Getting the Blues Flying the Blue Skies

Written by Jill Chapin. Posted in Opinion, Politics

Published on December 31, 2011 with 4 Comments

Illustration courtesy David Dees,

By Jill Chapin

December 31, 2011

Wending my way through LAX recently made me recall days of yore – ok, decades of yore – when air travel provided a giddy sense of luxury and freedom to move quickly from one place to another, all the while feeling pampered and special.

Although we must now succumb to a certain police-state mentality on approach to airports, there are some of us who are old enough to recall what freedom of movement and expression used to mean in regard to air travel.

We were free to run into an airport at the last minute to catch a flight, free to walk right up to the gate to meet friends and relatives as they disembarked from their plane.

We were free to carry any size liquid containers, free to keep our shoes and belts and jackets on, free to keep our keys in our pockets, free from having strangers wearing plastic gloves open our carry ons and dig around in our personal effects.

Women were free from having to disclose to a perfect stranger that they were wearing underwire bras.

We were free to park at the curb to pick up a friend without fear of being ticketed or questioned for suspicious behavior. Recently I was dropped off at the airport. A security officer was watching me, and as my driver pulled away, he asked me if I knew him. It was such an Orwellian moment that I was at first too stunned to reply.

We were free to miss our flight and grab the next one – for free; no charge for re-scheduling.

We were free from fees for luggage, for food, for decent leg room.

We were free to speak with a real airline representative who was actually permitted to bend a few rules to get us the flight and price we wanted.

We were free from prying security to check our ID. Once my sister had to cancel a trip, so I used her ticket and went instead. No questions asked; the airline didn’t seem to care who used it inasmuch as we were never asked to show identification.

We were free to fly standby with the knowledge that, if all coach seats were full, we would be placed in first class – for free.

It is true that we are now more free to dress comfortably instead of having to wear formal looking clothes which included hats, gloves, nylons and high heels for women, and coats and ties for men. But since we have to practically strip down before approaching our gate, people are only half joking when they suggest maybe we should all just show up at the airport in our bathrobes.

What prompted this sentimental journey back in time when all of these freedoms were taken for granted was a twenty-something guy standing in line behind me who appeared to be taking all of these indignities in stride. At first I admired his good-natured acquiescence to all that we have lost in our precipitous slide into a quasi police state.

But it also made me sad that he has no idea, no memories, and no chance of ever knowing all the freedoms he and his generation have lost.

Jill Chapin

Jill Chapin

Jill Chapin has been a guest writer and columnist in several Los Angeles area papers for over fifteen years. She has written a bilingual parenting book titled, "If You Have Kids, Then Be a Parent!" and a children's book entitled, "My Magic Bubble."

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