.
 
The next day we would get on the train for Innsbruck and for the primary reasons for the trip. As in life, you have to be flexible.

All photos here: https://plus.google.com/photos/+JoannaCraveyHutt/albums


The Joannas' Big Adventure, First Leg: Munich and Castles

We did it! The Delta fight notwithstanding (see previous post).
 
My 7-year-old granddaughter, Joanna Leigh, and I traveled to Munich, Innsbruck, and Ridnauntal (German)-the Ridanna Valley (Italian) in northeastern Italy in August. Many friends are admitting astonishment that I planned, went, and pulled off such a trip.


 
First, no one is more surprised than I am.
 
Second, how did we do it without ending up as wandering vagabonds somewhere in Europe? Help! And I am glad to admit it. And to admit I had drunken butterflies and hard rocks in my stomach for three months before we flew.
 
And guess who did best of all: Those who know her know who did – yep, Joanna Leigh. Three statements indicate why: When we got to Munich and wandered away from the hotel, I got turned around coming back from the restaurant. She announced that from then on, she would take pictures along the way so I wouldn’t get us lost. She’s been reading too much Hansel and Gretel. The second was an order: “Jo, the next time I tell you to turn right, you’d better do it.” The third is what she announced after exploring the Sonklarhof in Ridanna: “Jo, I’m going to find a waiter and ask for a coke. If you need me, I’ll be back.” Mind you, my sister, Joanna Leigh and I were the only English speakers among everyone we dealt with, except for Roland’s passable English.
 
On Friday, August 1, 2014, Joanna Leigh, all the suitcases – including the “Monster” piece in a set of three or four bags -- our documents, Euros, and I started out for Atlanta to board Delta’s repulsive 10-hour, non-stop flight to Munich. We would arrive the next morning (because of the time difference) about 8 a.m., tired, lagged, and fuzzy-brained.
 
The best help came from my travel agent, Teri, at Witte Travel and Tours in Grand Rapids, MI, which managed a tour I took some years ago. I turned over our trip details to her when I finally admitted that figuring out the ins-and-outs of this complicated adventure was too much for me. Before it was over, I would be plopped down in a puddle of tears. The payoff came right away. When we landed in Munich, feeling exhausted and goofy, and had gone through customs, we headed for the baggage area; lo, there stood a young man dressed in a white shirt under black pants and coat, very neat and professional, holding up a sign that read “HUTT.” I could have cried with joy. He got our luggage and we got in a black VW Jetta. Now the adventure could begin.
 
As he pulled away and headed for the autobahn going, well I’m not sure, but fast, I looked back at the glass encased, dazzling Munich airport and wondered how in hell I would figure it out when we returned in a rented car for the flight home.
 
I peered out the Jetta window wondering if I would remember anything about Munich from my childhood, or if some scene would spark a flood of memories from the three years I lived there when I was Joanna Leigh’s age. No spark; just tired eyes.
 
The driver stopped right at the door of the King’s Center Hotel on Marsstrasse, which my agent, had chosen. I had told her not to book a four-star hotel because I wanted to spend that money some other way. The King’s Center turned out to be a great pick – four stars of service in a three-star disguise. Neatly tucked away in the middle of a block and two blocks from the Grey Line Tours stop and the Bahnhof, train station, it was cozy and small, with a small staff and a breakfast dining room across a private, quiet courtyard. The staff got to know us; they presented Joanna Leigh with a King’s Center stuffed bear when we left. The rooms and bathrooms were small, but enough for us. And it’s within walking distance to the city’s center.
 
MUNICH
I opted to spend three days of our limited vacation time in Munich because I had never been back since my father’s assignment, as part of the Allied Occupational Forces in Germany, soon after the end of World War II. I wanted to feel its character, touch its face, and see if I could recognize anything. I didn’t remember anything in particular, but emotions stirred when I saw the Frauenkirche, the Angel of Peace, the Isar River.
 
My memories of our stay from 1948-51 are ones of a “normal” life, even though I remember bombed out buildings and rubble. It wasn’t really normal, but military brats have to get used to new places quickly.
 
Germany was pure devastation in all directions when I lived there. (See below. Notice the building and parade-goer perched in the window.)


