May 8, 2005

Airplane Stare

I’m writing this on a plane. I’m flying from MSP to LGA, or for those not so in the know” from Minneapolis to New York’s LaGuardia airport. I’m on a lovely Northwest flight flying in a trusty Airbus 320. I was bummed to not get upgraded. This flight was last minute so I’m flying full fare which almost always means you get upgraded but MSP to LGA is a really popular frequent flyer route and being silver elite doesn’t get you anything on it. Upgrades on this route are essentially the world of platinum elite only, booking over 75,000 miles a year. I did that a couple years in the past and frankly, I’m happy to sit in coach instead.

Having not been upgraded I took my spot in 17C. Aisle seat, usually I fly window but I actually kind of like this. I boarded early to avoid any hassle with my luggage in the overhead and took my seat. After a while a woman walked down the aisle and motioned to me, that universal motion without any speech, that tells a flyer that she is in your row. I got up and she took the window seat.

The plane continued to be seated with the middle seat remaining empty. The difference between flying coach with a middle seat open versus occupied is like the difference between community service and solitary confinement. This is the point where a frequent flyer develops the stare”.

In combat soldiers talk about the thousand yard stare”. I imagine that this is similar. I find myself glaring down the aisle as people walk onto the plane. They come down and you first look at their eyes. I’m in C, on the left side of the plane so people that start looking at the right aisles are okay. They are eyeing seats on the other side. But then others come down looking on my side. It’s just a matter of row number now. Some seat before reaching me, others go past. Either way it’s an ugly situation avoided.

What’s funny to me are the thoughts that go through your head as they approach. If looks could kill! You would think that through some mental power it may be possible to actually change their seat assignment. If only. And just as you think you’ve made it through to a more enjoyable flight, the gate agent may decide to send some stragglers on standby down the aisle. These are the real ones to be worried about. Your heart skips a beat waiting for these people to figure out who they will agonize by squeezing into just one last empty seat.

I made it through fine on this flight. The seat in-between is occupied only by magazines and papers.

Once in the air Northwest takes the opportunity to feed us. As with all airlines they’ve given up on serving actual food due to costs. Instead they serve SmartSnacks. I have to ask what it is that makes these snacks deserving of such an intellectual title as smart. The subtle implication is these are good for you, I think. After all, that would make sense as a smart snack”. So inside is a granola bar, not bad. Summer sausage and cheese? Hardly smart. Oh, and two Oreos! Off to Harvard we go!

Before signing off from 35,000 feet I have a tip for you flyers out there. Working with your laptop in coach is always a trick. There is barely enough room, even for very small laptops. Since you have to squeeze it in, all to often you end up putting your laptops LCD screen under the lip of the seat in front of you. This exposes you to the horrible laptop taco” potential. The scene shows the happy business traveler tapping productively away on his laptop when the massive gentleman in front of him unexpected reclines his seat, catching the screen of the laptop in the middle and bringing it to a crushing, terrible death.

Here is your tip! Use the latch for the seat tray. Once you have the tray down, flip the latch back into the down position. Now open your laptop and the screen will (likely) be stopped by the latch. This protects from any crunching of your precious screen. Your mileage may vary.

This flight is turning out to be one of the most turbulent flights I’ve been on in years. Yikes!

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