The Joy Of Air Travel

If you listened to the audio post above you heard me chuckling about having shared a seat with big, large and stinky the inconsiderate man from the plane.  I suppose it is only fair to admit that I wasn’t laughing on the plane.

I wanted to. I tried to. I made up funny stories inside my head and even played around with different angles I could use to blog about the experience but I just couldn’t quite wrap my head around it.

It wasn’t solely because he smelled like he had taken a bath in an outhouse but that certainly didn’t help. He smelled so badly I considered vomiting on myself. You might see that as being crazy but I saw it as being a MacGyver like move where I would make the air smell sweeter and provide encouragement for him to do a better job of sharing the armrest.


MacGyver (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Confession, I haven’t ever seen MacGyver. I have seen bits and pieces of it, but mostly I am relying upon you and I sharing a common pop culture reference. It is like when I am traveling in my friend Jon’s car and I say, “Punch it Chewie!”

He knows that I am encouraging him to step on the gas and accelerate so that we can get onto the freeway safely. I will never understand why he insists on flying up the freeway on ramp at the blazing speed of 19 miles per hour.

It is the freeway and anyone who understands how to drive the freeway recognizes that you need to be traveling a little bit faster so that you can safely merge with the other cars.

Hmm…I wonder if perhaps Jon has trouble understanding that two people have to share the arm rest on a plane. I’ll have to get back to you on that one.

The Airport

I find the airport to be endlessly fascinating. Some of it is because I love to people watch and there is no better place to do it than the airport.  I can’t think of a place that provides a more diverse cross section to study.

There are endless stories floating through the terminals and I wish that I had time to stop, learn and listen to them all. That is not really an exaggeration either.

I like watching the security staff. I find it interesting to see who looks bored and who looks awake. I wonder what made them interested in this line of work and whether it is a career or something to do right now.

Most of the time I don’t stop to ask those questions. I don’t want more attention when I am going through the line. It is not because I have something to hide but because I want to get through so I can sit down and relax before my flight.

Sometimes that doesn’t happen and I find myself running through the terminal and onto the plane. It is not a horrible thing, but since they started charging for checked baggage it has become much harder to find overhead storage on the flight so I prefer to be their earlier so that I have a better shot at getting it.

Headphones and conversation

I never fly without my headphones and my cellphone or iPod. That is because I like to listen to music. It relaxes me and helps me fall asleep.

But it is also because you never know who you are going to sit next to. Sometimes your seat mate is fascinating and sometimes they stink. Sometimes you like talking to them and sometimes you wish they would suddenly go mute.

Those headphones help me manage the conversation. If I don’t feel like speaking I can put them on and get lost in my world.

I usually try to supplement my music with a good book and or movie. It is an easy way to pass the time.

But I never miss an opportunity to read the Skymall magazine on the flight. It is one of my goto moves on every flight I take. I never buy anything from the magazine, but I like looking at all of the crazy gadgets, gimmicks and gizmos they show inside it.

What about you? Do you like flying? Do you have any rituals you engage in when you fly?


The Road Warrior Returns

I hate flying. Ok, hate is a strong word but I really dislike it. And since writing is one of the best tools I have for venting and blowing off steam this blog sort of resembles a chocolate chip cookie in which the blog is the cookie and the posts about flying represent the chips. If the Shmata Queen wasn’t on hiatus I’d write about how I am a better baker than she is but what’s the point- she knows that anyway. Got a ketchup sandwich for you dear.

This most recent trip was a turnaround and I am feeling a little beat. Left LAX at 10:30 on Monday night and arrived in Dulles yesterday morning at 6:30. Hopped a shuttle to the hotel and then made like Clark Kent changing into Superman in the bathroom. Moments later I did my share to keep Starbucks in business and I was ready to roll.

By 8:30 I was sitting in the conference room bright eyed and bushy tailed for a 9 A.M. meeting. Ok, that is not entirely true- I was there but I felt like hell. Felt like hell because the travel gods punished me by providing me with the gift of sniffles and a snore throat. It started the night before and progressively got worse.

I rarely get sick and was none too happy to realize three hours before my flight that the body was fighting some bug. This meeting was too important to cancel so I got some OTC cold drugs, Vitamin C, Zinc and a healthy dose of meditation to get me through.