 
Munich is more than 850 years old; it was almost totally destroyed in World War II and was rebuilt. Today, Munich’s face is clean and modern, with the old and the new put together; it was re-built in a rational order. Everything radiates from the pedestrian-only Marienplatz, the geographical center since the city’s founding, symbolized by the Mariensaule. Munich’s character is vibrant and lively. Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH
 
Except for one glaring flaw: Munich has a Michael Jackson Memorial. That I am able to find, Munich doesn’t have any worthy building or ruin or statue or memorial that demonstrates some responsibility for the horrors of Hitler’s reign or World War II in general. That the first Nazi concentration camp, Dachau, is near Munich and Bavarian children are mandated to go does NOT erase this extreme flaw. This failure, whether conscious or unconscious, stands in stark contrast to Berlin and its hollowed out Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche, which houses a plaque reading “The tower of the old church serves as a reminder of the judgment that God passed upon our people during the years of the war.”
 
Time magazine is reporting in the on-line edition that Germany is seeing a significant rise in anti-Semitic actions, which Chancellor Angela Merkel is vowing to do all it can to stop.
S6300802Marienplatz then (above) and now (left).
Munich pictures: https://plus.google.com/photos/+JoannaCraveyHutt/albums/6053080489927328145
Post WWII photos taken by my father in 1948 to 1951, including the first Fasching Parade allowed after the War: https://plus.google.com/photos/+JoannaCraveyHutt/albums/6034161984099124353
I have tried to ID the locations of the shots.

Lively, varied Marienplatz, Munich
 
Bavaria has a distinctive character; it is extraverted, familiar, and fun. It has a distinctive look; traditional Bavarian dress is treated not as a costume, but as everyday clothes for many; everywhere in the summer, buildings, homes, places have window boxes or planters with waterfalls of geraniums, impatiens, and all sorts of summer blooms. It has a distinctive sound, like the gulping down of great beer, the Oktoberfest that engulfs the town and area, the beer hall music. The Alps loom, like only one remaining wall of a fortress.
 
We got our first taste of the Alps when we made the trip to two of “Mad” Ludwig II’s castles: Linderhof via Oberammergau, and Walt Disney’s favorite, Neuschwanstein, on which he modelled castles for the Princesses, especially Sleeping Beauty. Our tour guide told us a couple of interesting facts: First, Ludwig II was not likely “mad” in the sense of “insane”; he was angry that Bavaria would not anoint him Divine Ruler, so he just built these Rococo castles as his fantasy world and stayed there. Sounds like to me that Ludwig carried both meanings around. Second, if you mispronounce the very mispronounce-able “Neuschwantstein,” you might be talking about some pig trail.
The Castles: https://plus.google.com/photos/+JoannaCraveyHutt/albums/6057480604944440129


 
 
Joanna Leigh and I really enjoyed Munich, but after three days, I was ready to get on with the main reason for the trip: To meet Roland and Anton, and to discover what we could about dad’s bailout into the Stubai Alps and the crash site of his P-51. That’s next.






The Mysterious Case of the Knee Defender

Ok, I’m biting.
Now Consumer Reports has weighed in on its Web site with a Knee Defender piece, and this is after many media reports on an incident at 35,000 feet. Attention includes the New York Times, that stiff and credible publication; unlike other reports, the NYT and CR pieces have something substantial to say. Well, I do too.
 
At first, responsibility for this incident and others like it was dumped on passengers. When I saw that angle being reported, I ended up screaming to the television “It’s no mystery who’s at fault here, dummy. It’s not the passengers; it is the airlines.” It’s my guess that I wasn’t alone. I’ll bet many, many passengers were thinking, if not screaming, the same thing. Isn’t it just like so many big businesses and corporations shouting, “Oh, no. It’s not us. It’s Halliburton,” or “Oh, no, we’re not the same company now. Those faulty cars were back then, not now.” “Oh, not on our airline; we have Economy Plus.”
 
It may have been the Associated Press who first put it out there. The Guardian picked it up with these headlines: “Plane diverted as passengers fight over seat reclining”. Then the story of the incident went viral. Whose curiosity could resist? One tall passenger put the knee defender on the tray he ate on to prevent the passenger in the seat in front of him from reclining. That passenger was so infuriated, she threw her cold water on him. Fight on. Then the United plane made an unscheduled stop to dump them both off the plane. Then it went on its merry way. I wonder what descending and taking off costs in fuel and whatever else.
 
Frankly, I don’t know why the rest of the passengers didn’t rise up in a revolt.
 
I’m biting because my passengership makes me an expert on this subject. On August 1 my granddaughter and I boarded Delta’s flight 130, a non-stop ten-hour trip to Munich. We would arrive the next morning (because of the time difference) about 8 a.m., tired, lagged, and fuzzy-brained from no sleep. On the 11th, we had to repeat the trip backwards on Delta’s flight 131 to Atlanta. Then I drove us home, with no sleep.
 
