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Random Travel Notes 5 December 27, 2007

Posted by Brian L. Belen in Up and Away.
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A few “highlights” from the long trip home this holiday season:

Misplaced. I had to take care of some things at the University before my departure, and with some of the subway lines not running at the time I opted to take the inter-campus shuttle. This slight change in plans was mostly uneventful until I later realized (on the trip back to my apartment via train to pick up my luggage and lock up) that I’d dropped my favorite pair of earmuffs in the van. As the second piece of winter clothing I’d misplaced in as many weeks — my only other pair of gloves had gone previously — and with my stay in New York winding down, I can’t help but take it as a friendly reminder from the city of how much I’ll miss the place when I’m gone, freezing cold winters and all.

Chaos! This is probably the latest I’ve traveled home for the holidays, and I don’t ever want to have to do it again. The traffic to the airport was in disarray (but manageable) and navigating the security screening when I got there was the most stressful three-quarters of an hour I’ve had all semester. After that, though, smooth sailing.

Boarding announcement. JFK Airport has relatively tight terminals, which get crowded very quickly as the time to departure approaches. For some reason, passengers near the boarding gate for the flight I was on were getting particularly antsy right before boarding. As a result, one of the ground staff got on the PA system to announce — in his Yankee-doodle drawl — that the flight to “Hang Kang” was not yet ready for boarding and to ask passengers to please be patient and take their seats. This announcement would be repeated four or five more times in the next ten minutes. Based on the reaction of the people at the boarding gate (mine included), I’d say that such announcements do less to help pacify anxious passengers and can actually make matters worse.

Wheeeeeeee! I happened to be on the jetway to board my flight right behind a mother with her young child in tow. Naturally, said mom had to keep pace with her son, and since I was behind them I had to walk slowly as well, allowing me to overhear their conversation. “This is the corridor to the airplane,” mom pointed out to child, and then proceeded to ask, “Are you excited?” The child’s reply to this, after careful consideration, was a very enthusiastic “I like it!”

Bloating. It’s a well known fact that a person’s feet tend to expand while on an airplane flight. This is something that I’ve become more conscious of on long-haul trips, where I have difficulty getting my feet back into my shoes right before landing. Because it happened to me again on the journey home, I got to thinking: maybe it’s not just our feet that bloat while in the air, but other parts of our body, too. If true, and given the amount I’ve traveled between New York and Manila these past few years, then perhaps I’ve found an explanation for the added girth around my waist…

Sanitized. At some point in the middle of the night (day?) I visited the lavatory to freshen up. After splashing some water on my face I was staring at my ugly mug in the mirror when I noticed a sizeable white dot on my left ear: a sticker with the word “STERILIZED” printed on it, presumably from the audio headset I’d used. Who knows how long this had been stuck there, with the person to my left across the aisle wondering why my ear was sterilized?

The flying clip. Speaking of the person seated across me from the aisle: during the meal service I noticed that the napkin and utensils were being held together by a small clip. The clip itself was quite nice (think miniaturized clothesline clip), and because I had nothing better to do I started playing with it. Yet it was also made of smooth plastic, and so when I gave it a fourth or fifth squeeze the whole thing came flying out of my fingers and across the aisle. For a moment, I was absolutely mortified, waiting to see the reaction of the person within firing range. Fortunately, the clip barely missed her and she hadn’t noticed at all. Suffice it to say, for the remainder of the flight I was on my best behavior.

First, the bad news. I had an invitation to the airline lounge that I intended to use in Hong Kong. Because my flight would get in early in the morning, I was realistic about what food would be available (typically dimsum as it would be too early for noodles) but was looking forward to it nonetheless. Unfortunately, the flight arrived a little late, and what was supposed to be a two hour layover prior to my connection instead became a thirty minute rush to the boarding gate. In short: no dumplings for me.

And now, the good news! Upon boarding my connecting flight, I learned that I was upgraded to first class. In fact, it looks like the few of us who were on the prior New York to Hong Kong leg of the trip had the same good fortune. Personally, I think the airline did this for their own convenience: since the prior flight came in late, it was in their interest to open up the seats and just upgrade existing passengers to unsold seats so that their luggage and boarding get processed faster. But really, who cares? I think this one should be filed under “Ours is not to question why…”, and even if the flight from Hong Kong to Manila was only an hour and a half long, the unexpected bonus from the airline was certainly a great way to end a twenty-odd hour journey.

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