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Tag Archives: Travel

Is This Seat Taken?

I have reached the point at which the Town Crier warning the villagers about the evils of social media barely registers.  It’s white noise to me now.  “Yes” I think, “Facebook has taken your mature, socially sophisticated, confident teenager and turned her into a gossiping over-sensitive bully.”  (I think this with the soundtrack of The Music Man in my head. “It starts with ‘F’ that rhymes with…”)  I roll my eyes and pound my fist upon hearing that parents and therapists view Facebook postings as a clue to the inner workings of adolescents.  Evidently, talking to your children or patients does not produce as much insight as does as a status update.  The only thing separating a status update from a scribble on a notebook cover or a diary is its audience, not its nature.  When people start wringing their consumer hands over the privacy of social media, I scream into my throw pillow (purchased with a credit card, online.)  Unless you live in a yurt and only traffic in the cash you store under your mattress, your privacy has already been invaded.

But when an airline is going to let people select a seatmate through their connections on Facebook and Linkedin?  Hand me a pitchfork.  I, perhaps like you, use Linkedin to connect with former and current colleagues, and business contacts.  There is nothing about these rather formal and superficial categories which would suggest I want to be trapped sitting next to them for three+ hours in a flying can, or on the tarmac for that matter.  What if I’m flying to a job interview, or to a not entirely kosher consulting gig?  What if I’m on my way to a funeral?  Do I really want to sit next to that tool in personnel whom I could not afford to not connect with?  While Facebook provides a network a bit more personally meaningful than Linkedin, I still don’t want someone to make a transcontinental date with me without asking.  Look for me at the gate.  Security procedures and delays being what they are, we’ll have hours to catch up and perhaps then decide to try and sit together.  I do not want to go through all the aggravations of planning my travel, be patted down and searched, have my chapstick confiscated, wait at the gate for hours with people eating fried foods in their pajamas, listen to blaring CNN, board a can that smells of disinfectant and fuel, find my seat, shot-put my carry-on, settle myself in, and then hear “Surprise!”  I don’t think our reminiscing about 6th grade will make it past the runway.  And you know what?  Without those George Takei photos, I’m not sure either of us is all that interesting.  It’s hard to believe that the airline industry doesn’t have enough problems.  Do they want to get into the business of enabling stalking?

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2012 in Travel

 

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Grieving On A Jet Plane

Are there any airplane experiences left that do not bear a strong resemblance to an emergency shelter?  This is not a rhetorical question.

When they asked me to book my own flight, I did so.  When they asked me to check myself in at a kiosk, I touched the screen.  When they asked me to pay for my carry-on bag and seat assignment, I wondered what my ticket was actually for, but I did it.  When told the only thing free of charge that would be passing my lips would be recycled diseased air, I bought my own water and meals.  I did all this expecting nothing more than to safely arrive at my destination within 2-4 hours of the advertised arrival time.  I don’t expect to be greeted by name, or at all.  I don’t expect help hoisting my bag up over my head.  However I also don’t expect to be surrounded by passengers lacking all sense of civility.  The villagers fleeing Anatevka had more respect for their fellow travelers than those on recently endured flight 197.

I’m not convinced that paying $750 additional each way, and sitting in first class, two rows in front of the woman changing her child’s diaper would have been more pleasant than sitting directly behind her.  I’m guessing I also would have heard the battery operated walkie-talkies she had graciously provided her older little cherubs for the trip.  Our little Donna Reed reject would have stood up and shouted (20 aisles) to her oldest child (playing in the galley); “Do you want a soda?” just as easily from first class as she did from coach.  I’m pretty sure I would have still had my seat back kicked by the attention seeking 4 year old who extorted chocolate from his mother by claiming (in anguished peals) that he was afraid of the airplane.  And that elder man seated next to me?  The one engaged in a personal activity so vile as to even embarrass 2 year-olds?  I’m pretty sure he would still be one full knuckle up for two hours in first class.  But I will concede he might have refrained from cleaning his ears with a pen.

I accept (begrudgingly) that the only way to discern passenger from flight attendant is their speed up and down the aisle.  Did my soul weep slightly at the sight of the attendant wearing a fleece jacket and ponytail in a rubber band?  Yes, but I will survive.  Have I learned to ignore the fact that 3/4 of any flight is filled with passengers clearly on their way to rehab?  (Why else would they be wearing attire devoid of zippers, buttons, snaps and laces?)  Yes, I have made my tenuous peace with all of it.  But I refuse to accept (just yet) that I must submit to an atmosphere that feels abusive.

I sincerely am asking, what is a traveler to do?

