Tag Archives: flying

My mildly convenient superpower

7 Jun

I remember reading an AskReddit thread once about mildly convenient superpowers. I never really thought about what mildly convenient superpower I might want, until it occurred to me the other day that I might already have one.

Almost every time I fly or travel on a Megabus, I never have to sit next to a stranger. There’s always an empty seat next to me.

I thought it was just a fluke at first. It used to happen on my frequent Chicago-Cincinnati Megabus trips when the bus was only half full. But then there was a time the bus was completely full save for one empty seat, which just so happened to be next to me. It began feeling like a superpower.

It’s been so long since I’ve had someone sit next to me on a trans-Atlantic flight that I don’t even know where I would put my headphones or water bottle if they couldn’t go on the empty seat next to me. I flew back to London last week and made sure to select an aisle seat next to an empty middle seat. I almost got ambitious and selected a row with two empty seats (maybe I could actually stretch out and sleep?!), but knew that was too much of a risk. Some couple could come along and choose those two seats. I checked the seat map on the Virgin app every hour or so during my 5-hour layover in Boston and figured I was golden — the middle seat next to me remained empty. But then I checked one last time while waiting to board, only to see a little X on the empty seat — as well as on every single seat on the plane. It was a fully booked flight. My superpower had met its match.

A few minutes after I sat down, uncomfortably holding my giant headphones, toiletry bag and water bottle until I could figure out where to store them, a young man came and motioned to the empty seat.

“I’m seated there, but my girlfriend is in 55E — would you mind switching with her?” he asked. Stephen and I have asked people to do this many times and I was happy to pay it forward. Until I asked them to confirm the seat.

“55E? Is that a middle seat?” I asked. It was. I felt like a horrible person, but I had to turn down their request. Being stuck for 6+ hours with your knees touching one person is bad enough, there was no way I was going to do it crammed between two people.

“It’s no problem, we understand,” the girlfriend said, waved goodbye to her boyfriend, and headed back a few rows. The boyfriend immediately put on headphones and closed his eyes while I tried not to bump his legs digging for my iPad in my bag. It seemed my superpower was no more and I was going to have to suck it up, just like everyone else seated in economy. But then they closed the cabin doors and I felt a presence next to me. It was the girlfriend.

“Hey!” she said to her boyfriend. “There’s no one sitting next to me, come on back!”

And that’s how I knew I truly have a mildly convenient superpower.

super corgi

 

Thoughts on the airplane class curtain

24 Feb

bridesmaids curtainAs a shameless rule follower, I am always torn about the airplane curtain. The general rule of airplanes is that your cabin’s toilets are behind you, and you should never breach a curtain to go to the bathroom. However, on my recent flight back to London from Shanghai, my Premium Economy seat was 3 rows from the Upper Class (business) loos, and about 20 rows from the economy potty behind me. So virtually everyone in my cabin passed through the curtain to use the closer and superior toilet cubicle (it even had lotion!). On previous flights I’ve seen flight attendants get upset over this, but on this flight no one seemed to care. Stephen, however, cared, because every time he started to fall asleep in his business class pod, someone would tramp by and leave the curtain open, letting the bright light shine through. What are your thoughts on this? Do business class passengers deserve a better experience because they paid 5 times as much, or should the curtain be open because “it’s civil rights and the nineties?”

bridesmaids help me poorSo this is my third version of this blog post. The previous two rambled on and on and I’m not sure anybody really cares about my thoughts on how it’s weird the Virgin Upper Class flight attendant says a very sincere “thank you” when taking away your glass or plate since you didn’t really do anything. I also lamented about the melted ice cream bar I let sit on my arm rest for 6 hours because I was in the dreaded middle seat on the way back and it just appeared when I got back from visiting Stephen in business class and I wasn’t sure if it was mine or not, since neither of the arm rests are really yours when you’re stuck in the middle. Like I said, you didn’t really miss much.

I am happy to report that ::knock on wood:: I am fully acclimated to UK time and no longer waking up at 4 a.m. craving xiaolongbao. I could go for some now, however.

The effects of afternoon tea on jet lag

20 Jan

I bet whoever came up with the washer-dryer combo unit thought it was the greatest idea ever. Heck, I thought it was the greatest thing ever when I first saw one. And then I used it. I believe Ron Swanson said it best:

ron swanson half assMy clothes aren’t that clean and are still damp despite being in dryer mode for 2 1/2 hours, but hey, at least I have one less appliance in my flat, right?

Since I used the word “flat” and am complaining about laundry, you are safe to assume I made it back to London in one piece (and with all my luggage! Which was inspected by the TSA twice, since apparently not that many people travel with jars of Peanut Butter & Co. and a julienne vegetable peeler.)  I am now deep in the struggles of remembering what my daily life is like when I’m not struggling to fall asleep and then forcing myself to wake up. I remember I used to love grocery shopping and did a lot of laundry, so that’s what I did today, and I should probably get some work done, but these sheets … so warm and clean!

