Saturday, August 16, 2008

Travel Report (Final Edition)

Of course, I type "final" in the title, knowing that, in all likelihood, it'll happen again much sooner than I'd like. Again, it isn't the being there that I mind. Hotel life is certainly easy, and living and working in a different place for a short while adds an agreeable amount of variety. Being gone a week, I of course get lonesome for hearth 'n' home ... but a week is a short time, and that touch of loneliness mostly just adds to the pleasure of returning. Two or three weeks would be excessive, but a week isn't bad at all.

No, the trouble is air travel. The gum-chawing legions of TSA moron-goons, swarming like over-upholstered, white-shirted gnats; the stupid-ass PA announcements in the airport, endlessly reminding one and all that we must maintain constant visual contact with our belongings; the wristwatch-in-the-plastic-tub, shoes-off perp shuffle through the beeping arch: all those reminders of just how unfree all us 'Murkans are. Then Northwest Airlines is there, with its 757-300, with the three-aisle-three seating layout, which means that, if they seat three adult males who have shoulders in one of these micro-rows, well ... basically, everybody's screwed. And screwed we were, on Friday's Flight 312, LAX to Minneapolis, in Row 48, which is the very last row on a long, long airplane. Meet your cast of characters. 48C, arriving first and sitting in the aisle seat, is a British person who's on his way home to London. He's a swarthy-looking guy, kind of Indian or Middle Eastern, maybe. Then comes me, 48A, the window seat, which means 48C has to get up to let me in. Finally appears 48B, who's an old guy, traveling with his wife, who has a seat on row 47, right in front of us. When 48B shows up (again temporarily displacing 48C), he eventually pries himself into his seat and starts searching for his seat belt, which gives me a couple of nice elbows to the ribs and a casual, unintentional molestation or two. That's when I notice that, while all these three-across rows are brutal, row 48 is even worse, because there the fuselage of the airplane is already starting to narrow toward the tail, costing me a few shoulder-height inches of width that we collectively couldn't begin to afford. So, I cram myself as hard as possible against the window; 48C hangs half his upper body out into the aisle; and good ol' 48B plants his elbows on the armrests, pulls out his magazine (with Obama on the cover), and begins to explain to 48C that Obama's not to be trusted because he "flip-flops." He's a flip-flopper, declaims 48B, with several repetitions. He flip-flops! He flip-flops! Meanwhile, Mrs. 48B (let's call her 47B, since that's where she's sitting), is on her cell phone, well after the shut-off-your-cell-phones announcement, so we all get to find out that so-and-so is wishing her and 48B a happy anniversary. That's nice. I'm reflecting gloomily on the announced 3 hours and 31 minutes of flight time -- add the 20 minutes or so of pissing-around time on the ground at either end, and there's a nice, fresh, hot, steaming four-plus-hour little slice of hell ahead of me. Since 48B is chatty, and since he's clearly memorized more than a few of "Pills" Limbaugh's talking points, I decide to feign sleep, my arms firmly crossed over my chest (there's literally nothing else I can do with them anyway, unless I want to hold hands with my new buddy 48B). Of course, it was a turbulent flight; and of course, row 48 being the farthest row back, with the longest lever arm from the wing root, we get to enjoy the largest amplitude of yaw and pitch excursions. Long before Minneapolis, I can no longer feel my fingers. And I promise myself: Never again, never again.

How many times have I said that before? More than a few, I'm sure.

But, anyway: better to think about the good things. So I'll share with you a photo that my friend the comic (he said casually, trying not to look smug), Tricia Shore, was kind enough to share with me, and that I promised I'd share. That's me and Comic Mom at the famous Canoga Park Bowl!

And now, back to the routine.

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