You won’t be surprised to learn that on the flight out there I was thrilled to have an entire row to myself. I turned on the iPod, closed my eyes and did my best to sleep.

Home-Michael Bublé
Gentle Annie– Tommy Makem & Liam Clancy
Honor (Main Title Theme from “The Pacific”)– Hans Zimmer
Always On My Mind-Johnny Cash & Willie Nelson
Calling You– Blue October
America-Simon & Garfunkel
A Pirate Looks At Forty-Jimmy Buffett
Praan-Garry Schyman
Superman– R.E.M.
I Was Wrong– Social Distortion
99 To Life– Social Distortion

Can’t tell you how long I slept for only that I did and that it was a good thing that I took a moment to look at myself in the mirror as my hair was pretty funky. I remember brushing my hair and thinking about how in some way my professional life has been far more similar to both of my grandfathers than my own father. But, they traveled by car and not by plane. Not sure if they could have ever imagined flying across the country for a meeting.

Granted, it is not that unusual. I have many friends who have done this but still if you go to the trouble of flying three thousand miles it makes more sense to stay for a few days and build several meetings around your trip. My children certainly don’t appreciate how amazing it is to do the things that we do. They have had video chats with relatives around the world and thought nothing of it.

My friends and I used to wish that we had our own ‘Q‘ to supply us with the amazing toys that James Bond got to play with never dreaming that one day we would have them for ourselves.

Truth is that even though I have flown a million times I am still sort of amazed by all this and that makes me happy. Makes me happy because it reminds me that the little boy that I once was still lives inside me and that sometimes he gets to come out and play.

And I would be remiss not to mention how much fun it is to see the unadulterated excitement in the eyes of the children when they saw I was home. That sort of welcome never grows old.

Other Posts about Flying

I don’t Like Flying Anymore
Cruising At 34,000 Feet
Deciphering Frequent Flier Programs
All My Bags Are Packed
Airplane Trouble? Kill a Goat
Flying The Unfriendly Skies
Crying Child Forces Family From Plane
The Land of Lost Luggage
Airlines Continue To Rob The Public
The Joys of Flying Commercial Airlines 
What If The Plane Crashes
Traveling Jack’s Plane Made It
I Hate Flying
The Traveling Jack Show- I Hate Flying
Flying The Unfriendly Skies- What Type of Explosive Device & Why
Flying The Friendlier Skies

I Hate Flying

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” Mark Twain

The last flight I took was the worst of my life. It was the first time that I ever truly felt fear for my safety and well being. The first time that I closed my eyes and told my children that I would always love them and promised to try to develop wings or discover superpowers.

It doesn’t take any effort to hear that tin can the captain used to tell us to stay seated with our seat belts on or to remember that sick feeling I had of not being in control. Images of the captain fighting to keep the plane from hurtling out of control ran through my mind accompanied by the worried looks of the passengers around me.

But I did what I always do- I closed my eyes and went to that place inside my mind where I am that guy. That man who is calm, cool and collected. I closed my eyes and told myself that it was hero time and was surprised to find that the guy didn’t answer the bell. Made a point to knock on his door and wondered why there was no answer.

Think about how many times you have heard someone use the expression “suck it up,” or alternatively use something along the lines of “man up.” Aren’t they talking about that hero that is supposed to be hiding inside us. Maybe it is just me. Call it ego or an overactive imagination but I feel that hero lurking there in the dark. He is not omnipotent, omniscient or infallible.

The dude has plenty of flaws and sometimes he stumbles but he always answers the bell. Send up the Bat Signal and he shows up. He doesn’t worry about whether the Joker is going to get away because in his mind he will always find a way.

But for that one moment, he didn’t answer. Couldn’t tell whether it was because he felt the shimmy and the shake and figured it was time to cover his own ass. All I knew is that for a moment I felt this pang of serious angst and wondered if maybe the dude had gone looking for greener pastures. I couldn’t blame him now could I. I am not always full of sunshine and rainbows.

And then in a show of curmudgeonly love and support that grouchy dude with the cape and bad attitude appeared. Dude grabbed me by the shoulders slapped me across the face and then groaned when I kneed him in the family jewels.