 
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Posted by on November 13, 2011 in Travel

 

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Transatlantic Blight

The last time I flew across the country was four years ago, for half the price of today’s experience.  For that reduced rate, I received (in addition to transportation) a pillow, a blankie, unlimited adorable little bottles of water and my own personal mini-television.  I spent six hours snuggled up watching daytime television; a sick day without sickness or guilt.  Fast forward fours years.  What did I get for double the price?  A seat in a flying can.  Nothing but a seat back 8 inches from my face.  Not even a direct to dvd Adam Sandler or Jennifer Aniston movie (and, yes, I did feel a bit grateful for that.)  By the way, is it really that cost efficient to only have two restrooms for 200 people?  As an embarrassing aside, I have flown about 100 times in my life, and the force of the plane flush still scares the bejeezus out of me.

Prices have soared, amenities have been slashed but one thing has stayed the same: the passengers.  Bless their little lemming hearts.  Someone somewhere started the trend of dressing for travel as if one is having same-day surgery.  Sweat pants, velour track suits(!), cropped sweats(!), shower shoes (with socks!), plastic gardening shoes, have become de rigueur.  I suspect the “patient zero” of this abominable trend is somewhere cackling maniacally, clinking a glass of champagne with the chap who invented wearing pants six inches below one’s underpants.

Beyond the phenomenon of “same day surgery” dressing is the flat out counter-intuitive dressing.  Example A: a lovely young woman in a mini-sleeveless-white lace dress and 6 inch heels.  I could see her goose bumps from two gates away.  Example B: Non-military full body camouflage.  Huh?  Hoping to blend into your surroundings and sneak through security?  Example C: Athletic shoes and baseball caps.  Exactly what do you think is going to happen in that can?  A pick-up game of softball?  There’s no activity less taxing on the feet than sitting.  Wear shoes.  There is no glare in your eyes AND you are not a professional athlete at work.  Take the cap off.  Example D: (and for this I blame the travel apparel mail-order companies) Wearing one’s boarding pass as a necklace.  I’d elaborate more, but it just makes me want to cry.

To those handful of passengers who wore clothing with buttons and zippers, and seemed to acknowledge they were in public, I thank you.  For six hours in a can with nothing but a looming seat back in my face, at least I had you in my span of vision.

Beyond demanding our country redress the neglect of a national rail system, we can do our part to reinstate civility into travel.  Even as we the traveler are subjected to inhospitable treatment and care, we can demonstrate personal care.  Just a little attention to one’s appearance can go a long way.  Out of respect to those who must toil in airports and flying cans, and as a nod to one’s fellow travelers, leave the lounge wear in your carry-on please.  This is one of those times when it is best to follow the lead of the French.

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2011 in Travel

 

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Send Me a Postcard

Or better yet, bring me back something lovely.  If it’s all the same with you, I’m going to stay home.  Don’t get me wrong, I find the very idea of travel to be romantic and intoxicating, but that is when it is just an idea.  I love the sense of newness, the unknown and limitless possibility that comes with travel.  I simply just don’t enjoy the travel.
There is nothing quite as dreamy as travel in movies though, is there?  Bette Davis’ breaking heart on the cruise ship.  Barbara Stanwyck’s belly baring dress on her cruise ship.  Even Barbra Streisand’s wilted yellow roses on Nicky’s cruise ship.  Dreamy.
And the accessories!  Do you remember that little Touch of Mink travel ensemble Miss Doris Day sported?  How about those dashing outfits The Women wore on the train to Reno?  L’amour, l’amour.
I linger over the “Holiday Packing” pages in my magazines; marveling at the adorable mini toiletries and dreamy luggage pieces.  I feel the pull of the reinvention through fashion that is suggested in all these layouts.
My bookcase groans under the weight of travel novels.   The Belly of Paris!  Paris To The Moon!  Iberia!  A Movable Feast!  You get the idea.
But yet, travel itself leaves me cold.  For all the very obvious reasons.  Air travel is now barbaric, anyway you slice it.  As I do not have a private jet at my disposal, if I want to arrive in any reasonable amount of time, I must deal with airports and airline personnel.  Oh, and pay for the privelege.  And then there are hotels.  Are they ever as comfortable and quiet as one’s own home?  Exactly how much do I have to pack to try and replicate my bedroom?  Outside of very very few hotels, hospitality is a lost art.  And I am paying for that experience.  Then there is the locale itself.  I find it exhausting to “figure out” a new place, particularly when I don’t speak the language (well.)
I know how seriously unpopular my attitude is.  I’ve received plenty of the raised eyebrow look.  I get that you might think me xenophobic or a hermit (you’d be not so far from the truth with the latter.)  The truth is I enjoy comfort.  There, I said it.  I will watch foreign movies, eat unfamiliar foods, read of far off lands, but do so from my own hometown.  But if you go, do bring me back a little something.

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2011 in Travel

 

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