Let me say something about air travel. I am THIS close to dumping air travel forever when it comes to domestic flight. The only thing that pisses me off more than buying plane tickets is paying my cellphone bill. I paid close to $1k for two tickets. Then I pay for economy parking. The times for the tickets make no sense. You can’t get a time you really want and since I have limited days for leave, I can’t exactly leave early in the afternoon on a workday. Night flights don’t exist — the latest you can get is usually 7-8PM. Why?
I hate being on expedia or travelocity (all those fucking online services have the same prices these days anyway) and the prices goes UP after you’ve chosen your flight, as though it filled up while you were selecting it? They know that your ass called your family and cleared the dates with them, so at that point you’re ready to pay an extra $100. What a scam. =P
So I’m at the airport, marveling at how everyone knows to remove their shoes and belts and pretty much everything else these days, just because one crazy fool tried to set his shoe on fire. I flew on Continental, with stressed-out employees with bad attitudes, dodging carts with annoying women yelling “MOVE PLEASE”. I get on the plane, which sits on the tarmac because the gate is currently occupied, under 100 degree weather beating on the skin of the bird. A loud nasally voice of the stewardess gets on the intercom at full volume. Of course the person next to me is either grossly fat (who isn’t these days?) or in my most recent case, 7′ tall. I have to crouch because the plane is so small. Inconsiderate motherfuckers recline their seats, one of the most egregious sins I can think of because while your seat CAN recline, what about the motherfucker behind you? Come on, show some decency. =P
Houston’s airport is like a totalitarian 1984 building. It took me twenty minutes to reach my transfer gate, taking a shuttle to another terminal while hearing Big Brother-ish messages on the intercom like “Do not make insensitive remarks or jokes, or you may be arrested,” or “Do not be influenced by strangers persuading you to take their bags.” It seriously felt like there should be guards in black body armor outfits and black balaklavas carrying MP5s. And dobermans.
The airline industry is one of the worst industries in the country. Isn’t it subsidized by the government or something? The worst thing is that, despite cutting out more of our customer perks and niceties in an attempt to cut costs and liabilities, now these fucking plane companies (including the big ones) are making money, even after a rise in gas prices! So we’re totally getting fucked but since in reality it is a oligopoly, we have no realistic alternatives in today’s business tempo. Prices have gone up in plane tickets, but what are we really getting for it? If I were in Congress, I’d investigate those fuckers and force higher standards on them.
All this said, I finally made it home to Dallas-Fort Worth. The thing about DFW was that you usually have to wait half an hour to cross the runways to get to the terminals. This time I went straight across so I was off the plane soon. I looked out the window, actually feeling nostalgic for my days in Iraq when we’d be putting troops on helos in the middle of the night, watching F-16s fire their afterburners as they take off on the next runway over. I miss feeling the surge of power underneath you as the chopper takes off with you in it. And I wish I could have been a helo gunner, the guy who sits on the side with his night-vision on behind an electric-powered chain gun, scanning the Iraqi desert for activity, or looking straight down as the chopper banks over Baghdad at night in all its bustling activity and nightlife.
Then as the plane landed, I reminisced about being a paratrooper. Since I haven’t been able to get onto an airborne jump since March, I’m kinda pissed. I miss sitting on the airfield in my parachute harness, leaning against my kevlar, waiting for the word to load up. Then we walk in a stick up to the back of the bird, scrambling up and sitting down. Then we take off, watch another stick wait for the green light, then walk off the back ramp into the blue sky. I miss that so much. I will miss it once I leave the Army and get taken off airborne status.
I miss standing up, hooking up my static line to the overhead wire, then going through pre-jump procedures. I miss walking behind the guy in front of me, falling off the back ramp in proper position, then feeling the relief of my chute opening up and staying inflated. I haven’t had a malfunction yet although I usually have to do a bicycle kick to straighten out my lines. There’s that beautiful moment when no one else is near you and you’re just floating through the air. It’s very quiet. You steer a little bit to find a nice place to land. The landing always comes up faster than you think it does, and all the sudden you’re on the ground trying to deflate your chute and then packing it all up to move off the landing zone.
It’s such a rush. Most paratroopers have never done a combat jump for real, so there’s little apprehension about it being dangerous. In that way, I will never be a full paratrooper. But I can live with that. And I will miss it.