December 24th - 25th: The Flight
Travel Details Screwed up seat assignment A Brahmin in economy Shitty movies Response from Hari! Response from J.B. HOME
So here I am, all the time in the world on this marathon flight. This should be my most significant literary attempt, considering the 14 hours of free time and 5 hours of battery time that I suddenly have. Additionally, I want to just post pictures of my trip; I would like to enjoy my vacation and not have to worry about the operability of another web site! Until I purchase a slick, cheap Japanese digital still camera in Akihabara, this is the best I can do. feh. I'm don't consider myself a writer, so here goes.
Due to the date (XMas eve), and the weather, I played it safe and left a full 3 and a half hours before takeoff. I got to the airport with almost 3 hours to spare. My flight left New York (quite flawlessly I must admit!) at 10:55am on December 24th, yet I arrive in Tokyo at 2:50pm on December 25th. I think the time in the air amounts to 13 or 14 hours, more than double the length of any flight I have taken in the past. I have never left the country before. My experiences obtaining a passport are worthy of a rant to be posted soon; I'm sure another introductory experience like international travel by yours truly will produce some interesting anecdotes.
My Japanese travel agent originally informed me that I was on Flight 800! After I quickly returned that I would rather NOT be on an international Flight 800, even though I'll be on United rather than TWA, he corrected himself; so I'm Flight 801.
I took my older brother's (an expense account and upgrade/mileage whiz from his Anderson days) advice and asked for an exit row seat, easily accomplished thanks to my amazingly punctual (by Raji standards) check-in. Like an ass, I tried to get the both of both worlds, asking for both an exit row AND a window seat. I know the aisle is preferred by most, but when I get an aisle, there's always some moron smacking me in the head walking his too-big-for-carry-on superbag down the aisle while I'm trying to catch Zs. Anyway, now I know that a 747 exit-row window seat has a nice sized protuberance, giving that exit-row legroom to the right leg, but bending the left smartly in half. Lesson learned; for 14 hours. I asked for a seat reassignment, but was informed by ho-bag #1 that the flight was full. Needless to say her demeanor was indicative of a professional in the service industry.
Thankfully, my rowmate right here is a bit lanky and very nice so it's okay if I spread a little bit to the right. I hope he's reading this over my shoulders (he was before). Thanks! I'm actually really starting to enjoy it here in my little corner.
So this flight is direct NYC-JFK to Tokyo-Narita, then on to Hong Kong. It seems that all the Nipponese are in first and business class, while I'm back in economy with mostly Chinese passengers (I'm one of only several Westerners on the flight). Aren't the Japanese in recession? Guess that yen still transfers favorably.
Which kind of brings me to my woes with the class system on an airplane. I think it's fine that First Class and Business Class are appropriately (if not wastefully) cushy. I think it may even sometimes be worth it for a personal trip, like mine, although I think would rather eat at an expensive restaurant in my destination city than pay the premium for, well, better plane food.
Let's admit it, even economy plane travel is very expensive, and part of the price is supposed to be a staff of helpful workers who are paid to accommodate some very basic human needs of the passengers; food, comfortable surroundings, health, intoxication, etc. Meanwhile, after countless experiences of unknowingly rubbing a flight attendant the wrong way, and paying for it the remainder of the flight, I feel like I am on duty the whole flight, in this case 14 hours, trying to find ways NOT to tick of these attendants.
"Let me get that for you." "I'm really sorry, can I have a napkin?" "Allow me to swallow half of this plate of food so you can move on your schedule of 5 minutes eating time for passengers." "I'm really really really sorry, but my bag didn't really fit in either of those spaces." "Don't kill me and dispose of my body dishonorably, but could I have the rest of that can of soda?"
This is really a compendium of bad flying experiences; I'm well aware that some airlines are better than others. I'm actually quite pleased with my mildly pissy stewards and stewardesses today; they seem to be in the better half of the breed. I've had my share of Slavemaster Warrior Bitches, "Seat-back tray up NOW!!", and the essential scorned quasi-homosexual male steward, "I don't have time for this shit today!" he says in the service area, loud enough for the passengers to hear.
Needless to say, I've been on my best behavior. I organize every piece of trash and make sure to keep it out of their sight until I am sure they are completely ready for it. I gobbled down my food to make sure it is done by the time cart comes back. I only go to the bathroom during that 10 minute window when the aisle is not being blocked by those service carts o death. I am sure to never doze off, keeping an eye out, to make sure they NEVER EVER EVER have to repeat anything to me. Business class is starting to look real good.