It wasn’t so much that it was grueling. It’s the fact that it was NASTY. Plain nasty.
 
Which Customers First?
Fourth (I’m going in reverse order), I paid extra for Delta’s version of Economy Plus, seats located behind first class, an area where the airplane hasn’t yet started getting narrow – more room, more comfy, more perks. Are you kidding, Delta? When we got on and found our seats I looked back at “regular” economy and I knew: I had wasted that money. Perks? Have you lost your mind, Delta? We weren’t offered anything, not even water, while I watched some fawning steward offering all the, what, maybe 10, First Class passengers champagne and what could have been chocolate truffles.
 
Don’t waste your money.
 
Third, coming back I asked one of the stewardettes in charge of snapping the blue netting together on the boundary of First Class and Economy Plus if my granddaughter, age 7, could use the bathroom between our Economy Plus and First Class. The hag said, No, I’m sorry.”
 
Then Joanna Leigh spilled about half of her orange juice the stewardettes brought with the one-inch square, tiny bag of pretzels. Juice was dripping off the tray. I was frantically looking for something to sop it up with. I even grabbed napkins off other passengers’ trays. I realize now a fight could have ensued. The stewardette in charge of rolling that blasted cart down the almost too narrow aisle came by. I said, “Please, I need some paper towels or napkins.”
 
The hag handed me two, count ‘em two, cocktail napkins. I was flabbergasted.
 
Then came dinner, the “food,” and that’s a real knee-slapper. I wondered if the airlines pay an employee to stop at Walmart or Target to pick up the Fisher Price “food” they serve the passengers. I remember giving some like it to Joanna Leigh when she got her kitchen set for Christmas.
Second, and this one really should be First, the bathrooms. For a 10-hour flight with 250-plus passengers, you essentially have four little cubbies when you subtract the two for all those ten First Class passengers. If they catch the hoi polloi using those, they might disembark them along with any fighters. Those bathrooms were worse than any port-o-potty at the State Fair. Don’t bring your own spray bottle of Clorox or the hidden Air Marshalls would rise up and deplane you.
 
The bathrooms on a long flight are a health hazard. Plain and simple.
First Class Dumps
 
Finally, number ONE, the seats, which is where the primary fault lies. Or sits.
 
Imagine a profile of a seat in the famed “upright and locked” position – with no lumbar support – up to the pillowed “head rest.” Now imagine the poor passenger sitting in it, arched forward all the way up to the “head rest,” which tilts your head down toward your chest, which means that you are sitting in a crescent-moon arched position. That’s against the laws of physics, except for the Dream Works logo of a kid sitting on a moon sliver with his fishing pole hanging into the stars. You need lumbar support and a pillowed area to support not your head, but your neck. Then your head can rest slightly back. Passengers would sleep instead of fight. Like this:
 
I

 
I use this chair at my desk in my study. Look, lumbar support, padded neck support that lets you tilt your head back a bit, and a tilt function for the chair. I think Sealy makes it, and I got it at Sam’s Club. So, duh, what would it take to convert it to an airline chair? As far as I’m concerned, this chair redesign and attention to the bathrooms are high priority. Mystery solved.
 
I almost forgot -- the baggage. The airlines have you cornered here. Luggage sets come with a monster bag, a “carry-on,” a tote, and sometimes one other. To keep the Monster bag under 50 pounds, you’d have to pack nothing but cotton balls. So you pay. And if your “carry on” is too big to fit in a measuring bag the airlines use, then you have to leave boarding and re-go to the checked bags line. And miss your flight, so that the airlines can assign your seats to someone else who will pay, thereby double-dipping. So you pay.
 
Delta should be ashamed of breaking the first rule of business: Successful companies put customer satisfaction first. There’s competition out there, Delta; American companies turn on customer service. I’ll end this rant with Consumer Reports angle: “The airlines are largely to blame precisely because they’re shoehorning more people into tighter and tighter spaces, says a travel industry expert and Consumer Reports consultant, William McGee.”
 
And, “most U.S. airlines have decided to reduce ‘seat pitch’—the distance between rows—in economy/coach sections. In many cases, the existing knee room is inadequate for some passengers, McGhee says, even with seats fully upright. ‘The last I checked, the seat pitch on Spirit Airlines was 28 inches, which is simply cruel’, he said.”
Joanna Leigh and I had a memorable and astonishing trip, Delta notwithseating. Next time I’ll look at Lufthansa or maybe Singapore airlines. It flies east via Europe to go to the Far East.
 
More on our wonderful trip in future posts.



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