Featured Column
Week of 4.10.2006
Peanuts? That'll be $4.00
           My old schoolteacher aunt would leave Brooklyn once a year, take a taxi to LaGuardia Airport and fly American Airlines, always American Airlines, to Los Angeles International Airport, where my mother, father, sister and I would greet her at the arrival gate.
           Aunt Rae would be dressed to kill, as would most of the other passengers. The men wore suits and ties, the women were attired in fashionable dresses, high heel shoes, some wore hats, some gloves. There were no baggy cargo pants, sneakers, backpacks, sweatshirts, flip-flops or bare bellies. That was a long time ago. It was a different time, an era when flying anyplace was a treat, an adventure, prestigious. Every passenger was treated as a treasure – a customer.
           My mother, father, sister and I would be simply dressed, as we always were on weekends. Jeans, T-shirts, sneakers, mom in a simple dress. Aunt Rae would walk through the arrival gate, spot us and do a double take at the difference between her flying attire and California fashion. 
          That was years ago. Today, the flying experience ranks up there with taking a Greyhound bus to Albuquerque or hitchhiking to Newark.
          Today, airport terminals have the same feel as a YMCA or the locker room at a General Motors factory. 
          The airlines have certainly contributed to the change in air travel. The flying public is on a continual roller coaster ride from the airlines in regard to their treatment before and during their flights.
          At one time we could walk up to a counter at an airport and purchase a ticket. You paid your money and you got a ticket to wherever you were going and there was one price for your seat. My, how things have changed.
          Here’s a recent conversation I had.
          “Hello, what can I do for you?”
          “Oh, yes, I want to buy a ticket to San Jose next Thursday.”
          “Sure. First, there’ll be a $15 charge for coming to our counter to purchase your ticket. Now, do you want coach, business class, first class or our new feature, standing room with straps?” 
          “But, but…”
          “Now, do you want a meal? That would be an extra $19.95 for our chef’s special – two crackers and a slice of Velveeta cheese.”
          “Of course we must add in the airport charge, the city and county charge, the anti-terrorist inspection charge, the federal tax charge, and, oh, yes, do you have any baggage? That will be an extra $8.95 for each bag we check, plus $3 for each bag you carry onboard. We have to add in a take-off charge and a tip for each of the flight attendants. Naturally, we have to add in gratuities for the pilot and co-pilot. There will also be a tip for the ground engineer, that’s the guy who waves to the pilot as he backs the plane out to the runway.”
          “But, but…”
          Okay, I pay for the ticket and all the extra charges. I show up at the airport on flight day. I wait in lines, one after another. I get to the security area and remove my jacket, belt, eyeglasses, shoes and empty my pockets. I pass inspection, get dressed again and head for my gate.
           I wait in another long line until my row number is called. I walk down the jetport and find myself at the door to my plane. I’m greeted by a flight attendant dressed in cargo pants, khaki shirt and sneakers. He greets me with a “coach is that way” and points to his left. Halfway down the aisle another attendant stands, hands on hips, and says, “We have open seating, would you like a window or aisle seat?”
          “I’d like an aisle seat, please.”
          “Sure, take 37C please. That’ll be $7.50. Cash or charge?” 
          “But, but…”
          “Would you like a pillow, they’re only $2.50 for the flight.”
          “Blanket, sir.Only $3.25.”
          A pretty, young flight attendant walked down the aisle, repeating, “Peanuts, pretzels, anyone want peanuts or pretzels, only $4. Get your peanuts and pretzels here.” 
          Following the peanut hawker came a skinny, young woman, dressed in the airline uniform of cargo pants, khaki shirt and sneakers. She was offering soft drinks, “Soft drinks, soda, water, take your choice, $5.”
          Our take off was ordinary and comfortable. Half way to San Jose I decided to go to the restroom in the rear of the airplane. That’s where I saw the little sign on the restroom door – “Restroom Charge - $6.95. See Flight Attendant for Key.”
          The remainder of the flight was even and untroubled. The plane descended, lowered its landing gear and touched down. As we taxied to our gate a flight attendant come on the intercom, instructing, “Now, that was a nice, easy landing, so there will be an extra “Soft Landing Charge of $9 and we’re right on time so there’ll be a $7.50 Punctual Charge.”
          As we pulled up to our gate the pilot came on the intercom and said, “Thanks for flying with us. We hope you enjoyed your flight today. And, oh, yes, thanks for the tips.”
Flying and those charges
      Ron was born in the Bronx, New York. He was raised in Southern California and lived in Honolulu, Hawaii for three decades. He attended Inglewood High School and U.C.L.A.. His youthful goal was to become a major league baseball player. In Hawaii Ron played on a series of championship softball teams. He is an active tennis player.
      Ron’s career began at the Inglewood Daily News where as a youngster was enrolled in a publisher training program. He served as an advertising salesman, circulation manager, writer and layout and design staffer. He has been a newspaper publisher at the Oregon City Oregon Enterprise Courier, the Beloit Wisconsin Daily News, the Elizabeth, New Jersey Daily Journal and This Week Magazines (Hawaii).
      Ron lives with his wife, Marilyn, in San Diego, California. His two children, Douglas and Diane also live in the San Diego area. Ron’s interests range far and wide and are reflected in his columns diverse topics.
Ron Cruger