Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Joys Of Air Travel

(From notes made on April 23, 2015.) 

Which turned out to be a Thursday.  I had confused myself mightily about the day that I was taking off to return to Thailand.  My flight left at half-past midnight, but was I going to the airport on Wednesday evening or Thursday evening?  I had been in the U.S. for four weeks, and I was in quite a state by the last few days.

This was the hardest trip that I’ve ever taken.  But at least I was at the gate waiting for the plane to go home to my adopted country.  The easiest part would be sitting through the eighteen hours of air time, in two legs, before I got there.

I do not recommend traveling with guitars.  They look all light and airy watching a YouTube video or something, but once you put them in hard cases and carry them by the handles they get awfully heavy very bloody quickly.  On this trip I was traveling with one suitcase as big as Dallas; one canvas attaché case that felt like I was smuggling Glocks; and two guitars.  I was thinking, hoping, that both of the guitars would to in the checked baggage.  But no, when the dimensional computations had been completed, one went to “oversize,” delivered by me, and the other went to “gate use,” hand carried to the gate by me.  I was afraid that I’d have to carry it around the stopover airport too, but happily it went straight through to “oversize baggage” in Bangkok. 

None of this, not the bags, not the guitars, not the eighteen flight hours, will even approach the top of the “bloody awful” list for this trip.  But those are stories for another day, at least until after the nightmares stop.

Having spoken with my cousin, whom I call “Mr. Up-In-The-Air,” with untold millions of miles to his credit, I tried a new trick at check-in.  “Are there any upgrades available?”  Indeed, there were.  I was offered an upgrade to premium economy for a mere $750.  I declined.  Those seats are only slightly more spacious, and they are laid out in a 2-4-2 configuration.  I much prefer the 3-3-3 of regular economy, and I had the “G” seat, which I think is perfect.  That’s on the right isle, the starboard isle, of the middle three.  In a “G” seat, I’ve never had anyone climb over me to get out, not once.  Often the middle seat is empty, those are the last ones to go, and often the people in the “E” and the “F” seats are traveling together.  If the “F” wants to get out, he’ll climb over his friend.   So no, I’ll stick with my “G” seat. The middle seat was, indeed, empty.  

I did mention business class upgrades.  I had been prepared to pay up to $1000 for the privilege.  “Yes, sir,” said the lovely Chinese Tiffany, “$3000.”  I declined as politely as I could manage, which only included one brief choked scream. 

In case anyone needs a lesson, and provided strictly as a public service, here’s what you do on a commercial flight:

You sit the fuck down and shut the fuck up.

You sit down and you come to rest.

You leave the seat back upright and the tray table up.

You shut your phone off, preferably before they ask you to turn it off.

And please know that there is a particularly disagreeable circle of Hell prepared for people who grab and twist the seat back in front of them willy-nilly. 

And no flipping around like a sturgeon in the bottom of a boat either.  There’ll be plenty of time for calisthenics when you get where you’re going.

And no disturbing the peace of the seat back in front of you, keep your knees off of it as well as your hands.  (Unless you’re over 6’2”, in which case you can’t help it and you have my sympathy.  But even then, please keep it to a minimum. )

Issue of first impression!!!  I’ve been traveling by plane for over sixty years now, and this had never happened before.  We were at altitude with the cabin lights out and suddenly there’s an urgent announcement and the lights come on.  “Would all doctors or other medical personnel please step forward immediately.”  The entire cabin crew started running up and down the isles frantically asking us individually if we were doctors.  I was afraid that we’d have to make an emergency landing in the Aleutians or something, but the subject never came up.  We never heard what had happened.

I’ve never been so glad to be home.  When our wheels touched the ground in Bangkok I smiled ear to ear for five minutes.  I even brought the good weather!  April is the hottest month in Thailand, by far, and the typical three week hot streak broke the day that I arrived.  Then it started raining, and temperatures moderated even further.   Further proof that I am a lucky man, as if more proof were needed.