March 10, 2000
Anyone who thinks business travel is glamorous ought to get
Preferably in a middle seat with a screaming three year old
kicking them in the small of the back for five hours.
I'm sorry - it's the jet-lag talking. I've been on six airplanes
in less than a week, and I'm punchy from the bad air, thimble-sized
glasses of warm cola and a constant diet of mini pretzels.
The best part of flying used to be the little bags of honey
roasted peanuts, but now all you get are pretzels made out of
pressed asbestos. No doubt it's because someone with an allergy
assumed the bag marked "peanuts" was something other
than a bag of peanuts.
The worst meal I ever had was on a flight out of Texas - a
meatloaf sandwich. My favourite. Why not just give everyone a
big slice of possum and a mason jar full of moonshine?
Americans love their smells. They have plug-in potpourri,
scented candles, and vanilla flavoured room deodorizers. I guess
that's why some US airlines now pump something into the plane's
air system that smells like the flowers at a funeral home. I
can't imagine that whatever it's covering up smells any worse
- and I've sat next to some pretty fragrant travellers.
In Japan one of the most popular computer games at the moment
is a flight simulator. It lets players be passengers on a 10-hour
flight from Tokyo to Hawaii.
That's it. You don't get to fly the plane or defend it from
aliens or terrorists. You get to sit in your seat for 10 hours
like on a real plane. You can listen to music and pretend to
eat your simulated meal (steak or fish).
It takes an odd imagination to take the worst part of business
travel and make it into a game.
Flying is bad enough, sitting for hours in a seat that Ally
McBeal would have to lose ten pounds to squeeze into. Still,
it's nothing compared to the hours you have to spend at the airport.
Airport security confuses me. They run you through a metal
detector and wand you down. They make me turn on my little pocket
electronic notepad (where I keep my little scribbles for these
When I ask them what they're looking for, I just get a blank
look. They clearly have no idea. Maybe Carlos the Jackal's laptop
The part I don't get is the announcement they always make
before takeoff - that using a cell phone, laptop or even a Walkman
can jeopardize the safety of the flight by throwing off the instruments
and making us hit a mountain.
Apparently a terrorist doesn't have to smuggle a gun on board
anymore - just a game of Donkey Kong and a Madonna CD.
Due to this "increased security", they now advise
you to show up several hours early for your flight. That leaves
travellers with time on their hands to find ways to amuse themselves
Like organizing a scavenger hunt to find a pack of gum that
costs less than $5. Or finding a moving sidewalk that actually
Anyway, I have to run. My connecting flight leaves in five
minutes and the departure gate is as far as you can walk in the
airport without actually leaving the province.
I just hope the in-flight movie is something powerful and
poignant, and made with a Canada Council grant.
I could use the sleep.