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No one knows who first proposed the change. It is a moment lost to history, and perhaps gladly so; perhaps it was the work of some fresh-faced intern snarking too loudly where the boss could hear, and not some monster in human skin.

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  • Checked bags were weighed, at the behest of the union. International flights weighed carry-on, for the sake of conserving fuel. But no one weighed passengers. Well, why not? There was money to be made there, if they spun it right, and by that point, they had years of experience with the spin. In the end, it had been a surprisingly easy transition, like watching the boiled frog metaphor play out in slow and terrible motion. The tall man whose knees dug into the back of the seat in front of them for the entire flight. The diminutive woman whose comfort was an affront to everyone around her, who could have used the precious inches she so carelessly squandered.

    The baby who held no ticket, but who used up overhead bin space that could have been used by paying passengers. Everyone represented some sort of offense, if looked at from the right perspective. Better yet, some airlines already had policies on the books, long accepted if rarely enforced, requiring passengers who did not fit into a single seat to pay for second. The market would sort itself out. The market always did. It began with a single airline.

    ... of Bags, Counts and Nightmares

    Larger seats for larger passengers; seats with extra leg room for taller passengers. All priced according to their footprint on the plane, all available to anyone who wanted to purchase them. If that same tiny woman who had seemed so content in her standard seat wanted to drop another hundred dollars to fly in a seat designed for someone three times her size, well, the market would sort itself out. They were summarily shouted down, with people pointing out that first class and extra row seating had been available for years, and no one had ever been forced into either of those by greedy airlines.

    This was just one more way to part people from their money. There was nothing insidious or innately underhanded about the change. The other airlines adopted the seating model one by one, refitting their fleets, and for a little while—not long, but long enough to sway all but the most dedicated naysayers—everyone flew in comfort. Positive attitudes about flying went up. Customer comfort increased, and with it, customer spending in the air. Flight attendants begged their corporate masters to leave things as they were, citing a decrease in complaints and on-board altercations.

    For the first time in a long time, they were flying the friendly skies. People spoke, but money spoke louder. Money always speaks louder. Again, it began with a single airline announcing that, in the interests of keeping fares low and the air travel experience equitable, they would no longer be allowing customers to select their own seats. They could indicate window, middle, or aisle; they could indicate whether they were flying with a group; they could request to be seated together.

    Their actual seat assignments would be handled by the airline, based on the height and weight figures they entered during the reservation process. Yes, some groups would be unable to fly together, and yes, it would be inconvenient, but priority would be given to keeping parents and minor children seated in the same row, and imagine the increased convenience!

    Imagine how nice it would be to know that every seat would be going to someone who really needed it, and not to be told during the registration process that the seat that would fit your needs, accommodate your body was unavailable! People had been inconveniencing each other again, was the message. The airline was merely stepping in to make it all better.


    To make it all right. Again, things got better, and again, the other airlines followed suit, until the idea of choosing your own seat was almost silly. As long as you got the right boarding group and the right position in the row, what did the rest matter? All the while, the airlines were collecting passenger data, determining averages and price points and what the market—the all-seeing market—would bear. They were assessing.

    They were planning. This time, the change did not begin with a single airline: it came to all of them at once, crashing down on the public with the force of holy writ. They had done the math, designed the tables, put the stamps on the appropriate forms. The weight of the passengers on the plane directly impacted the cost of fuel.

    Charging people, not only for their checked bags, but for the combined weight of their bodies and carry-on luggage, was not only reasonable: it was fair. But exceedingly tall people made up a smaller percentage of the population. Their complaints were easier to overlook. Air travel remained the only feasible means of seeing the world, of visiting friends and relatives and cultural experiences more than a few hours away.

    The new pricing structures solidified. If some people chose to retain their dignity and take the train, well. The agent offered Mary a warm, professional smile as she stepped up in front of the scale. She did her best to smile back, her mind racing as she reviewed every item in her carry-on, every piece of food that had passed her lips in the last two weeks.

    She could have skipped the socks. That would have saved her three ounces. That would have—. Mary handed her license and credit card over without saying a word. Her stomach was filled with butterflies. Coming back, she would only have one of them; the contents of the other would stay with her sister and her new niece. She might never be able to afford to go and see them again.

    Each bag had cost her a hundred dollars, on top of the price of the ticket. In the back of her mind, she almost thought she could hear her credit cards crying. Have you prepared your carry-on? Their weight was registered and locked, and would not change. The fact that it was a change the airlines could have made without weighing their passengers at the same time was irrelevant. Luggage theft was down, PR was good, and once again, the people with legitimate complaints were reduced to malcontents and complainers.

    Of course it was. She was warm, in her heavy, functional uniform. She was allowed to have mass , to occupy space as if it had always been meant to belong to her. Mary blew all the air out of her lungs, emptying herself out like a balloon as she stepped up onto the scale. The first weigh was private, allowing passengers to accept their fates and pay up, or not, as required.

    Six months of dieting had led to this moment; six months of learning to go without water between meals to keep her bladder empty, of reading e-books to keep the weight down, of doing anything to keep the weight down. Not her. Oh, no. She was ready. Would you like to put this on the card, or redistribute your carry-on in some way? Does that count for anything? The agent nodded sympathetically.

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    She had clearly heard this before. The line was a great serpent coiling all the way around the terminal and back into the outside air. No matter how terrible flying became, its popularity just went up, up, up.

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    • Cars, trains, and buses all took too long, and time was money, so why not spend a little money to save a little time? Only it was a lot of money, Mary wanted to scream every time someone said that in her hearing, it was a lot of money. It was fly or nothing. If she went to the bathroom and came back to the line, she would miss her flight. Shuffling from foot to foot and frowning, but not staring. Mary nodded and shrugged out of her small backpack, beginning to dig through it as quickly as she could.

      The chapstick, the lip gloss, the bottle of aspirin, those were all things she could buy again when she reached her destination, and it would be cheaper to do it that way than to pay for the increase in her fare. The hairbrush. The lucky nickel. The tissues. Bit by bit, she piled her meager life out on the counter for the agent to see, for the people behind her in line to judge.

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      6 Tips for Avoiding the Nightmare of Excess Baggage Fees

      Tales to cause nightmares. Jordan King The Dream Machine. Meg Hurley is haunted by nightmares containing messages from a woman who claims to be trapped inside her subconscious. Feeling trapped herself, in a job at a dysfunctional government office, Meg just wants the messages to stop. As the machine nears completion, her nightmares manifest themselves in the real world, sending Meg on a terrifying journey to uncover the true identity of the woman only she believes is real. Le Fanu Ghostly Tales I. An Authentic Narrative of a Haunted House. Joseph Thomas Sheridan Le Fanu was an Irish writer of Gothic novels, one of the most influential ghost story writers of the nineteenth century.

      An Authentic Narrative of a Haunted House is told through the eyes of Dick, a medical student who moves with his cousin Tom into his uncles unoccupied house on Aungier Street, somewhere in Dublin. Dick and Tom begin having nightmares in which they are visited by mysterious floating portraits and the ghost of the judge. Catherine German Sweet Nightmares.