I know there's something cool about waking up before first light and crossing the continent in time to have dinner with my family. So many words have been written about the lore and the poetry of long distance flight. It is indeed magical.
Today, however, I woke up on the wrong side of the bed and ended up somewhat childishly focused on the nagging annoyances of air travel. Not that I wanted to be. It just happened. Here are some of my observations from the journey:
- You will inevitably get into line at the security checkpoint behind a woman who has no idea what she's doing. She will ask you a million questions. Slowly. She will reask those questions as you desperately look for someone, anyone in uniform who can take care of her. She will ignore your furtive glances at your wrist as you realize your plane's engines are probably already turning and they're calling your name at the gate.
- Also inevitably (this word seems to be permanently linked with air travel...discuss...) you will have the joy of Type A people - always men, for some reason - cutting in front of you in every line you're in. Check-in, security, boarding...doesn't matter, he'll deke you out, then stare at you with that look of death that only someone who's destined to die of cardiac failure at 42 can muster.
- When a genial elderly gentleman sitting behind you asks whether his removing the magazine from the seat pocket disturbed your back, resist the urge to let him know you didn't feel a thing. I'm not sure what he was doing back there, but I could have lived without the resulting lumbar massages that lasted for the rest of the flight.
- Personal space doesn't seem to be as sacred as it once was. I always try to sit by the window so that I can scrunch up against the bulkhead, nod off and pretend to be in my own world for the rest of the flight. Call me silly, but I just don't enjoy touching arms with my fellow travellers. So my new neighbor's propensity to share her blanket with me and lean over the Line of Death - usually known as the arm rest - wasn't exactly the highlight of my day. And, no, I'm really not that interested in your dog-eared issue of People magazine, either.
- Bad: airlines not serving meals on board any flight.
- Worse: airlines charging for boxes filled with junk food.
- Inexcusable: airlines not having any entertainment - not even a cheesy movie - on a transcontinental flight.
- Salvation: my iPod. My camera. My wickedly nasty sense of humor.
- To wit, here's what I did on my flight out west earlier this week: I took the Skittles out of the aforementioned junk food box and laid them out on my tray. The elderly lady next to me stared at me in amazement. I could see in her eyes that she wanted to know what the heck I was doing. I smiled at her, said nothing, and proceeded to slowly and deliberately turn each Skittle face up so that the S was visible. I arranged the colors so that they were more or less evenly distributed. I then took out my camera and surveyed the result from a number of angles. I resisted the urge to scribble my blog address on a napkin and hand it to her.
Postscript: As I settled into the final leg of my journey - a tiny wind-up propellor/commuter plane - the pilot announced over the PA that they were waiting for the waits and balances calculations to come back from the airline's operations center. OK, I thought, nothing I haven't heard before. He proceeded to explain in pretty neat detail what this meant. Then he explained that the reason it was taking so long was because they send 'em back via carrier pigeon.
After he laughed and confirmed that he was just teasing us, I thought how cool it was to have a pilot who made the effort to connect with the folks whose lives were entrusted to him. The flight ended up suffering a minor delay due to thunderstorms. He repeatedly got on the horn and talked us through what was going on and how they were responding.
One person stood out from the countless boobs I encountered today. I hope that when you travel, you take the time to find that one diamond sitting in the middle of all that slag. Then forget about the grandpa who's getting his jollies fondling the seat behind you.
Your turn: Got a travel horror story?