Really, my response shouldn’t have come as any sort of surprise. I am not someone you can slap, smack, kick, bite, grab or push without expecting a response. Not because I am some sort of tough guy but because I just won’t have it. It is not in my DNA to sit back and take it.

Back in the land of reality I opened my eyes and looked around again. The damn plane was packed full of people and it really was bouncing around like some toddler swinging a Yo-Yo. And I really was concerned but thanks to the moment I took to close my eyes it was tolerable. Can’t tell you if I had the headlights shut for seconds or minutes but it was tense.

In less than 24 hours I’ll be back on another plane and I’d be lying if I said that I was looking forward to it. My distaste for flying started long before the episode I described above. Read through the blog and you’ll find links to posts that share my thoughts on being stuffed inside a flying tin can. I am of average height but relatively broad. That shouldn’t be a bad combination but it is. My knees rub against the seat in front of me and my shoulders exceed the generous allotment of space in those enormous chairs.

My funky digestive system makes me cranky with concern that I might have an issue on the plane. Flown thousands of times and never had it happen, but I still get concerned about it. Do my best to keep a positive attitude, but  still I have my moments.

And when you add in all of the hassles that come from the security procedures you find that old Jack can sometimes be an angry/frustrated man. But the good news is that I really don’t worry about terrorism. Can’t do much about that other than say that shoe/underwear bombers really don’t want to be on my flight because no one will convict me of tearing off your right arm and beating you to death with it.

None of that is very likely- statistics and common sense say that the flying bus will likely not encounter any crazy or sane terrorists. Instead weather, birds and human error are what we have to worry about it. Oy, I really should just relax but my mind is running with all sorts of silly thoughts and ideas.

Suppose that it is time for this old man to get some shut eye because should I need to call on that superhero it would be wise to make sure that he is well rested for the coming flight.

The Traveling Jack Show- I Hate Flying

Flying reminds me a bit of hanging out with an old girlfriend. There are moments where I stare at you and wonder why we ever broke up. You’re beautiful. You’re sexy and you’re a lot of fun. We start to talk and the conversation just flows.

For a while I start to wonder why we broke up. Maybe it wasn’t you, maybe it was me. But gradually I find evidence of the things that I didn’t like and the shine starts to fade a bit. When you laugh you snort. When we were going out I thought that it was cute, but at the end it made me crazy.

I notice a few other details that irritate me and slowly I remember why it is that we don’t see each other anymore.

That sort of describes my feelings about flying. There was a time when I loved it. It used to be special and exciting. It was an experience that I look forward to, but not anymore. Now it is a task.

Next month Traveling Jack hits the road again. Got places to go and people to see. And it means that I am stuck flying again, an experience that I just don’t like anymore. It is really too bad, because I used to really enjoy it. There was something magical about it. I stepped onto the plane in one city and a short time later I’d find myself walking in some exotic city with different sights, sounds and smells than I was used to.

I loved that. Loved going somewhere new and experiencing new things. I suppose that hasn’t really changed, it is just the process of getting there and it is a process. Cramped seats, fees for luggage, food and strict rules about carry-on luggage are all part of it.

That doesn’t take into account the long lines at security and the prep work that is required to go through it. At the airport I empty my pockets into ziplock bags that I stuff into my backpack. I try to wear shoes that are easy to take on and off. My laptop is carefully pulled out of its case and gently placed into a bin so that the TSA can verify that it is an ordinary computer.

Sometimes the line doesn’t move quickly and I find that upon clearing it I have to make a mad dash for the gate. It doesn’t matter that I got the airport two hours before my flight was supposed to take off. I am late and that damn plane isn’t going to wait.

So I make like OJ in one of those old Hertz commercials and I fly down the terminal and race onto the plane. Fight my way down the aisle to my seat and discover that all of the overhead bins are filled. A flight attendant takes my bag and stows it. I sit down, secure my seat belt and remember that I have to use the bathroom…desperately.

I would have used it before I stepped on board but security tripped me up. Now I am on board and I have to be careful. Thanks to past events and current security standards I can’t race down the aisle to the bathroom or I risk creating a problem. It is too close to take off and I don’t want to argue with the flight attendant because it doesn’t take much for them to flag me as being problematic. That kind of scarlet letter leads to all sorts of time spent talking with people I don’t really want to see.