I bring up the class issue, because this is the malevolent attendant's crutch. "Well, maybe if you weren't in economy, and behind door numbers 1 and 2 here, I could treat you like a human." Well, maybe if you didn't treat your passengers like a herd of animals, they would be more pleasant. So there.
If I started an airline, I would offer self-service flying (no you don't fly yourself). You seat yourself, first come, first serve. You get the appropriate amount of drink and food tickets for your flight, and then there is a Horn and Harduck's [sp?] type vending machine (ha-ha NYers out there, do you know where that was?) where you can get sandwiches, salads and drinks. Venture capitalists, e-mail me!
I am starting to think that the the inhuman treatment of economy passengers might be a recent phenomenon? Tell me, am I wrong? I know you are not supposed to expect a "hot", too-ditsy-to-be-mean stewardess (which is what I expected after years of watching Dan's escapades on Night Court), but is a little personal attention really out of the question? I don't care if it's the boy in the bubble helping me, as long as he treats me like human being.
I must commend the creme-de-la-creme of flight attendants, those who are down-to-earth, aren't on some weird power trip, and, revolutionary concept here, nice. You know who you are, I treated you with a similar dignity. To the others, how about changing your titles from Flight Attendants to Flight Dominatrixes? At least some of your passengers will appreciate your attitude.
Somebody please tell me that they don't get better movies in First Class, too, do they? I think a full 70% of the movies I've seen in flight have been crap. Current, but crap. Why not just show Rocky II, or a Connery Bond movie, or one of the Indiana Jones movies? Yeah, maybe people have seen it already, but those are the kind of movies that you can watch over and over again, and since you know what happens, you won't miss anything if, say, a flight attendant gets all in your face. This is a good place for democracy. I feel like the airlines have an exclusivity arrangement to get the Sunday night leftovers from Blockbuster.
So what do we have today?
Air Bud 2
Shit I missed the first one, I won't have any idea what's happening in this one. I inebriated myself for that 85 minute period.
followed up by
The Mask of Zorro
No comment. I watched 10 minutes of this and lost my lunch.
Only Ishtar could complete this triumvirate of crap.
I am writing this as the 3rd movie comes up....Ok the film has been modified to fit, ok ok OK......Polygram?..hmmm... suspicious..... okay there is Vince Vaughn....no credits yet..... okay here comes......Joseph Ruben film?...... Anne Heche too? Oh it's that movie.. I don't think it did so good....
Return to Paradise.... that's it.
Okay I'm gonna watch it.
Kind of a stinker. I think it's supposed to hit you right there, but it missed me. I think I saw a Chinese woman further back sobbing, but I'm pretty sure she doesn't understand English, so it didn't hit her anywhere. It was kind of fun listening to a little of the other two stinkers translated into Japanese, but this one didn't even have it.
Of course during a key moment of the only barely watchable film, a staffer manages to block out sound and picture for a good 5 minutes.
That's it. If I come back this way again, it's ANA or JAL.
Whelp.... no more writing for now...
The response from King of All Moochers, Hari Krishnaswami -
You know what my feeling is? They have to treat you in kind of a sub-human fashion. Otherwise, you would never WISH you would be in Business or First, and hence, when you have the chance to spend OTHER PEOPLE"S MONEY, you will have no problem convincing your boss that you NEED Business or First, or they shouldn't count on you being so fresh for your meeting. I mean, don't you get it? It's the same class warfare that exists in organizations. People with cubicles want offices, people in offices want corner offices with a view. The airline attendants are given this message. Be civil to the economy people, [I would have happily taken civil, or even condascending -Raj] be nice to the business people and kiss ass to the first class people. But then again, how could you blame them. As a service owner, you would rather woo back the guy who paid 3 grand for their ticket, then the guy who paid 500. It's simple economics, no more no less.
Besides, you should feel lucky. At least you weren't one of those schmucks who bought a FULL-PRICE economy ticket and wound up with a MIDDLE seat. That's where your basic needs of space are now infringed upon.
Considering your experience on the way to Japan, you might be interested in this (extracted from Slate's "Today's Papers" column):
The USAT front reports that in response to rising passenger "air rage" over poor airline service, a bipartisan bill, the "Airline Passenger Fairness Act" will be introduced in the Senate on Friday. Oddly, the story doesn't say what rights will thereby be protected, although presumably they won't include the right to intestinally offload onto the liquor cart (an actual incident).