There is such a thing as too much travel. And somewhere in the dotted lines I’ve been criss-crossing across the planet, I definitely hit my limit.
Don’t get me wrong, I love travel and I hope that a hefty amount of it always features large in my time here on this Earth. I’m loving my life these days; I touch down, swap the sim card over in my phone and dial up some mates, planning catch ups in great haunts. Nothing beats the feeling of walking the streets of a city on an extended visit, dressed like a local, having no need of a map as you wend your way to your favorite café/bar/restaurant. No menu thank you, I know what I’m having.
But it’s the bits in between the cities that blows harder than Katrina.
When did travel become the great torturous, painful, soul-destroying, hate for humanity inspiring, vastly ageing experience that makes you wonder if the sun will ever rise again?
Airlines of the world, I am looking at you.
I won’t revisit my well documented loathing for LAX. I’ve spat more venom than a python on heat when it comes to that hell hole.
But it’s when you get on to the plane and turn right when every fiber of your being tells you that you should be turning left or going up the stairs, that the true horror of the joyless 12 hours you are about to embark on, sets in.
When I was an ad whore, business class was my playground. And I developed a theory about why the tickets cost so much. I mean, why the tickets cost so much for the company (like I’d pay that for a flight). It’s not the extra legroom, it’s not the wider seats that fold flat, it’s not that they come around and take your order at meal times. What you pay for is sipping the pre-takeoff glass of champagne while pretending that you can’t see the people filing past you to go to the cattle pen out the back.
Ah the bourgeois joy of it all. That’s right, look at me with that barely disguised loathing on your face you flip-flopped, sunburnt prol. It just makes the champagne taste sweeter. What do I do that I sit here? Hah. I barely passed an arts degree at uni, before embarking on a career where I harnessed my creative talents to play on people’s insecurities to sell them things they don’t need. And if that gets me my rightful place here beyond the polyester curtain, then I am fine with that.
But the only thing that hurts more than realizing that the kid you used to beat up at school for being arty now watches you drift by to take your position at 49F, is when you used to be there in the throne room and now are back in the peanut gallery.
I’m an exit row guy. All six foot three of me can’t rest easy on a plane unless I have that legroom.
When the seatbelt sign goes ping, I am always the person sitting behind the midget that quickdraws on the seatback button faster than a gunslinger outside the OK Corale at High Noon. My knees go round my ears, I kamikaze origami into a position known as the Cramping Fool and I count the minutes till we land, thinking of where the nearest Physio is to the airport.
At a pinch I’ll take the bulkhead. Sure, you stare at a wall for the whole of the flight, but at least there’s no dickhead in front of you waiting to re-enact the Garbage Compactor scene from Star Wars the minute you shut your eyes.
But the bulkhead is for gamblers and as I’ve shown with my shirtless prowess at Vegas, I’m not good with the numbers. The bulkhead is the sky crèche and I always get the child. Not the well-disciplined, crayon drawing, please and thank you child. No, it’s always the ultra bored, wailing spawn of doting parents who’ve read every parenting book except the one that says beat your kids, they need boundaries.
So, failing all of that, I’ll do a garden variety aisle seat. Yes, you get the meal cart on your knee and the ass of the attendant on your shoulder, but glance to the porthole and consider the alternative.
Personally, I’ve never understood the window people. News flash, apart from the first and last three minutes, there’s nothing to look at. Nothing. Clouds from above look like, well, a more boring version of clouds. Do you think Monkee is going to whizz past? And do you really want to be sitting there when the plane emergency happens and you’re positioned as well as a guy walking up to the bar that’s three people deep at 11pm on a Saturday night? And seriously, do you never pee? Not once in 12 hours? You should be a monk with that kind of self-control.
As for the in betweens, the ones who are happy with a stranger sleeping on each shoulder, you are bigger souls than I.
And even though I have almost given up on the idea now, there is a part of me that gets sad as I do the one last scan of the passengers in between putting my carry on in the overhead compartment and taking my seat. Nope, not joining the mile high club this trip.
Clouds, even boring ones, may have silver linings. But every time I’ve pulled the silver lining off the top of my hastily delivered meal tray hobby kit, it’s never been good news. Loads has been said about airline food, I’m not sure I can add anything here. But the American airlines can sure take something away. My recent flight on United had me questioning what constitutes food, technically speaking.
When I worked on McDonald’s, as I did in my ad career, certain facts about the clown’s cookbook come to your attention. The Big Mac for instance would have to be classed as confectionery if it didn’t have a pickle in it. Think about that before you pull the little green frisbee out and throw it on the ceiling. You’re eating meat cake.
But when I saw that United spread of undulating washout colors in various soggy shapes, I had to give props to Ronny. Chicken or the fish? No, just the poison.
And a question about utensil wisdom. The knife is plastic. Ok, that I get in the post 911 age. But given that you can barely use it to slice through the, whatever this is, I wouldn’t be hedging my bets on hijacking a plane armed with nothing but this sad little implement. The fork on the other hand is metal. Hard, cold, sharp and three-pronged. I don’t want to put ideas in anyone’s head, but you know, seriously…
Anyway, the one joy I do take on flights these days is the movie selection. On any half decent airline, there’s a wide choice that plays on demand. Providing you’re not flying Qantas. C’mon guys, you’re expensive and have leg room that makes battery hens think they have it good. And you don’t even have video on demand in business class. Sort it out. Every one else had it last millennium in economy.
But if you are on any other airline that can turn on a half decent show, you’re in for a treat. Like having the excuse to gleefully flip through the pages of trashy gossip mags in a doctor’s waiting room, the international flight offers all sorts of guilty pleasures.
Resident Evil Three, anyone? Post apocalyptic worlds where scantily clad models try out their acting chops with an unbelievable array of firepower and third-rate Matrix special effects?
Or stupid Ping Pong movies with requisite fart jokes and really good actors, slumming it for a paycheck, where all the funniest bits are in the trailer. Yet, it’s oddly compelling to watch something that never, ever gets better. The cinema version of a slo-mo car crash.
Or hanging in for two hours just to arrive at that final scene and you hope no one can see you cry when the closet homosexual finally gets the blonde stunner that’s been trying to look plain for three acts.
There’s a treasure trove of movies you would never pay to see at the cinema or even rent for that matter, waiting to be gorged on. They should have popcorn at 20,000 feet.
And one last question about planes. If you can’t smoke on them, why do they still build them with ashtrays?