In the interest of cutting costs, airlines have taken away everything that used to be free—so the refrain goes. Gone are the meals that used to be included in the ticket price for flights that verged on mealtime hours. First checked bags started carrying an additional charge, and now sometimes you have to pay for a carry-on.
On planes, I like to joke to whoever is seated next to me that soon we’ll have to pay extra if we want oxygen masks to fall from the ceiling in case of emergency. My seatmates pretend to be listening to their headphones, because I’ve been talking a lot, but I think they get the point.
The one thing that hasn’t been taken away, I continue, is soft-drink service. And with every drink comes a three-inch-by-three-inch cocktail napkin—which, unlike pretty much anything else, the airlines really, really want to give you.
Have you ever tried to decline a cocktail napkin on an airplane?
It seems straightforward. What you do, basically, is ask for a cup of water or coffee or something, then say, “I don’t need a napkin, thank you.” I’ve probably tried a hundred times, but I’ve only succeeded a few. Surely sometimes giving me the napkin is just muscle memory on the part of the very busy flight attendant, which I totally understand. But some flight attendants look at me like I have no idea what I’m talking about, like I’ve just asked to take a drink straight from their bottle of non-dairy creamer, and hand me a napkin. Sometimes it becomes a conversation, where my sanity is called to question. “Are you sure about that? You really should have a little napkin. What if you spill? Here.”