Used to be that the airline companies supplied pillows and blankets to the passengers. I remember as a little kid, whenever I flew, which wasn't exceedingly often (for a little kid), but frequent enough to remember asking the stewardess (because used to be that flight attendants were stewardesses) for a pillow or a blanket and being given one by a smiling woman in blue. The blankets were generally blue too, but a darker – almost blackblue - than the blue of the stewardess-cum-flight-attendant’s lighter blue uniform.
Nowadays, the average, economy-class passenger does not receive pillows or blankets unless travelling great distances. A simple domestic or inter-European flight has been stripped of such amenities, so stripped of basics (or what we used to consider basics) that it is base.
Since I know that flights tend to be chilly, I normally bring a jacket and/or scarf into the airplane cabin. Right now, as I type these letters, my London inspired, Madrid-purchased mac is spread across my knees in a bid to keep them warm. On the flight from Miami to Madrid, my mac wasn’t so conveniently placed. International flights still provide some of those niceties we have come to expect: blankets, pillows, and free wine. Plus, Miami had been warm and highly humid. Not the sort of weather that encourages carrying extra layers of clothing. I had consciously taken the decision to pack my mac in the suitcase, which was checked into the hold.
As expected, upon boarding the flight and locating my seat, I found a pillow and plastic-wrapped (presumably recently laundered) synthetic airplane blanket. I quickly settled in – stored my carry-on beneath the seat in front of me and put my reading materials into the pocket of the same seat in front of me. I then high-tailed it to the back of the plane to use the loo before take-off.
Sometime during my short absence, my blanket disappeared.
I didn’t notice its absence immediately. The temperature in the plane was reasonably comfortable. I assumed I had sat on the blanket or lodged it between the seat and my lower back. Some hours into the flight, when I began to feel a chill, I searched around my seat and discovered at a most inconvenient period of the journey - no blanket: the meals had been served and cleared away; the lights had been dimmed; the majority of the passengers snored through the minutes; the flight attendants lingered out of earshot behind the curtain that blocked the view of the kitchen.
I unravelled my scarf and wrapped it around my shoulders, shawl-style, in order to provide a thinner layer of warmth to a greater area of my bodymass. The discomfort wasn't exceedingly great; nothing I couldn't live with, even as it increased (as the temperature seemed to drop) as we approached Madrid.
I became angry just after the Captain announced the imminence of our landing. My anger simmered into rage. I swallowed the resultant bile. Exploding anger is unsightly – especially in small confines like an airplane.
After the pilot had made his announcement, the older lady sitting next to me rummaged through her carry-on, I assumed to double check her passport and boarding card for information about the connecting flight. At one point during the previous 8 hours the flight, my heart had gone out to this older lady. She was well-dressed in the manner of a Miami winter visitor. Fashionably thick-framed, Dolce & Gabanna branded specs; pink sweatpants, a baby-blue long sleeved t-shirt under a white-quilted, down-like vest. I had thought how hard to be a bit of an aged Jewish American Princess. She was beautiful once; now no one looked twice at her. Like airlines stripping domestic flights of the basics, time had stripped this lady of her youthful allure; now she was probably invisible – at least as a sex object. I remember thinking I should be kind to this woman; she reminded me of my future.
What I spied in the older lady’s carry-on after the pilot's announcement stripped me (there is a lot stripping going on in this post) of any goodwill I may have harboured for her. She had secreted away my plastic-covered airline blanket into her carry-on.
The gall. Sometimes I really hate people.
I struggled with whether or not I should say something. Say something like, “Gee, I have been really cold. Wonder where my blanket is.” Or maybe something more direct like, “You ought to be ashamed.”
Torn between saying something in the name of justice and all that is right and keeping quiet in the hopes that my rage would subside, I wondered what others would do. I took what I thought was the high ground and kept quiet; only I reacted in a most passive-aggressive way by purposely blocking her view of out the window when I noticed she wanted to look out. Petty revenge.