How would I greet the New Year? This became the question during the holiday rush. I needed a change of environment. An escape, if you will, from grayness of winter, the cold, and the sadness over my mom’s death. 2013 had not been a great year, and I needed to get away. Everyone needs a change of scenery at times, which is why the caveman packed up his rocks and left for newer caves. That is how the vacation started. I needed to wake up in a different location and refresh my mind.
Las Vegas was decided upon, because Gary’s mom lives there, and also it seemed like an interesting place to spend New Year’s Eve. We could enjoy Sin City, but wouldn’t have to stay with the throngs of tourists at the casinos. We could head west into the sun, and recharge ourselves in the glitz of Lost Wages.
I had received a very fashionable piece of luggage for the holidays from Geri and Brian. It is the new hard shell luggage, with a 360-degree spin capability, which I needed to show off. Was there any better place for it to be seen, then wheeling through the show capital of the world? It was like a stage prop from David Copperfield or Cirque du Soleil.
So I packed my luggage, and headed towards Vegas and 2014. We flew Spirit Airlines out of Philadelphia, and I was excited because they offer “Big Front Seats”, which are like the seats in another airline’s first class. They are wider – only two across, and offer more leg room for taller people. I don’t like to fly, because of the cramped quarters, and feeling like a herded animal.
This certainly was a better way to fly, and we could make our exit quickly upon landing, since we were only three rows back. I can never sleep on a plane because of the economy of space, but I actually slept on this flight. Thank God!!
Spirit is a no-frills airline. They have pretty stringent restrictions on luggage. They only allow forty pounds for checked luggage and one carry-on. The carry-on cannot be oversized, or there is a one hundred dollar charge to take it on the plane. This is a pay as you go flight plan. They offer snacks and beverages, but they all have to be purchased.
On our particular flight, it was announced to us, once we were safely belted in, that there was no running water. I guess this is part of their no-frills, low fare advertising. There would be no coffee or tea, and anyone using the restrooms would be offered hand sanitizer. Okay… I am flying on a plane with no water, but I do see a whole case of bottled water encased in plastic, and the flight attendant is counting each bottle.
I thought that perhaps as a good customer service offering, they would give a bottle of water to everyone. You could drink it, use it to wash your hands or give yourself a sponge bath. Sometimes, I am overly optimistic. There was no water offered to any passenger, unless you wanted to purchase it. The flight attendant was counting her stock, which I surmised she must account for at the end of the flight. I did find out that they receive a commission on what they sell, so let’s push those Pringles and Combos!
The flight attendant announced that the menu and price list was available in the seat pocket directly in front of us. I looked, more out of curiosity, to see what they were offering. What would the price of convenience store snacks be at ten thousand feet? All I could find was the safety instructions tucked into the seat pocket. There wasn’t a menu, a Sky Mall catalog or an airsick bag. They really were adhering to their no-frills image. The Public Relations Department would be happy to know their brand recognition was being supported, but not in a customer friendly way.
Gary and I, both searched the seat backs for a menu, but came up empty handed. Gary politely asked the woman across the row, if she had a menu we could look at. She smiled and said she didn’t have one either. “No water, no menus, no service. I think we are flying on ghetto airlines,” she whispered across the aisle.
I don’t know about ghetto, but it was clearly “No Spirit Airlines.” Gary went to the flight attendant and asked for a menu, and she initially couldn’t find one herself. She advised, half-heartedly, that she would locate one and bring it to us. So while the less than enthusiastic attendant went on a scavenger hunt for a menu, I checked my watch to count down the arrival time to Vegas.
The attendant, who appeared to be a bit annoyed at having to track it down, delivered the menu. She seemed distracted and not so personable. I thought, maybe she is thirsty, and didn’t want to pay for a bottle of water. We did a cursory glance at the menu. It was basic snacks and alcohol, so we passed it across the aisle to the female passenger as if delivering the Rosetta stone, since the menus seemed to be scarce.
I did have forethought, and had purchased a bottle of soda in the airport prior to boarding. I didn’t want to get overcharged for a soft drink on the plane. I thought I would take a chance and ask for a cup of ice, not sure if there would be a charge, since it wasn’t indicated on their price index.
I’ve found at times a slight dramatic flair can help guide the outcome of a situation. I gestured to the frowning flight attendant, and when she came over to our aisle, I gasped out “I really need a cup of ice,” while grabbing my throat for effect. She wrote it down as if I was ordering an entrée, but she didn’t mention a fee. That was a good thing.
She returned with a plastic cup filled with ice and a napkin. She extended her arm with a half-hearted smile, and gave me my requested ice. In a gesture of détente, I thanked her profusely as if she had just rescued me with the “Jaws of Life.” No payment was requested. Evidently ice was not a premium on this flight, or maybe it was a perk of sitting in a “Big Seat.”
I could enjoy my Coke Zero, and relax for the rest of the flight. I just prayed I wouldn’t need to use the waterless lavatory, after the throngs of passengers had turned on the “Occupied” sign. I would rather they had offered everyone Depends instead of hand sanitizer. Once the folding door shuts on the plane lavatory, you have no idea what is going on in there. People are shameless, and I am well aware of the Mile High Club. I tried to push the thought of toilet bowlmageddon out of head, and I actually feel asleep. Being unconscious on a flight can sure make it more bearable.
