I am just back from California where I went to see my new baby granddaughter, a big deal because she is the first granddaughter.
She joins her brothers in my son's and daughter-in-law's family. I went alone because Hubby still has a job (poor Hubby), and let me tell you, flying ain't what it used to be and flying solo as a woman of a certain age can really suck.
Don't get me started on how flying in general has changed, but what I have discovered now is that where once I was of interest to my seatmates, I have now become invisible.
The first time I ever went to Europe, I flew to London alone to visit my niece. My mother and sister were also going to be there. I was in my 30's and on the flight over I sat next to a gentleman who was probably in his forties. Not sure. I looked especially cute in my 80's Express sweatshirt, long skirt and bobby sox and tennis shoes (what can I say, is there any explanation whatsoever about the 80's?). Anyway, we talked the whole time until he said it was time for him to sleep, but he wanted to invite me (and my mother and sister) to visit him where he was staying at The Ritz. I think that meant he kind of liked me. He was in London to give a paper on this new disease that had cropped up, an anti immune thing that might have been caused by monkeys. It was 1987.
But flying solo isn't all about flying in an airplane. it's all about doing things alone and for a woman of a certain age that can be daunting.
I have traveled a lot but not many times alone. I have had to go back home alone when each of my parents became ill and died and I have flown alone to meet my daughter for a mother daughter trip that I wrote about. But in general I travel with Hubby and since he is such a control freak, I tell him what I want and he makes it happen.
So when it comes to traveling on my own, I am not entirely comfortable with flying by myself, renting the car, driving where I need to get to and staying in a hotel alone.
What I notice now is that once where there were nice young men who took an interest in me and peers who engaged me when I did travel alone, now there are none.
Also do you notice how men hog the armrests? That never would have happened when I was younger. Another reason to have an aisle seat. At least one of your arms won't be screwed into your own lap.
But since my children live far and wide and the grandchildren likewise, if I want to see them, I need to be able to travel. And since Hubby still has a job and doesn't have a lot of time off, I might have to do it on my own.
I have two grandsons whom I love dearly and they live in California. I now also have a little granddaughter who was born five weeks ago who also lives in Cally, so I decided I needed to go meet her. I also have a very close friend who is not well and who also lives in California and when I travel there I want to see him too.
So off I went to California solo.
I not only was flying solo but renting a car and driving 90 minutes south solo(which I never have to do) to see the sick friend, staying solo with friends I hadn't seen in over 12 years (the kind of thing I never do), staying solo in an airbnb room in a house solo (which I had never done), all anxiety provoking, but since I took Brene Brown's course and read her book "Daring Greatly," I decided I needed to put it in practice -- and dare greatly.
But since I am a sort of control freak myself, daring greatly doesn't mean flying by the seat of my pants. Oh, no. I plan for daring greatly.
For example, when flying I always check in exactly 24 hours before my flight so I can change that 25D seat to a 9D. That's when the good seats open up. One of the few times bigger isn't better. I like to sit as close to First Class as possible so I can enjoy the good life vicariously...and also get the hell off the plane as quickly as possible. It also doesn't hurt that the beverage service starts up at the front of the plane either.
I also have TSA Precheck.
That's the line where those of you who don't have it wonder why people like me are whizzing through security.
However as a woman of a certain age, I have had to endure the occasional comment from harried businessmen asking me if I was in the right line as if a woman of a certain age should not be amongst them. Hey, buddy, I may be retired, but I'm not stupid. No long security lines for this gal, but, speaking of which, the Precheck lines are getting longer and longer as the TSA folks open it up to "civilians," people who somehow qualify for that flight (not sure how), but have never done it before. Since they are newbies, they don't realize they don't have to take off their shoes, open their computers, take off their jackets or show the TSA agents their precious liquids, thus holding up the line with their cluelessness. So here I am in the line with the snotty businessmen and the tourists disrobing, holding up the line until the TSA agent yells at them and tells them they don't need to strip and to get the hell into the X-ray machine.That must be why those businessmen questioned my being there. I get a little impatient too.
