Friday, June 01, 2007

The Mystique of Flying

Flying to the US

For those of you who are naive enough to think that flying an airplane to some exotic location is romantic, let me say just one word - sphericals. In recent years, it seems that the airlines have perfected the art of making seats smaller, and the aisle width narrower, which insures that your elbow will get attacked by a cart several times during the flight. Be that may, this tale of woe is only part of my intrepid journey from Birmingham, England, to Tampa, Florida via Newark, New Jersey.

The flight attendants on the first leg informed us that the flight was ‘extremely full’ (I wonder what ‘full’ would mean), and would people who have reached their seats please get out of the way so that others can pass by before they get their myriad things out of their bags. This advice always falls on deaf ears. One guy insisted that he would only be a few seconds getting his crap out of his bag, but the flight attendant finally took action and demanded that the doofus move out of the way. It actually took him over ten minutes later, and he duly decanted three UK newspapers all over the floor. Why do people do this? Are they retarded or what? Do they really want the plane to leave late? Then there was the loony who brought his way-oversized bag on board and demanded that it be placed into an overhead locker. He’d never had this problem with the airline before, and his father knows someone in authority. He actually demanded to speak to the pilot before the errant bag was taken off and checked in. He also had a very large nose - it explained a lot. I actually suggested to him that he read the rules, but apparently they do not apply to him, and I would be wise to shut up. The attendant advised him to shut up or he’d be taken off. His wife glared at me. I was scared, really scared….

Then, worse was to come, there is always the statutory mother and screaming baby on any flight. This flight from Birmingham to Newark had the screaming baby. The baby screamed the whole way - I would if I was 8 months old. All of 7 hours and 25 minutes. Why do people want to take their babies on a flight is beyond me. And to add to my woe, the parents think the baby is cute. If they take a dog or a cat, the animal gets a shot, and is placed in the hold with luggage, and everyone gets to enjoy their small can of beer at $5.

After the meal and 15 stabs at my elbow, we duly landed at Newark. I’m going to suggest a name change to New Awkward. The Immigration and Customs folks couldn’t be friendlier. Unfortunately, the fact that half the population of Europe has just arrived means that we all have to go through ‘Security’. Here one finds hundreds of people with TSA on their shirts, pants, jackets and anything else they can think of. The one missing part is their ability to speak English. I think that TSA stands for Totally Stupid A**holes. I cannot believe that they would subject us ‘aliens’ to this after the folks in Birmingham had gone through the same rigmarole and confiscated my Heinz Salad Cream as it is ‘liquid’. I’ve never heard of a bomb being made out of Salad Cream, but what the heck….

It seems that my shoes indicated that they had metal in the heels. They were x-rayed twice. This confirmed that there was metal in them. Ditto my upper jaw, courtesy of a mishap in Ghent, Belgium (aka Fractured Jaw according to my children) some years back. The outcome was being marched to a ‘private’ room, and strip-searched. I seem to get strip-searched on many trans-Atlantic flights. I cannot believe that it is because they want to admire my body. Perhaps the name Aled is Rukmaniksthan for ‘terrorist’.

I then visited the ‘men’s room’. We call it the lavvy in the Old Country. I somehow managed to lose my cell phone. I discovered this after I’d boarded my connecting flight to Tampa. My day couldn’t get worse.

Oh, yes it could. When I got home, I discovered that my Broadband modem was busted, and the Mumbai techies advised me it would take $149 to replace it. And 10 business days for the new one to arrive. Why they can’t say two weeks is beyond me. A call to their Billing Department showed them the error of their ways as I have been a loyal customer for 10 years. The cost will be borne by AOL, but not the 10 days. In my jet-lagged state, I realized that I had my old trusty dial-up modem, and so, I wired that up. At least I can now get my emails etc., and feel like I’m human again. The only website I cannot access is the UK’s communist newspaper the Telegraph, but I suspect they only cater to Broadband customers anyway.

Getting home was bliss. I can cope with my snail-mail (just about) with 25 offers of credit cards, and the perfect cure for cellulite. Even e-harmony has written to me.

I realized though, that I can really survive without a cell phone and Internet access! But only just!

Here endeth today’s lesson.