I got a FitBit Force watch for Christmas, which thanks to a major back order, arrived two days before I left. It’s a nifty little contraption that measures the amount of steps you take, miles you walk, and hours you sleep, which is especially fun to track when jet lagged. Thursday night I logged 2 1/2 hours of sleep, which is a new record for plane sleeping for me, thanks to this gloriousness:

empty airplane seats

I always say I can’t sleep on planes, but what I really can’t do is sleep sitting up (I originally typed that “sit sleeping up.” Yeah… can you tell I need to sleep up soon?) I purposely chose this row of empty seats and then obsessively tracked the seat map on the United app to make sure nobody booked a seat in my row at the last minute. The downside of flying during the winter is the high chance of mechanical problems or weather cancellations, but at least the planes from the US to London are rarely full.

On Friday night I logged 9 1/2 hours of sleep, and thought I was back on track. But then Stephen and I went to afternoon tea at The Dorchester to celebrate our anniversary. It was lovely — the food, champagne and tea… lots and lots of tea, which it turns out doesn’t go well with jet lag. According to my FitBit, I was “restless” for an hour and a half before finally falling asleep on Saturday night. No more guzzling nearly two pots of tea for me.

I’ll end with a couple photos I took at the afternoon tea before I start talking too much about sleep, laundry and grocery shopping — or, my luxurious London life!

afternoon tea dorchester

afternoon tea dorchester cake

Well, at least nothing blew up, or 2014 so far

15 Jan

Four hours ago I was on a plane pulling away from gate A13 at the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky airport, headed to DC before connecting to London. I had my new headphones on playing the perfect takeoff song (since small electronics are allowed during takeoff now, thanks Obama!). I was ready. I had said goodbye to my parents and Squirt at the airport, put my just-under-50 pounds bag on the scale, and made it through security.

And yet now I am in my childhood bedroom in Kentucky, lying on the sheets I had to fish out of the laundry bin because I was supposed to be halfway across the Atlantic now. And all I can think is “Well, at least nothing blew up,” because that is my new standard — buses run late, planes get delayed or have error messages right as the pilot begins to take off, forcing you to return to the gate and miss your international connection, but as long as no one gets hurt and nothing catches fire, it’s OK. Things could be worse.

I have adopted this mindset thanks to the events that went down nearly a week ago. I boarded a Megabus — what was once my favorite mode of transportation — to Chicago, where I was to have a splendid weekend with friends and a reunion with my former college roommates. While it was still a relatively splendid visit, what time I was not spending with friends I spent shopping for things like underwear and deodorant because I arrived in Chicago five hours late (after leaving on time) with nothing but the pug sweatshirt I was wearing. Because my bus caught on fire and all of our luggage was destroyed.

I’m still amazed by how calmly I — and everyone, really — handled the situation. Things could always be worse, but this was a pretty bad situation and I didn’t break down. I got on another bus to Chicago without really thinking about it. In the news footage I’m smiling brightly. Maybe it was because I had nothing else to lose.

(“Anyone want to put anything in the luggage compartment?” our new driver asked. We could only stare at her blankly then laugh.)

The long battle to replace my belongings and receive compensation from Megabus has begun, and I’m sure it will be a long battle, but I’m thankful that no one was hurt. I love my things — probably more than the average person likes a pair of pajama bottoms or an umbrella — but it’s only when you see giant flames shooting out of a bus that you were on just minutes ago that you can truly say things can be replaced, life is what’s important.

Maybe there was a reason my plane had an error taking off this evening, maybe there wasn’t. I can only hope I can get to London safely tomorrow. A delay I can handle, but I think I’ve reached my limit on losing precious belongings this month. I’m not superstitious, but if I have one more traveling problem it’ll be hard not to think I’m wearing my unlucky travel pants or I somehow upset some karmic balance.

2014 can only get better.

 

 

 

Remember when I used to post regularly?…

10 Jan

Wow… I really fell off the posting wagon. I wanted to post more, I really did. We returned to London on Thursday and I had so many things I wanted to do… and then I fell asleep. That has been the story of my life for the past week.

I generally experience two different types of jetlag — the can’t sleep and the can’t wake up variety. I usually get the can’t sleep type going to or coming from Asia and the can’t stop sleeping type coming back to the UK from the US. This time, however, I have some weird combination — I can’t fall asleep, but when I do, I can’t wake up. So I haven’t seen many mornings this past week. I’m trying to get back on a regular schedule, but going to bed late and waking up late is a vicious cycle to break. Jetlag always seems to be the worst when returning “home” (wherever that may be) because you have no motivation to adjust to the correct time zone, especially when you work from home. There are no meetings or scheduled meals to be awake for. I especially hate returning to the UK from the US because the flights always seem to arrive ungodly early — our flight came in at 5 a.m. GMT. That’s midnight EST and I didn’t sleep on the plane. I believe the correct way to beat jetlag is to stay up until an acceptable GMT bed time and then crash. Stephen came home, unpacked, showered, then went to work on Thursday. I, on the other hand, passed out at 7 a.m. for a “nap” and woke up at 2:30 p.m. Whoops. That could explain why my schedule has been out of whack. What meal are you supposed to eat when you wake up at 2:30 in the afternoon, anyway?

