Poverty in America: Complicated, Stressful, and Difficult

Roderick Graham
8 min readJul 13

I hate flying. I recently took a trip to Vermont for a conference. Now I hate flying even more.

Allow me to recount some of my frustrations.

This whole checked-bag situation is ridiculous, and I never want to check bags. The size of the luggage you can take on the plane is tiny. If you are staying somewhere for more than a few days, you will want to pack a larger suitcase. And then they charge you. And if you check a second. Well, they charge you again. I don’t think the price you pay for a checked bag includes insurance, something you will likely need given how they lose your luggage or chuck it around and damage the contents.

So for this flight, I crammed as much as I could into a carry-on suitcase. It was a three-day trip, so it was fine. Yet, on both the arrival and departure flights, customers were asked — or, in my case, told — to check their carry-ons. Why are the airlines telling people they can bring their stuff on the plane and then reneging? It’s not the customer’s fault.

Maybe I should be thankful I was forced to check my luggage given all the layover time. Who wants to mind their stuff for several hours during a layover? I went from Norfolk to NYC, and then to Burlington. The layover in NYC was at least two hours. On the way back, the layover was in Newark, NJ. This time it was about three hours.

Layovers may seem just a part of the experience for some, but for me, it’s absurd. I can understand a 30-minute wait time between flights. But several hours sitting in an uncomfortable terminal with nothing to eat but airline food?

Oh yes, that food. That overpriced airline food. A bottle of water and a pack of gum at Norfolk’s airport? 9 dollars. A cup of coffee and a cinnamon roll at LaGuardia? 13 dollars.

This is price gouging. You can’t leave the airport to get anything to eat, and unless you pack a few meals in your bag and carry it with you, you are going to get hungry and find yourself paying for overpriced food.

Maybe it’s best not to eat that food so you can fit more easily in the seats on the plane. I am not a small man, but not big either. If three men my size were sitting next to each other on the plane, we wouldn’t have room to breathe.

I am on my flight home right now, pecking a draft of this piece out on my phone. I’m in an aisle seat. In the middle seat is a man who is…

Roderick Graham

Gadfly | Professor of Sociology at Old Dominion University | I post about social science, culture, and progressive politics | Views are my own