Monday, March 29, 2010

Chasing Daylight....

There’s something about an evening flight heading West across the country that makes you feel like you’re chasing the turning of the Earth itself. Trying to capture those last moments before you inevitably lose the pursuit, the light sinks beyond the horizon, and you have to give up and console yourself with whatever’s on the in-flight entertainment for the next six hours. And why is it that this feeling is always more poignant on a Sunday?

Tonight that particular battle was lost by my flight 223 from BOS West to LAX at the end of a great weekend in the Bay State. The movie tonight was “The Blindside,” and I’ll admit I enjoyed it though I probably never would have gone out to see it on my own. Once I got over the shock of Sandra Bullock with blond hair, it was all uphill from there.

So then….now that the scene has been set…..what to write about? It’s a brisk 5 ½ hour hop from coast to coast tonight due to a light headwind…but seems like I should have time to ponder a thing or two (I’d like to note at this point that the flight attendants are talking about ‘that one time when it took eight hours to go from JFK to SFO’ and I’m really glad that’s not the case tonight). However, maybe I can blame my lack of momentary inspiration on the guy sitting next to me. He’s giving me nothing. Not a comment on the pasta, not a “hey, going home?” Nothing. He’s been reading the paper since take-off, and now that we’re well across the country….yep, still reading.

He is, however, a polar opposite from my seat mate on the second leg of my Friday flight from St. Louis to Boston. This is the exact reason I have no writing to show for myself from those 2 hours. It started innocently enough, I said, “goin’ home?” And I’m still not entirely sure where we went next, but there was even some frantic back-of-boarding pass note taking as we exchanged tips for the best places to eat, stay, and visit across the county. I happily passed along my list of best Boston brunch spots, and in return I received the run-down on what to do in a weekend in Palm Springs, and more than I think I’d ever know about the neighborhoods and museums of the great city of St. Louis.

During what may have been the shortest dinner service I’ve ever experienced on an American flight, my new friend and I discover we share a common love of Rachel Maddow, and the rest of the flight passed quickly as we switched from proper neutral seat-to-seat conversation to more boisterous political discussion. It was easily the most entertaining flight I’ve had recently, complete with a flight attendant who told us when asked that she didn’t have a helper to serve dinner because she “doesn’t like anyone getting in her way.” I should have gotten her name so I could give her a good review. She even managed to make the 20 min wait for our gate entertaining.

Her best story of the night was in response to the ground crew’s union rule that they have to stop servicing planes in thunderstorms for obvious safety related reasons. She informed us that some travelers do not take well to this situation and will start threatening to fly a competitor next time, to which she has always wanted to answer, “Have fun, Delta’s gates are around the corner. I’m sure it’s sunny and 90 degrees there.” When you’re already on a delayed flight waiting for a gate, sometimes the best medicine for cranky travelers is to hear how they sound to the other occupants of the flight.

Really my travel this weekend has had some really great service. The flight crews, the waiters and bartenders in Boston, and especially the agent at the Admiral’s Club in St. Louis who took nearly half an hour with me to carefully explain all about system-wide upgrades. As a bonus I even got his account of the filming of “Up in the Air,” which yes, he got to be in (though he told me most of the scenes filmed in the Club didn’t make the final cut.)

Well, the ice has melted in my vodka, and the episode of “The Office” has now ended, so that can only mean I’m a cookie and glass of sparkling water away from our decent into LAX. So, unless something overly exciting happens that just needs to be commented on, I’ll sign off until I’m back in the air in a few weeks for a short hop to Austin.

Until then, wishing you light headwinds and entertaining acquaintances….

Friday, March 26, 2010

Meet me in St. Louis....

Wow….It’s been a month….a full month since I’ve been up in the air. The last thirty days or so however have not been devoid of change. As promised, I moved, choosing the location based not in small part to its proximity to the Airport. What’s more, it comes with my very own travel maven roommate.

Yes, I now live with a fully-fledged frequent flyer who can discuss such things as “Mileage Runs” and what a respectable “cent-per-mile” ratio is for an international fare. He’s definitely put in more time (and miles) than me, and I secretly hope I don’t find myself with the time to catch up. Still, some of his antics are truly impressive, like the time he flew to Orlando and back and came out $16 and 4,000 miles ahead at the end, or the tickets he recently booked to Lima for $230.00 ai (“all in”).

But this hidden benefit aside, I’d recommend living with a Flyer any day- you always have the place to yourself!

Anyhow, the moving and having a few weekends to remember that Southern California is a pretty decent place to be on a weekend aside, it’s good to be back.

Today it’s the 11:45 to STL, continuing on to BOS, and I’m privy to a truly interesting (and unlikely) conversation taking place in row 6 behind me. From what I can gather fate in her infinite humor has seated a California living-computer science professor and self-professed “gadget geek” next to a missionary who’s spent the last 4 years in New Guinea translating the new testament, and trying to convert people who live in grass-roof huts. Needless to say, the mismatch is worth listening to, especially when he proudly whips out his iPhone and shows exactly what’s playing on his home DVR.

Now, I’m not passing judgment on either’s life choices, and while I’d love to see New Guinea I’m not sure how I would feel about “converting the pagans” from their traditions and beliefs that have been in existence for thousands of years. Oh well, maybe Oneworld will have a fare special…I wonder how many miles I could get…

Still, you’ve got to wonder what it would be like to take off to some far-flung destination for the next four years and then come back to whatever our society has cobbled together in the mean time. Limiting myself to the world of technology I know and love, four years ago cell phones were pretty much that…phones, the term “there’s an app for that” had yet to be invented, Facebook was still that strangely addictive thing those kids at Harvard built to get dates, and tweeting was something birds did far too early in the morning.

And on a personal note, four years ago Boston was a place I woke up in, not something that required 5 hours in the air to get to. After some introspective thinking, and a glass or two of wine with my in-flight meal, I’m coming to the conclusion that you’ve just got to sit back and wonder where we’ll be in 2014, as a society and as individuals. Dreaming and planning is necessary and positive, but in the end we’re all just along for the ride, altitude changes and all. Simply put- We cannot change the wind, but we can adjust the sails.

……Happy Friday