Monday, August 31, 2009

Travel: 1/6/09 pt2 – Somewhere above the Atlantic

View from plane (c) 2009 Peter MoreAirlines still have not taken on board my idea of having a separate section for families with children, or making the children travel in the hold with pets. After all, smoking is banned and second-hand smoke doesn't shorten your life like having to deal with screaming kids does.

At the front of our section was a kid with a misshapen head who screamed even before the plane even took off. You can imagine how he was when the plane left the ground and the pressure swelled the air in his odd little ears to painful levels.

The choice of food on flights these days seems always to be "chicken or pasta." Which is an annoying choice. I mean, "how is the chicken prepared?" and "what's in the pasta?" Perhaps there really is no choice, just chicken pasta? It's like asking "4x4 or Hyundai?" or "White or electrical appliance?" Crazy. Anyway they ran out of chicken two people before me, so there was no need to choose.

Cath always avoids all this by playing the "lactose intolerant" card. I must admit "lactose intolerance" always makes me think of some old geezer sitting in a bar saying, "Ah, these lactoses, coming here and flooding our cornflakes! Why can't they go back to cowland?" Idiot! Everyone knows it's Cowtania.

After food, the crew announced the availability of "doody-free" items, implying both the chicken and the pasta contained "doody."

After this, there were the compulsory entertainment system problems. In my experience of long-haul flying, there is always one entertainment system problem per flight. This time it was an entire entertainment system failure. You never want to hear the word "failure" announced over the aircraft PA system, but that was exactly what happened. You just hoped and prayed they reset the right box or that the entertainment system wasn't directly linked to the flight control system. Liberal use of the word "failure" over an aircraft PA system is exactly the sort of thing to make your underpants entirely not "doody-free."

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Travel: 1/6/09 pt1 – Schiphol airport, Netherlands

"Anywhere I go, a fly girl will please me," NWA

Having checked in online, we didn't have to queue up at the check-in desk at the airport. However, as we had bags to check, we had to perform a queue up at the baggage-drop desk. The baggage-drop desk is a check-in desk relabelled "baggage-drop desk" at which you queue in exactly the same manner as you did when it was a check-in desk.

We were checked in, sorry: our baggage was dropped by Mevrouw Room (or Mrs Cream, which is clearly a name from some novel). After this we went through the security check, which is still called the same thing, but is now a much longer process.

Since shoes have been thrown at the last US president and belts have killed several actors and rock stars in hotel rooms, both are now considered deadly weapons and must be x-rayed. I am dreading the day terrorists hijack a plane by strangling the pilot with a pair of underpants. In fact in the 1974 sexploitation classic Deadly Weapons, I'm pretty sure Chesty Morgan kills a man with her enormous boobs. If the FAA in the US ever see this movie, I expect that boobs over a certain size will have to be kept in a resealable plastic bra.

After the regular security comes the extra travelling-to-the-US security, which employs the same travelling-to-Israel security techniques of X-raying things a second time and asking a lot of questions. They don't really listen to the answers, I've notices, but, I guess, to your nervousness in answering.

NWA is currently undergoing an identity crisis and can't decide whether it's called NWA or Delta. I think it should call itself something even more hip-hop like NWA vs Delta Posse featuring The KLM Crew.

The plane was from NWA, but the safety rigmarole (video) was from Delta. I hadn't seen Delta's safety rigmarole before; it's cute. In it a chirpy actress with an LA smile perkily tells you all the ways to avoid death. Or at least things to help you feel you can avoid it. It doesn’t help fill you with confidence when your ticket says, Destination: SEA. I preferred my first ever long-haul ticket that proudly proclaimed, Destination: SIN.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Travel 30/3/09 – Dallas, Texas; International Airspace

Today's news was full of massacres and drive-by shootings. It is a coincidence we are leaving the US. News of this ilk always confirms my European perception that in the US you are never more than 100m away from a crazy neighbour or colleague. And all of these crazy people have access to guns.

I may have mentioned the difficulties we had with booking the flight, well there was one other minor little thing that occurred when we tried to change details online, that I haven't mentioned. A small bug meant that I was forced to select a meal type from the "fussy eaters" list. Normally, you can leave this field set to "I'm not a fussy eater, I'll eat whatever crap you throw at me." But somehow, it forced me to select something more specific. Probably because we had selected lactose free for Cath, some screwy back-room logic meant I had to select something too.

The "fussy eaters" list is quite long these days, and includes religious fussiness (kosher, halal, etc), conscience fussiness (vegetarian, vegan) and allergic-related fussiness (lactose-free, gluten-free). And even sub categories of these. I chose "Asian Vegetarian" because Asian vegetarian meals can be pretty good. I know people who always chose a special meal because they get their food before everyone else and they figure it's had more attention than the ones everyone else gets. However, I prefer to get my food at the same time as everybody else and not feel that the rest of the plane is looking on at me with resentment. Even when they probably aren't.

When my meal arrived, way ahead of most other people's, it proclaimed "Your Special Meal" in bright letters. I felt like I was 8 and not very gifted. It also had scrawled on it some garbage like "The smell of a fresh meal... on your face." It made no sense and made me feel this was a meal for someone so "special" it didn't matter what you wrote on it.

The "fussy" part of the meal only replaces the main part of what they give you, the extra ancillary bits are the same as everybody else. Which is why Cath, having been singled out and handed a lactose-free meal, free from any products containing or related to cow's milk, she was offered a pot of ice cream. Ice cream! It's hard to get more lactose than ice cream. She declined.

Obviously as we are talking about flights, the subject once again comes up: children. Why, oh, why are they still allowed to run, shout and scream in the same section of the plane that the civilised, adult members of the world pay for? Why has no airline started using the hold for the purposes of housing the children on a flight? I'd use that airline.

I don't say it to be mean to the kids, I say it as a way to get some relative peace. You can fill the hold with balls so they enjoy it. All pets travel that way and Children are just pets that will one day grow up to become people. Children love screaming in enclosed spaces; so why not give them an even more enclosed space in which they can scream to their little hearts and lungs' content.

To shut out the little buggers, I watched my first ever episode of Gilligan's Island. Now I have a clue when Americans in the audience shout out "Gilligan's Island." It was cute, but definitely of its day. I snuggled back and tried to dream of being on a desert island surrounded by coconut trees and not a single screaming child for thousands of miles.