Reader K.H. writes to protest my lament about the surly service and lackluster attire that mark many U.S. flight attendants these days, making air travel on almost any foreign airline an improvement over domestic travel. (See my “Why Are Airline “Flight Attendants” So Awful–and So Ugly?,” June 27.) I linked to a piece by Mark Steyn wondering the same thing. Here’s K.H.:

“If you want pretty young things in little outfits attending to your every whim, then you are welcome to fly Hooters Air. I’m sure it will be a big improvement over the horrors of having to come in contact with the middle-aged, wrinkled and fat, who unfortunately were not cute enough to get marry well enough so as not to have to work.

“Honestly, I am a fan of your blog, but I find it a little disturbing that you constantly deride the old and unattractive females on a regular basis. I’ve met plenty of young and attractive people who were downright ugly in their rudeness. What gives? Can only the young and cute be respectful and polite?…Sometimes I wonder if your name is a nom de plume to cover the fact that you are actually a fortysomething fat, bald male….

“Also, I find it doubtful that air service would be improved by having the tickets competitive based on the attractiveness of the crew. As I like to travel for pleasure a good deal, I prefer the competitiveness be based on price so I can fly from point a to b as inexpensively as possible. Sure Mr. Steyn complains about the attractiveness level of the flight attendants, but when was the last time he actually paid the bill instead of one of the papers he was writing for?”

I find it intriguing, K.H., that you think I might not only be a male but also “fat” and “bald.” Let me assure you that I’m not too fat–yet!–and still have my hair, such as it is. I’m also of the same sex as the Hooters girls although, sadly, unemployable at Hooters for anatomical reasons even when I was Hooters-age.

K.H., you’re under the misimpression that there’s no middle ground between the “middle-aged, wrinkled, and fat” and bodacious but ill-mannered young things eager to shove their chest-frontage into the faces of gentlemen but not so nice to ladies. The stewardesses of old took lessons in deportment as well as grooming–and yes, they were expected to retire young (or move up to supervisory positions), but that was partly because being an air hostess is a physically grueling, on-your-feet job. It’s not easy to accommodate customers politely for hours on end when you’re of an age when you’re dreaming of the E-Z-Boy, and even a pair of medium heels that might give your appearance a little chic is torture.
You do make an excellent point that we in America trade cheap air tickets for rotten service. But foreign airlines offer bargains, too. Both take advantage of government subsidies, however: the foreign lines directly, ours via the bankruptcy laws that have kept too many inefficient airlines in business cutting each others’ throats via price to stay in the air and then, because of the bargains they must make with unions, feminists, and lately, the zillions of Americans who suddenly discovered they were allergic to second-hand peanut dust, cutting corners via mini-pretzels doled out by grumpy grandmas who can’t be fired.

Now comes “Anonymous,” complaining about my latest screed in the Dallas Morning News against the “lactivists,” the exhibitionists who breast-feed in public, often accompanied by babies old enough to be well beyond demand-feeding, in order to make a political point:

“Please tell me where can I see photos of all the women stripped to the waist?

“I think the special bond of formula-feeding should also be hidden away in bathroom stalls…Any baby old enough to hold a formula bottle or walk with a pacifier simply looks stupid…It offends me greatly. Keep the stupid kids at home. Wait I must be confused…God made cows and soybeans for us to feed babies. Breasts should never be in public unless they are about cleveage to advertise….You go, girls!”

Several points need to be addressed here. First, you’re not gonna see news photos of lactivists up close and personal nursing their babies–for obvious reasons. Second, why are people like me who urge discretion and modesty when breast-feeding in public always told that what they really want is for moms to nurse their infants in toilet stalls. Third, and guess what?–there really is a difference between a rubber nipple on a bottle and a human nipple on a human breast. Use common sense. Fourth, two wrongs don’t make a right. Because some women on billboards violate good taste, that doesn’t mean everyone should violate good taste.