Well, here it is, the moment we've been waiting for: going home day. Our bags are packed and we're ready to go, we just need a ride to the airport. We call several airport shuttle services for a quote. $70.00 for a van to take all four of us to Tampa International. We explain that a van isn't really necessary – we've had all four of us and our luggage in cars ½ that size. Be he insists that only a van will do. We have refused to pay that much for taxis in other countries and opted for public transportation but that is not an option around here. In the end, a friend of Mom's takes us to the airport and we give her $45.00. Everyone is thrilled!
For the first time in a year we had the opportunity to print boarding passes, so we go directly to the USAir “Check In Kiosk” at the airport. Upon logging in and indicating that we will each check one bag, the computer promptly lets us know that we owe $60.00 for our checked luggage. This must be some kind of mistake! We leave that line and go to the line with the human behind the desk – certainly he can rectify this situation. WRONG! Same price in this line. Let me get this straight. The outrageously expensive one way tickets we have from Tampa to Cincinnati do not include our luggage? I wonder if I will have to pay extra to bring my purse on board; our computer, the girls' dolls? I don't get it. Our previous 30 flights always included our luggage, why is it that now we are back in the USA we have to rent space for our suitcases at the rate of $15.00 per bag?
For that matter, all our other flights always included food and beverages. Even our 20 minute flight from Zanzibar to Dar Es Saalem served us a snack – GRATIS! But not here in the USA. You want food, you better fork up some cash.
How is it that everywhere else in the world they can afford to transport your luggage and feed you for free, but not here in the wealthiest country on the globe??? I really would like an answer to this one.
We have had “sticker shock” every since we arrived back in the USA. Prices have definitely gone up since we left but the increase is magnified by having come from Ecuador where things were much cheaper. But we weren't prepared for the a la carte nature of the US economy. If I order coffee is the cream now extra? How about toast? Are the butter and jam now costing $.50? Is this the USA's answer to making prices look more reasonable? Just itemize everything?
I can tell now that this culture shock is going to be an ongoing thing for a while.