If the airlines want to institute a moneymaker on flights, they should offer drop-down IV bottles with tranquilizers for your time in the air. You could be floating in the clouds, while the plane was hurtling through the clouds. It would make for a much more pleasant trip for all us non-flyers. I could arrive at my destination feeling refreshed, and not feeling like Baby Jessica coming out of that well.
The best part of the flight is when the flight attendant announces they are preparing for landing. I gladly fold-up my tray table, and place my seat back in its upright position. This is the sign that I am getting off this tube of cramped seats. I can escape the passengers who are starting to smell at this point. I always prefer the window seat, that way if I need to I can press my face against the Plexiglas. I also like being able to see the local topography as we approach the airport.
Looking out the window of the plane at night, while landing at McCarran International Airport, is like staring at glittering jewels scattered on a bed of black velvet. The main road in Vegas, Las Vegas Boulevard, is right next to the airport, so you are able to start gambling within minutes of landing. There are slot machines in the airport if you can’t wait to arrive at the casino of your choice. You could literally gamble in Vegas and get back on a plane without ever leaving the airport.
People grow so impatient once the plane is on terra firma. Pushing and a bit of shoving can sometimes occur after a longer flight. Everyone becomes so concerned over their possessions that they happily discarded hours ago into the overhead compartments. As soon as the rubber hits the runway, everyone wants his or her belongings. If you had to place your carry on bag in an overhead compartment away from your seat aisle, you will be able to retrieve it. It is not going anywhere. Just wait for your turn.
There is no need to try and snake your way through the plane when the cabin door hasn’t even been open. You are not Stretch Armstrong. If you feel the need to do a Spiderman across the cabin ceiling to reach your prized underwear and three ounces of shampoo, you need to rethink flying.
I always want to pull my hair out and someone else’s, when the plane lands and everyone tries to cram into the aisle to get their overhead luggage, so they can quickly depart. “Please everyone just be patient, and wait for your row to exit!!!!”
I realize that we have all been huddled together in this flying tin can, and we are uncomfortable from breathing everyone’s stale air, and our legs are numb from the flotation devises we call seats. If you can just manage a few more minutes of common courtesy the exit door will be available to everyone.
There is the moment of knowing I’ve arrived, when I get that first breath of fresh air coming from the jet way. No matter the temperature of the air, I am just glad that it isn’t recycled through a filter on the plane. I am ready for my luggage and a Silkwood shower.
As soon as you enter McCarran Airport, you are into the world of Vegas and sensory overload. There are video screens advertising the shows on the strip, billboards displaying the celebrities who are playing the theaters and upcoming events. There are slot machines, blinking lights and the PA system – all are fighting for attention.
There is always the fun of luggage pick-up and the amusing conveyer belt. The belt does provide a revolving Lazy Susan of your checked luggage, as it comes off the flight. This means that your suitcase will come around a second time, if you see it and miss it the first time it makes its way out of the Samsonite birth canal. The fellow passengers, that you are trying to forget, from your flight, are now crowded around the luggage carousal trying to be the first to grab their belongings.
I always wind up next to Ms. Spray Tan with the twelve-inch acrylic nails that can’t quite pick up her knock-off Hermes bag, because her Edward Scissorhands aren’t cooperating with manual work. The passengers’ dash through the crowd, pushing and stepping on each other’s feet, acting like if they don’t make it to their bag when they spy it, it will disappear into some time and space continuum. Face it people! The suitcases aren’t going anywhere until you retrieve them. Have you ever seen that one lone suitcase revolving on the luggage rack, long after the crowd has dispersed? It is waiting for the passenger suffering distress in the bathroom, because he or she ordered off the no-frills menu.
I was waiting for my new shiny suitcase to emerge on the belt, all smiles and anticipation to show off my new accessory. Suddenly, I saw it. The shiny maroon hard shell beauty, gliding its way toward me. “Step aside,” my demeanor demanded as I reached for my bag. As it settled next to me, I realized that it was scratched on one side and the entire lid of the case was covered in a dusty white powder. Either my suitcase had been shoved through dirt or used as a tray for a wild cocaine party below deck.
My stomach sank as I realized my new suitcase had been deflowered in the bowels of the plane’s luggage compartment. Only, to be manhandled by the airport workers like a drunken hooker who is being thrown into the back of a police van. One flight and I could kiss my new luggage goodbye.
Gary’s mom is always thoughtful, and picks us up when we arrive. We can quickly escape the cacophony of the airport, and enjoy the quiet drive away from the lights of Las Vegas Boulevard. Lisa lives about twenty minutes from downtown Vegas in a southwestern styled gated community that has two swimming pools and hot tubs. It is a little oasis away from the congestion of all the gambling. You can enjoy the dessert air and a beautiful view of the picturesque Spring Mountain range. It is easy to relax and take in the beauty of the West, and be minutes away from Red Rock Canyon State Park.
(Stay tuned for Part 2 – Waking Up in Vegas)