Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Continental Drift

Recently had the experience of being wrapped in a somehow aerodynamically feasible, pressurized metal tube, way too far off the ground, hurtling through space at 2/3 the speed of sound, for a lot more hours than one would prefer, sitting in a seat with a highly complex control system, capable of something just short of an infinite number of positional options; finding just the right set of seating variables, thereby achieving maximum comfort, requires no small amount of luck, some fairly intricate mathematics, and even if you're smart enough to figure it out, it can easily take longer than the full duration of your flight.

Not that there should be any confusion about this. Notwithstanding the occasional pangs of misplaced guilt for the people inhumanly crowded into the strictly non-adjustable seats in the back, Business Class is really the only way to go. It at least offers the possibility of completing your journey without suffering either some sort of physical paralysis or serious mental breakdown. And yet there is the lingering sense of being systematically 'killed' with Business Class kindness. I mean, how cheerful-smiling-friendly can these flight attendants be? How often can they inquire into your well-being, ply you with snacks, engage you in conversation in a way suggesting they actually care about anything you have to say?

 To the point that you find yourself becoming slightly suspicious.  To the point you're compelled to ask.

Excuse me, but are you by any chance the member of some happy, smiley face cult?

If it would make your flight any more satisfying, I certainly could be.

No, don't go to any extra trouble on my account.

In that case, is there anything I can get you? Another drink? Something from our so-elaborate-as-to-be-virtually-incomprehensible menu?  One of our comfy, hypoallergenic, made-entirely-from-recycled-plastic-water-bottles lounging jackets?

A lounging jacket?

It's also quite stylish.

Would you perhaps have an operational manual for this chair?

Let me go and query the Captain on that. 

*(So how many flight attendants does it require to screw in a light bulb?
Four.  One to push the cart, a second to smile reassuringly at the bulb, a third to unscrew the bad one and screw in the new one, and a forth to go on the P.A., informing passengers that while changing a light bulb in flight is not exactly routine, neither does it in any way constitute what might be construed as an emergency situation.)

The highlight of my in-flight service was being asked by a tall, Finnish flight steward if I would like him to tuck me in with a blanket.  

Uh, no thanks, I told him.

In that case, he said, may I offer you a reindeer meat sandwich?

Reindeer, did you say?

It's really very delicious.

(And this is exactly my point. You know the people back in Economy are not being offered reindeer sandwiches, and a case can certainly be made that, from a purely existential perspective, they are much better off for not having to make that choice.)

I passed on the reindeer, the blanket, the complimentary foot massage; ordered another beer instead, as the plane cruised somewhere over the arctic, outside air temp hovering around negative 60 C.
The miracle of flight, I reminded myself, repressing an urge to start screaming.

At least I was finally able to conquer the seat. After nine hours of pushing buttons I had the thing more or less where I wanted it. Not exactly comfortable, but close enough. The pursuit of absolute perfection is, after all, a fool's errand. Even thought I might be able to doze off.

Which is, of course, exactly when the Captain's voice came over the P.A.

We'll be landing in approximately twenty minutes. Please make sure your seat belts are secured and return all seats to their upright positions.


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