International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: El Al from New York
Fear of Flying - Bucket Shop Blues
John M. Edwards
to save deflationary dollars during a worldwide recession,
John M. Edwards tries a risky bucket shop for cheapo
airfare to Amsterdam, ending up on a white-knuckles chariot charter
flight from hell.
For the umpteenth
time I must reiterate: It is now high time to cash in and use up all
those Frequent Flyer Miles. But with a worldwide economic disaster grounding
us with nightmare worries about the future and regrets about the past,
no one knows where to go.
Maybe we should just stay home and watch Anthony Bourdains No
Reservations? Or, even better, Bridgets
Sexiest Beaches! All the empty prattle in consumer glossies about
favorable exchange rates and stretching vacation dollars rings hollow
in the ears when basically things are pretty much the same, It still
costs ten bucks for an English breakfast in London (the pound is behaving
like a pussy), five bucks for a bungalow on a Thai beach (there
is no bang for the baht)., and its still pretty much free to get
a lapdance in Manhattan (the dollar is diving down deep).
Id like to fly somewhere cool, too,
but I also want to save money to buy Lithium, Smokes, and Penthouses.
Flying is a little dear when the Stock Market
crashes like a flight over Lockerbie, especially for a writer demanding
a mere dollar a word. So if you really want cheap, say hello to the
somewhat sinister bucket shops, and their criminally negligent
operators. Most of us dont really care whom we fly
with, as long as we get there.
Now that the greedy airlines are stiffing
fat people, charging them for two seats, and making us shell out for
drinks and pillows and barfbags, we have to protect ourselves and our
baggage also from ending up in an infernal aerial carousel spinning
out of controlperhaps from a friendless loser disgruntled baggage
handler hijacking the plane to Havana or Kabul with fingernail clippers.
I have to admit, though, I was a little taken
aback when I wanted to fly from New York JFK to Amsterdam Schipholand
ended up, courtesy of a bucket shop run by a guy named Ramon, at the
last minute--you have to wait to find out which carrier you are flying
on as the bucketeers shuffle around blocks of seats like unscrupulous
MSG scalpers--on a flight with, ta da!
El Al?! I raged on the phone
Id say the brave Israeli airlines
idea of security is a little too strict an interpretation for the average
bohemian backpacker looking for good value and ease of comfort,
whatever that is.
Even though they didnt exactly hassle
me, since I managed on the spot to somehow come up with the name of
an Israeli friend from college, Yael, which the arrogant
hotbod officer said was a common name there, some poor lout, with dusky
skin (razor stubbled), a locked briefcase with a single sticker (in
Arabic), and an ill-fitting imitation Oxford shirt (light blue), was
indeed asked to accompany a soldier, with well-defined biceps and a
superior scowl, into a dank backroom. You should have seen the look
of surprise on the hapless anti-Semitic-looking Semitic businessmans
face as he was led off, with an inarticulate cry (rather: a squawk),
pretty much at gunpoint.
I dunno, maybe the poor guy, obviously a
swarthy Palestinian native of some sort, was suffering from
nicotine withdrawals or depression or something. Anyhoo . . .
Off we went to the lonely gate full of nervous-looking
tourists, all obvious terrorism targets, going to Amsterdam, and after
that, I imagine, to Tel Aviv. I would make sure I wouldnt fall
asleep and miss my stop.
The not-very-large plane, model unknown,
seemed airworthy, but the seats were cramped and the legroom a shade
short of amputee length. But the worst thing was: even though the friendly
skies were united in clarity and blueness, with only a thin shy veil
of clouds, the plane shook. Yes, shook! Why? Why? Why?
And at one point the cross-like clunker passed
through a way lengthy bit of turbulence which provoked a young attractive
college student with a pert nosejob, probably off to work on a kibbutz
in Eilat for the summer rather than lie on the beach in Fort Lauderdale,
to exclaim Oh my God. Oh my God? Oh, my God! My white knuckles
knishes, I clutched the armrests with my mouth agape. Mama!
Meanwhile the loopy airplane engines whined
like Woody Allen playing persistent klezmer on his clarinet. At times
like these, you kind of wish you had paid attention to the leggy flight
attendants acting like vapid Vanna White game-show-model mimes going
through the motions on how to use the oxygen masks, slip on those life
savers, and find them thar emergency exits in the dark, or, alas, underwater.
And while were on it, what was wrong
with calling flight attendants stewardesses and scribbling
our telephone numbers on the cocktail napkins in the glory days of Pan
Am, Eastern Airlines, and Peoples Express? This is as much of
a mannerism as a female calling herself an actor, making
us wonder if we have a transvestite or shemale on our hands as we vigorously
rub off the lipstick. Or, Miss California telling Perez Hilton, who
certainly resembles a hysterical "flight attendant." she doesn't
believe in same-sex marriages, no offense.
Now in the Age of Boeing and Airbus (not
to mention NASA), PC should only apply to computers and rainbow
printer cartridges. (Damn, Im out of Magenta!)
I imagined the aging pilot was some sort
of ex-fighter-pilot ace from the Israeli Air Force, flying high on Maneshevitz
(whatever that is), just frigging showing off. His crackling voice,
more fluent in Hebrew than the language of Shakespeare's "sceptr'd
isle," assured us things were "okay." You betcha!
But finally there was a smooth landing at
Schiphol, plus the inevitable applauseas hokey as Midwesterners
waiting for Les Miz to at last end, so they can raid the saldad bar
Even so, I think next time Ill pay
full fare and fly with KLMof course, with my wildly friendly and
well-meaning soccer hooligan pals, who are addicted to airplane food,
TV dinners, and chain hamburger outlets no matter where in the world:
even in the naughty Netherlands.
Archers or Crown, mates?
© John Edwards May 1st 2009
to make sense in the Caribbean
John M. Edwards
next day I spotted the General wearing only shorts running down the
beach like an Olympic athlete on steroids, closely pursued by two policemen,
who tackled the General and handcuffed him. As they hauled him away,
he bawled out, "Im innocent!"
Bio: John M. Edwards has traveled worldwidely
(five continents plus), with adventures ranging from surviving a shipwreck
off the coast of Thailand to getting caught up in a military coup in
Fiji. His work has appeared in such magazines as CNN Traveller, Missouri
Review, Salon.com, Grand Tour, Islands, Escape ,Endless Vacation, Adventure
Journey, Condé Nast Traveler, International Living, Emerging
Markets, BootsnAll, Verge, Slab, Glimpse, Stellar, Poetry Motel, Hack
Writers, Road Junky, Richmond Review, Go Nomad, World Hum, ForeWord,
North Dakota Quarterly, Michigan Quarterly Review, and North American
Review. He recently won a NATJA (North American Travel Journalists Association)
Award, a TANEC (Transitions Abroad Narrative Essay Contest) Award, and
a Solas Award (sponsored by Travelers Tales). His indie zine,
Unpleasant Vacations: The Magazine of Misadventure, went belly up. He
lives in NYCs Hells Kitchen. His future bestsellers,
Fluid Borders and Move, have not hit the tray tables. His new work-in-progress,
Dubya Dubya Deux, is about a time traveler.
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