Home Sweet Home
The obligatory bio
Charites & Organizations
My Calgary Sun Column & More
Law Stuff
Gary Lautens
E-mail me!

Jet Lagged

by Stephen Lautens


March 10, 2000

Anyone who thinks business travel is glamorous ought to get out more.

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 columns).

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 is missing.

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 at airports.

Like organizing a scavenger hunt to find a pack of gum that costs less than $5. Or finding a moving sidewalk that actually moves.

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.


Back to column archive index