It is not because I have anything to hide, I don’t. But it is just a major hassle and who knows, there could be some sort of fine involved. Flying is expensive, no need to add more costs to it.

So I’ll sit in my seat and squirm. I’ll sit and hope that the plane isn’t delayed and that I won’t be prevented from hitting the head by beverage service. Good old beverage service one of the few things that they don’t charge for, but they will. Because it is just a matter of time before they tell us that it costs an additional $25 bucks to breathe the recycled air we all share.

And while I squirm in my seat and hope that my dysfunctional digestive system cooperates I’ll hope that I am not placed next to screaming children, men who are 6’5 or larger and the lady who can’t stop talking about things that I don’t care about.

It makes me grouchy all this worrying. So I try to get it out of my system by writing about it, sharing my weakness with you. I’ll admit that I make a point of checking out the other passengers because though I really don’t worry about terrorism I won’t sit idly by. I can assure you that if I encounter someone hinky I am not afraid to do something about it. Or maybe it is because I am afraid that I am willing to.

What does it say about me that I have decided that I won’t think twice about pummeling someone who jeopardizes the safety and well being of those on the flight. Blame some of it on an overactive imagination. Some of the anger can be attributed to airlines who let their planes be used as missiles, received billions of dollars from the taxpayers and still charge us more while providing less.

All I want to do is sit down, take out my laptop or iPod and zone out. If there is WiFi I’ll surf the net and try to regale you with tales of the trip from 30,000 feet above. Or I’ll listen to my music and ask Ray Charles and company to help me relax.

And let’s not forget that I am not on the same flight as the kids and their mother. Memories of a different flight stick with me. A flight that made an emergency landing because of engine trouble. A flight that  wasn’t on, but my ten month old son was.

It all worked out, the ten month old boy is almost ten years old now, but the experience stuck with me. Primarily because my family was at risk and I couldn’t do anything about it. As a man that is galling in ways that I can’t explain other than to say that it is sort of a primal thing. Part of my job is to protect my family and I wasn’t there.

But though I remember that day I don’t really think of it often. It all worked out and I really am good about not focusing on things that I can’t control. I know, the blog makes it appear otherwise, but…

Really, the biggest issue for me is anticipation. I feeling like I have the sword of Damocles over my head. I hate waiting. I am much better at dealing with things head on.

Anyhoo, I am excited about the other pieces of the trip. Looking forward to spending time with family. Got a niece and nephews to play with and more. And if things work out the way I hope, a post about my time at Cooperstown. Yes, I am going to try and hit the Baseball Hall of Fame.

And now if you’ll excuse me I need to pack for something else.

Other Posts about Flying

I don’t Like Flying Anymore
Cruising At 34,000 Feet
Deciphering Frequent Flier Programs
All My Bags Are Packed
Airplane Trouble? Kill a Goat
Flying The Unfriendly Skies
Crying Child Forces Family From Plane
The Land of Lost Luggage
Airlines Continue To Rob The Public
The Joys of Flying Commercial Airlines 
What If The Plane Crashes
Traveling Jack’s Plane Made It 

Flying The Unfriendly Skies- What Type of Explosive Device & Why

I have flown a lot since 9/11 and I can’t remember a flight where I didn’t periodically look around at the other passengers and wonder. Very curious to find out what this was about. Could be someone who acting on their own, could be part of a group. Could be a joke, politically motivated or something done by someone who was mentally ill.

(CNN) — A passenger ignited a small explosive device on a Northwest flight Friday from Amsterdam, Netherlands, to Detroit, Michigan, according to a federal government bulletin.

The passenger was immediately subdued, according to Susan Elliott, spokeswoman for Delta, Northwest’s parent company, Elliott said earlier that the suspect had ignited several small firecrackers. The incident resulted in some minor injuries, she said.

A passenger — identified in the bulletin as a Nigerian national — was later placed in custody, the Transportation Security Administration said in a statement.

He is being treated for burns he suffered in the explosion, said the bulletin, obtained by CNN from a source familiar with the investigation.”