The first reminder of how much the world of air travel has changed came with the $25 fee for my checked bag. “I’ll pay cash,” I told the agent, who replied, “A credit card is faster.” How is that possible? I wondered, before realizing that (1) my entire adult life is contained on the magnetic strip of my Visa card and (2) there is no need to hold greenbacks to the light to see if they are counterfeit. Thus began three hours of non-stop marketing. Upgrade your seat for $29. Purchase extra bonus points so we can do this again. Buy snacks. Swipe your card and watch TV ($5.99 for short flights, $7.99 for longer ones). I foresee the day when your ticket will only get you onto the gangway to participate in an auction for the 23 middle seats that weren’t presold. Once on board, you’ll need your credit card to use the toilet, where toilet paper and soap are extra. Ice in your drink? Two-fifty, and of course you’ll want a cup. Swipe your card.
Already, you don’t get a whole seat. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but each row has only four armrests for six arms, assuming everyone has two, and the knee jockeying often requires an unannounced lowering of your tray table on your neighbor’s thigh. Although the TV screen threatens to go blank if I don’t swipe my card, it keeps rolling out one ad after another for the entire flight. Finally something's free, and I can’t get rid of it.