Wednesday, January 28, 2009

My cruising altitude is now zero feet

Thirteen hours, spent on three different planes. That's how long we were traveling yesterday. I know, I know -- when you have to throw together a cross-country flight plan literally the day before you need to be in the air, you're going to have some very odd hops across the nation. But it still defies imagination that in the 21st century, with however many hundreds of flights exist in this country on any given day, getting from Buffalo to Spokane, WA can involve first flying to Boston, MA -- five hundred miles in the other direction. Ye Gods.

:: The flights themselves weren't too bad, all things considered. Buffalo to Phoenix was on a small commuter jet, so The Daughter and I were sitting together behind The Wife, who was seated beside some guy from Canada who noticed her ringless fingers (she opted to not wear her rings because she'd likely swell up and have them be hard to remove later on) and proceeded to hit on her. I've never been able to watch anyone hit on The Wife before; it was kinda-sorta interesting to behold. Of course, I don't wear my rings very often at all*, and yet, somehow no women ever hit on me. I must therefore conclude that by sheer luck I managed to marry the one woman on Earth who finds me attractive. Yay, me!

:: Until yesterday, the longest flight I'd ever taken was five hours. Then we had a six-and-a-quarter hour flight from Boston to Phoenix, AZ. That was just sheer hell. I can't believe how long that flight was.

:: It was night-time, and therefore dark, when we were flying into Phoenix, so I got to see the entire city from above, all lit up. Very pretty, but Phoenix strikes me as a very unnatural city, even from the air at night. The streets are laid out in the most perfect grid I've ever seen. For someone used to northeastern cities, whose streets are often in a radial pattern or, in cases like Boston, actual remnants of the old horse trails from four hundred years ago, seeing a perfect grid of a city feels a bit unEarthly.

:: Due to headwinds, we were late getting into Phoenix, and that was going to be our shortest layover anyway. As it was, by the time we got off that plane, we had all of ten minutes to get to our next plane. Luckily, the next plane -- the one from Phoenix to Spokane -- was literally across the concourse. We had to go from gate A-7 to gate A-6. Yay!

:: Of course, due to how short we were cutting it for that flight, we were nervous about our luggage making it onto that last flight. Here we were saved by the screaming child. In front of us, on that plane, was a Hispanic family that spoke no English, and their little boy, who was no more than three years old, was having himself a massive temper tantrum. He would not sit down in his seat and get buckled, he would not sit on his mother's lap, he would do nothing other than run back and forth, screaming in Spanish. For some reason his parents refused to do the obvious thing -- grab him, force him into the seat, buckle his ass in and go with it -- so the flight attendants very nearly gave that family the boot from the plane. This all took a while as neither flight attendant spoke Spanish, so they had to grab another passenger to do interpreter duty. Finally, as they were just about to be kicked off the plane, the parents managed, with the advice of the Spanish-speaking passenger and a can of apple juice offered by one flight attendant, to get the kid to calm down and let himself be buckled in.

And then, for the remainder of the flight, that kid didn't make so much as a peep.

:: Living in the Eastern part of the country, one gets used to things being not so far apart. You're never more than an hour or two from the next big city. It's not like that in the West, which is something I tend to forget a lot. After the six-hour-plus jaunt from Boston to Phoenix, for some reason I figured that Phoenix to Spokane wouldn't be that long of a flight. I nearly burst into tears when the pilot came on and said, "Our flight time will be two hours, twenty-eight minutes." Ugh!!!

:: The Buffalo-to-Boston flight, being on a small plane, had only one flight attendant. She was a very bubbly black woman who giggled her way through the safety lecture, even mussing up the lines at one point. But she was very friendly and nice. The flight attendants from Boston to Phoenix were also nice, but not so bubbly; they were the stereotypical "flight attendants", who in my experience smile a lot and are nice and professional but also give the air that they're not going to take any crap. The flight attendants from Phoenix to Spokane were both older men, one of whom looked positively gruff as he dealt with the family with the potential problem-child. It was like having your flight attendant turn out to be Ed Asner.

:: I hate it when food places, knowing that you're a captive audience, charge through the nose for simple things. Our lunch yesterday was three pre-made sandwiches, three bags of chips, and three bottles of water from a joint in the Buffalo airport. This all cost thirty-seven bucks and some change. WTF?!

:: I've decided that while I don't much like flying at all, I find airports to be incredibly fascinating places. The part of Boston's Logan Airport that we saw was quite an attractive place. We didn't see enough of Phoenix's airport to have any impression of it at all. Spokane's is pretty small, but they call it an "International" airport, so I imagine it must have some flights into Canada.

* I haven't been wearing my rings for two main reasons: one, they're very loose right now owing to all of my weight loss over the last year or so. I'll be getting them resized sometime soon, but for now, they spin around very freely on my fingers, and I'm always terrified they're going to fly right odd. Second, in my job, I tend to do a lot of physical work that involves power tools, carpentry, equipment repair, and things like that where I'm afraid that my rings could get damaged by a glancing hammer blow. I may get a chain at some point so I can have my rings at work, around my neck.


Anonymous said...

"...seeing a perfect grid of a city feels a bit unEarthly."

It's funny how different your perceptions of "normal" vary, depending on where you're from. My hometown, Salt Lake, was originally laid out on a grid, like Phoenix, so that seems perfectly natural and correct to me. As much as I've enjoyed visiting the east and Europe, the defiantly meandering roadways in those places have been very difficult for me to wrap my head around.

The really maddening thing is that recent development here in the SL Valley seems to be moving away from the grid system, making it much trickier to figure out addresses in the new neighborhoods.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, that is funny. I grew up with grids and cities that are far apart. After living on the east coast for 12 years I was ecstatically happy to get back to the "normal" part of the country but it took me a while to get used to everything again. For a while every day was a new re-discovery. I kept thinking like, "Oh wow! I remember this!" for about a year.