I don’t usually mind air travel, once I remind myself not to think about certain things: the mysterious physics of lift, the prospect of being crowded into a narrow aluminum tube with 200 strangers, of whom several almost certainly have a communicable disease, and the likelihood of babies in distress who don’t mind sharing their feelings with the rest of us. Now the airlines have decided to share their pain with us through various charges for things that were once included in the basic ticket price, such as baggage and meals. The meals were never worth the hidden fee in the ticket and now airlines offer “snack boxes” and “lunch boxes.”  We tend to bring our own food, more as a statement of independence than out of pickiness, although the latter is an issue too.

Believe it or not, there is talk of charging for carry on bags. I think that would be a very poor PR move for the airlines and they might face a revolt by their customers. They might as well advise us during the safety briefing, “in the event of an unexpected loss of cabin pressure, a mask will drop from the ceiling. Secure the mask on your face by placing the elastic band around your head. Insert four quarters into the slot next to your seat for the first 60 minutes of oxygen, and one quarter for each 15 minutes thereafter.  Thank you.”

First impressions of Saint Martin: windy, humid and tropical. The neighborhoods we drove through off of the main thoroughfare were crowded and to the suburbanite eye, poverty-stricken. Yet the people walking the sidewalks were well-dressed, suggesting that the outside appearance of one’s home may not be a true reflection of who lives there. I have to remind myself to check my middle-class bias at the immigration desk and accept that I am a guest, don’t be the Ugly American. In truth, the economic picture is little different than places I’ve visted in the Caribbean in the past.

Once, while sailing in the Abacos, a woman who had moved there years before commented that, “Island life is hard.” Although we visitors see the palm trees, the sunshine and the beaches, we don’t necessarily see the grinding labor of the local people, the limited medical care, the expensive food, and the housing opportunities created by wealthy businesses who buy the best property for their resorts and hotels and leave the remainder to those forced to live cheek-by-jowl in dense neighborhoods. We shouldn’t pity them, but should respect them for their determination to raise their families in the conditions they’ve inherited. And, I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that we wealthy visitors are sometimes targeted for petty crime. I need to keep that in mind if I become the target.

Today we explored the island a bit. Sunday is a good exploration day, with less traffic, although a bike race led to delays and confusion. Then we spent the day on Orient Beach and Club O, reading, swimming, drinking, snoozing, listening to music. And eating a cheeseburger in paradise.

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