Monday, January 16, 2006

Notes on Air Travel

I haven't done much business travel in the last three years. There was a period just prior to that (and after 9/11) when I was traveling almost every week, but it was non-stops to Philly or Baltimore, so no real travel hassles there (except for watching late one Friday night as the plane I was about to board for home in Philly was surrounded by about 10 fire vehicles and a bunch of guys in hazmat suits, but turned out there was just a report of a little smoke in the cabin - got a different plane out of it though). The trip last week though was a little more complex, involving multiple hops as well as border crossings, but luckily everything went pretty well.

Highlight: sitting at the gate at LaGuardia on the way to Ottawa, watching a young mother reading her kid How to Take Care of Your Monster by Norman "Clifford the Big Red Dog" Bridwell, which I remember quite well from Scholastic Book Club in 1970 (I was far older by that point that the target audience but it was still very cool). The kid (about 4 or 5 I think) has apparently decided to be a werewolf when he grows up.

Emotional moment: flying into LaGuardia for the first time since 9/11. I was on the west side of the plane on a beautiful winter afternoon as we flew low past the Statue of Liberty and Battery Park and up over Brooklyn. The shock of not seeing the WTC was only somewhat muted by the number of photos I've seen since then of the new skyline. I've always loved that approach, looking out over the river at the Empire State Building and the UN and banking low over the US Tennis Center and Shea Stadium before landing. JennySlash doesn't understand it, but there's something about NY that gets even me, despite having not spent more than 6 or 7 days there my entire life.

Near lowlight: My flight home took me through O'Hare on a Friday night, which is dicey at the best of times. My flight to RDU though showed only a 30 minute delay, so I found a stool at the terminal bar and sucked back a couple of Sams while watching a golf tournament on one screen and CNN inaccurately reporting the death of al-Zawahiri on another. I decided not to have a third Sam and instead wandered back over to the gate where I found that we were BACK ON SCHEDULE and were about to board! How the hell was I supposed to know that? Given the number of empty seats on the supposedly full flight, some folks didn't find out in time. Ack!

Best airport gift shop souvenir: A t-shirt at the US terminal in Ottawa -
Canadians - Unarmed Americans with Health Care
I was one of the lucky ones that got pulled for the random extra checking at security in Ottawa. I didn't mind - had plenty of time to get through and go on through customs (the US customs is in Ottawa - convenient). I apparently got pulled because I was the next one after a FEMA rep walked through. They're also still doing the shoe thing, so unless you're absolutely sure there's no metal in your shoes, better make sure you're wearing socks with no holes in the toes. I do have a system down though - shoes and jacket in the first bin, laptop in the second and briefcase along behind - always in that order (and stick your change and watch and stuff in a jacket pocket or your briefcase so you don't have to deal with yet another bin). That way when you get through, you can put your shoes on first (loafers are the way to go), grab your laptop before someone walks off with it and stuff it in the briefcase which will now have come through. And if they delay to scan your briefcase a couple of times (sometimes happens), you can at least keep an eye on the laptop. The other thing I try to do is wear a nylon belt (look for 'em at outfitters like GOP or REI) so you don't have to walk through security beltless. Okay so I'm hardly a seasoned traveler and I'm sure Curtis and others will have more and better tips than me, but these work for me.


At 10:07 PM, Blogger Lex said...

Bein' a werewolf is nothing. Hooper's going to be a mummy.

I've got a business trip coming up fairly soon, and I'm not looking forward to it. Well, actually I'm looking forward to the gig, but since 9/11, flying has utterly lost its luster for me.

And I know what you mean about NYC. When I flew up in October for We Media, seeing Manhattan sans twin towers damn near broke my heart. (When we flew up in May, it was too cloudy to see, and that was the first time I'd been back since 1983.)

At 10:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I gotta get me one o'them t-shirts...

My first trip to NYC was in 1971, when the Heels were in the NIT; I don't think the WTC was open yet, so I remember seeing the Empire State Building lit up and noting it as the tallest building in the world.

By the time I got to the top of the WTC, it was 1986, and the Sears Building had already overtaken it. I'm glad I went up. I haven't been back to Manhattan since before 9/11.


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