The one bad thing about having a seat up front is that you have to board last, thus finding no place in the overheads for your bag. I have trained myself to compress my fashion desires into one carry-on but it's one of those carry-ons that is iffy. More than once my bag has caught the eye of airline personnel as I walk down the jet way and I have been forced to check it so I have become expert at dragging it on the side away from the agent to avoid detection and if necessary I am not above causing a distraction so as not to be separated from my bag ("Are those flames coming out of the side of the plane?").
But the negative side of the carry-on for a woman of a certain age is having to get it up into the overhead bins. There was a time in my young life when there were no end of nice big men who would offer to put the bag up there for me. But now I'm on my own unless I want to pull the "granny card:" - "Young man, could you help a little old lady?" I'm not there yet.
I have written about the art of travel for Baby Boomers so you know that I like to look nice when I fly. There was a time when everyone got dressed up to fly. It was a big deal. These days you see everything from sweats and flip flops to a neck pillow and fuzzy slippers. But for a woman of a certain age who is flying solo and has to fight the invisibility factor, it's especially important. I have this idea that I will be treated better if I look good and possibly get an upgrade, but deep down I think if I look fabulous the plane wouldn't dare take a nose dive.
So if you find yourself flying solo (literally), here are some tips:
1. Look Fabulous
Like I said, it's a courage booster. How could the plane crash when you look this good?
2. Get yourself signed up for TSA Precheck
I walked into San Jose Airport, trotted through the TSA Precheck line and was enjoying a cocktail within 5 minutes!
3. Always get an aisle seat
If you do, you don't need to crawl over anyone when you want to get up. The one bad thing, though, is you will have to get up when your seatmates in the middle seat and window seat have to use the toilet. I'm not sure why I, a woman of a certain age does not need to use the toilet for a two hour flight, when a woman in her twenties sitting by the window can't seem to hold it.
4. Order wine
Duh. So what if it's only 10am. It's 5 o'clock somewhere and it helps a LOT if you are afraid to fly.
5. Smile at the flight attendants
That sometimes results in a free drink or at the very least, the feeling that if something bad happens he or she might get you out first!
6. Say hi to your seat mates...
and then shut the hell up unless they show an interest in you which they probably won't because you are old and invisible. Nothing shows your age more than yakking at people who would rather sleep.
7. Learn to fit everything into a carry-on.
But realize you are going to have to hoist it into the overhead bins yourself because you are now old and invisible - those nice big men are now helping your younger, cuter self somewhere else on the plane.
8. Bring content
I fill my IPad with books, magazines and movies. I don't know why everyone doesn't do that. I know everyone cannot afford a computer or IPad but they can certainly go to the library and get a book for free. I can't tell you how often I have sat next to someone who for the entire flight sat staring at the back of the seat ahead - no computer, no book, no magazine...who does that?
9. Try something new. What's the worst that could happen?
OK, the airbnb was a disaster, but don't think about that.
But you know the whole point of this blog post isn't just about flying solo in an airplane, right?
I know, frickin' obvious. Flying solo is a sort of metaphor for...flying solo in life. I know. Frickin' obvious.
I will never be someone who travels to the Amazon alone and lives in a hut or climbs Mount Everest, but for some of us, just doing some basic things alone is a big deal.
I have a lot of fears. I overthink things. I worry. That can stop me short of spreading my wings and doing things on my own.
But you know what they say about courage. Courage is not about being fearless. Courage is about being afraid but doing it anyway.
I am a bit afraid to fly, I don't like staying alone in a hotel, I worry about having an anxiety attack when driving long distances by myself (it's happened before), I worry about staying with strangers in an airbnb, and I worry about not being home in the comfort of the routines I have come to know and love. There are a lot of "what ifs."
But I do it anyway.
Because this is what I will miss out on if I am afraid to fly solo.
So dare greatly. Don't let being alone stop you. No matter what your age, don't be afraid to fly solo!
Thanks for Reading!
See you Friday
for my review of the new movie
"Hello My Name is Doris"
The Week in Reviews
(What to See or Read and What to Avoid)
and the latest on
"My 1001 Movies I Must See Before
I Die Project."
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