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Random Travel Notes 6 March 29, 2008

Posted by Brian L. Belen in Up and Away.

With one more trip across the Pacific under my belt, and the accompanying jet lag and distractions behind me, it’s time for another round of Random Travel Notes!

Unleft behind. Because my parents were away on business and my brother off at school, no one was around to see meoff on my trip. No big deal, really: it just meant that I was responsible for locking up the house and putting things in order before leaving. When I got to the airport, and was about to go through the first security screening, I found I’d accidentally brought along with me something I was intending to leave behind: car keys. It’s a good thing that my ride was still in the area and I was able to send the keys back home, otherwise I would have found myself in New York with car keys but no car — and my parents with a car but no keys.

Can there be anything worse than Philippine immigration? Seriously! It amazes me to this day that no one has figured out how much more efficient it would be to have a single line for all counters than a separate line for each. Further, I still can’t understand why I have the uncanny ability to end up on the slowest line available without fail. Then again, I suppose one can’t really blame the immigration officers for working painfully slow: it must really be a terrible existence to be reduced to an unthinking passport stamping machine of the Man with a Hoe variety.

A tale of two 747s. My trip was divided into two legs: one from Manila to Hong Kong, and a connecting flight from Hong Kong to New York. It turned out that both were being serviced by a Boeing 747-400. For the first flight, I was surprised to find that the plane was relatively new, with a business class cabin whose chairs were arranged in a very modern diagonal fashion vis-a-vis the aisle in order to give each passenger more privacy. Most passengers seemed to be pleasantly surprised by this, as several started whipping out their cameras just to take a picture. For my part, just seeing the cabin made me wish that this were the plane for the long haul journey, convinced as I was that I’d end up with an older aircraft. True enough, the connecting flight made use of just such an aircraft, though I was fortunate enough not to have a seatmate all the way through to New York (a first in the three years I’ve been at this). So I suppose this tallies as a win on the scoreboard for me no matter how one looks at it.

Intruder Alert! Since no one sat beside me for the longer part of the journey, I used the empty seat as a repository for some of my things. However, sometime in mid-flight something unusual occurred that made me pack up and secure my things. I’d nodded off, but at some point was roused when I felt that there someone was encroaching on my space. It was a middle-aged Chinese woman trying to take the seat. I was still coming to my senses and my first reaction was to vacate the seat for her, thinking, at the time, that the flight attendant may have offered the seat to her. But once seated she started acting strangely. She shook me awake and began gesticulating so as to ask how to manipulate the seat. I did, bewildered, for which reason she started thanking me over and over again. Only then did some flight attendants come by, speak to her in Chinese, usher her out of the cabin, and apologize profusely for the disturbance. I don’t know if the woman was just trying to score a better seat or if she had anything less forthcoming planned, but it’s a good enough reminder to remain vigilant over one’s things while travelling.

Glocal advertising. Lately, Gilette has engaged Tiger Woods, Roger Federer and Thierry Henry as champions for the company’s line of razors. because I follow these things, I’m quite familiar with the three icons and know that they are top athletes in their respective sports. Yet even I take for granted how marketing global brands with global personalities still requires fine tuning to local tastes. When the ads first came out in the US, it was plain to see how Federer and Woods were featured more prominently than Henry, someone who may even be nigh unrecognizable in the United States where football (soccer) is a second-class professional sport at best. Yet at the Hong Kong airport, which is presumably more attuned to the football scene, I noticed that a fair number Gilette billboards placed Henry front and center instead.

Haywire. These past three years, each time I’ve been on a flight with a personal video entertainment system I’ve had the misfortune of mine going momentarily haywire at some point during the flight. It happened again on this trip (which is why I bring it up), but certainly not as bad as that one time my fiddling with the remote caused my screen to freeze up — and thereafter the entire section of seats where I’d been sitting (I kid not). The only interesting thing to come out of all this is that I’ve found out that these systems make use of Linux as their OS (or at least Cathay Pacific’s does).

Fitting the profile. Speaking of “things that happen to me without fail on these trips”, I’ve also noticed I have a knack for being singled out as the passenger the flight attendants will ask to fill out a customer feedback form. I haven’t figured out why. Could it be because I make an effort to be rather polite to them when they see to me? Do I just happen to look like a gullible sap who’d fill out the form favorably? Or is there something about people traveling alone, seemingly without much to do, that flight attendants gravitate towards for these things?



1. In-Flight Entertainment 5 « BRAIN DRAIN - April 1, 2008

[…] Up and Away. trackback Here’s another installment of pellet reviews for movies I watched on the trip yet hadn’t seen in […]

2. Cubicle Class « BRAIN DRAIN - April 4, 2008

[…] trackback Here’s a picture of the neo-Business class cabin configuration I encountered on this most recent overseas trip. It’s not the best of photos, taken discreetly from my seat using a camera phone, but […]

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