So that’s my excuse for not posting lately. I’ve got some ideas in the works (including photos!), but I just need to wake up…

An entirely way too long post about my trip back

1 Feb

The last time I flew out of the Cincinnati airport (which is located in Kentucky) was almost five years ago. According to a Cincinnati Enquirer article, CVG offered non-stop flights to 129 US cities in 2004, but by 2010 that was cut to 63. CVG was never as hectic as mega-airports like O’Hare or Heathrow, but it saw a steady flow of traffic. Now it’s a dead zone. It’s almost creepy how deserted the place is.

I arrived yesterday, two suitcases in tow, ready to connect in Newark on my way to London.
“Oh man, I hope you can get to Newark,” the guy tagging my bags told me. “The 4 o’clock flight was canceled and they’ve already canceled flights leaving Tuesday.”
I told him I thought the big storm wasn’t coming until Tuesday. The stupid storm was the whole reason I was flying out a day early.
“Yeah, you may be alright,” he said, assuring me that if I could get to Newark, I would get to London.

I headed to security. There were four people ahead of me in line for the one metal detector and … body scanner. In all the flying I’ve been doing — through O’Hare, Heathrow and beyond — I have yet to encounter a body scanner. Figures I would encounter it in Cincinnati.

I nervously pushed my belongings through the x-ray machine.

“Do you have any pockets?” The security officer asked me. I was wearing a pocket-less skirt. I hoped this meant that I would not have to be scanned — there was no possible way I could hide anything in my form-fitting turtleneck, skirt and leggings. But apparently rules are rules. When the officer instructed me to go into the scanner, I told him I wanted the pat down instead. He acted surprised, as if no one had ever asked for it before. He radioed a female officer and the humiliation began. I was watching an episode of “Pawn Stars” the other day in which The Old Man went on about how flying used to be sophisticated and now, well, now it’s just downright degrading. I understand that they can’t just let me through on account of there being no young white female terrorists, but there’s gotta be a better screening process than choosing between a stranger seeing you naked or feeling you up. I had to stand there with my arms out as this officer touched me everywhere — everywhere — with her gloved hands. And then once she was finished she made me stand there while she went to put something into the computer, as if she had to run a test to make sure I was clean. Eventually she let me go. Maybe that’s why few choose the pat down — the scanner is much quicker. I guess you have to choose what you consider the lesser evil. Thanks a lot, underwear bomber.

I made my way through the empty gates and found a seat in front of the TV by the tiny bar. It was not the best decision. I sat there trying to read, but all I heard was “The storm of the century is coming!” and “Airports are already starting to close.” All the TV played was sensationalist weather news. Meanwhile I kept looking out the window at my plane that wasn’t there. More and more time went by and more and more people started to congregate. Everyone scheduled for the inexplicably-canceled 4:00 Newark was bumped to my 6:40. They all seemed to be business people, chatting away on their phones or typing on their laptops. Desperation was in the air. I kept checking my watch, calculating the latest I thought the plane could leave if I was going to catch my 10:05 to London. 6:05, the scheduled boarding time, passed and nothing happened. I was getting more nervous and weather-paranoid with each minute. If this flight were canceled, I’d probably have to wait until the end of the week to fly out. Eventually the plane arrived and we boarded around 6:20. I excitedly went to seat 1A where I quickly realized that 1A is not the best seat on the plane — it might be the worst.

“You got the cold seat!” a lady told me as she headed to the back of the plane. It didn’t dawn on me that being the first seat meant I would be right by the door — the open door. The only cool thing about being up front was that I could see into the cockpit when they had the door open. I was right across from the flight attendant storage area, so I got my drink and pretzels first, but I also had to deal with the flight attendant running back and forth and the ridiculously loud hissing noise coming from the emergency exit across the way. In short, seat 1A is only good if it’s a big plane and you’re in first or business class. Don’t sit there on a tiny express jet. (Although I did get to be the first person off the plane, which has never happened.)

The flight from Newark to London was over half empty. That surprised me as I thought more people would try to catch the last flight before the storm hit, but I guess nobody goes to London on a red-eye in February. I could go into more detail about the trip, but this entry is already too long. I am happy to be back in London but am struggling to keep my eyes open (even after a one- turned four-hour nap). I’ll get you next time, jet lag.

1A

30 Jan

I’m heading back to London tomorrow. I’ll be sitting in seat 1A on my way to Newark. I don’t think the plane has first class, but if it does, I’m in. This is my first time flying on my own status instead of Stephen’s and I’m a little too excited about it. It’s also my first time flying alone in a long time, hopefully everything will go smoothly. If you’re hanging out in CVG, EWR or LHR tomorrow or Tuesday and get run over by a green suitcase, consider this an advance apology.

(And consider this entry my way of saying the boring Kentucky posts are over and the exciting London posts are coming. Hopefully.)