By Hannah Reich Berman

Designers are creative people with a talent and a desire to share that talent. But, when it comes to some of them, why they get paid for this creativity is often a mystery. Not every design is a suitable one. Airport design comes to mind. My guess is that there are cities smaller than some airports, and that leads me to suggest the following: Anyone involved in the design and planning of an airport should have his mother or grandmother walk the distance from the front check-in area all the way to the door of the plane. This experiment should be done before the airport is open to an unsuspecting public. On one occasion, by the time I got to my seat I didn’t actually sit down–I basically fell into the seat in a state of exhaustion.
Unfortunately, not only does airport design leave something to be desired, a sanity hearing should be required for all those involved in the design of airplane interiors. I would like to suggest that these planners be taken out and shot at dawn, but not right away. That would be letting them off too easy. First they should be forced to spend a minimum of three hours sitting in a box. And the size of the box I have in mind should be no larger than one that could hold only a small microwave oven. It would be pure nachas to watch as they fold their arms and legs the way I fold mine when I’m trying to get comfortable in an airplane seat.
The hubris of the clowns who determine the width and placement of the seats is nothing short of fascinating. As a fairly large-size individual (possibly as a result of too much potato kugel over the years), I consider myself lucky that the seat belt always fits. I once witnessed the humiliation of a fellow passenger who had to ask for a seat-belt extension. Of course, one more siege of a month of yomim tovim such as the ones that just passed (and that were replete with both potato and noodle kugels), and I too might find myself asking for a belt extension on my next flight.
So far I’m okay in that department, but there’s more to it than that. Things aren’t perfect, because I do have a problem dealing with the limited distance between the seats. The last time I was on a plane, as narrow and uncomfortable as the seat was, I had the misfortune to doze off. That would have been fine but for the fact that a kindly flight attendant took the liberty of lowering my food tray. I can still see it: It was a small gray plastic tray that was attached to the back of the seat directly in front of me. She did this as a favor to me because I was asleep and dinner was about to be served. My guess is that she took one look at me and figured that I wasn’t someone who skips a meal.
Unquestionably I had nodded off because I was pooped from my 20-minute hike to the plane. A walk of 20 or more minutes is no big deal when I’m unencumbered, but I have yet to board a plane unencumbered. On that occasion, I was schlepping my carry-on luggage (on wheels) behind me, had my pocketbook on one shoulder, and another 20-pound tote bag slung over the other shoulder. Chances are I bore a striking resemblance to a donkey.
In any case, on that flight, when the attendant lowered my tray, I awoke with a sudden severe pain in my abdomen. But there was no mystery involved. I immediately saw the reason for my pain: the edge of the food tray was pressing into me. Let me phrase it this way–if the edge of it had been any sharper, for the same money I could have had an appendectomy. In the future I’ll ask my seatmate to alert the flight attendant that he or she is to leave my tray where it is–hitched up to the seatback in front of me, and to explain that I left instructions that I don’t wish to be served. Unless I want to risk disembowelment, it will be safer for me to skip all meals served by the airline. I can bring along a sandwich from home. That can easily be eaten out of a brown paper bag without the need for a tray.
Seat widths and the distance from one seat row to the next are not the only problems I’ve encountered. Should I forget to brown-bag it, nothing bad will happen. I can live without eating for a few hours. Truth be told, I can live without eating for a few weeks! But I don’t choose to live without the use of bathroom facilities. And has anyone ever bothered to measure the size of an airplane bathroom? If I want to refresh myself by brushing my teeth and washing my face, I have to be a contortionist in order not to have water and toothpaste splashed all over the front of my blouse. With the advent of cellular phones, pay-phone booths have become obsolete. But my memory is still intact, so I remember them vividly and am reasonably sure that the bathrooms on airplanes are the size of the phone booths of yesteryear.
There are others on my hit list. I also have a problem with shoe designers. It would be my pleasure to interview the sadists who design ladies’ shoes. My demand would be that any male in that field be forced to put on a pair of high-heeled shoes and walk one mile in them. It’s not in my nature to be cruel, so I would promise to have someone standing at the finish line with smelling salts as well as a masseur ready to give the man a foot massage and a warm footbath.
It is also my opinion that street signs are difficult to read. Without binoculars, no driver over the age of 50 can read the street name until he’s within ten feet of the sign. And by then it’s too late to slow down and make a turn onto the street. Half the time, I drive right past it and have to make a U-turn to get back to where I want to be.
And, while I’m kvetching about the size of lettering, might I suggest that a magnifying glass be included with every medication that comes with a paper insert providing information to the poor schnook who will be taking the drug! The print on those papers is so small that even with reading glasses I’m never sure if I’m reading the directions that are in English. For all I know I could be reading the directions printed in Spanish, German, Chinese, or any other language that’s on there. For that matter, if I had to depend on reading any of the enclosed material, I could be swallowing a cyanide capsule and wouldn’t know it. That’s the way it is.

Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and is a licensed real-estate broker associated with Marjorie Hausman Realty. She can be reached at or 516-902-3733.


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