In The Sky Or On The Ground

Airplanes have changed the way we travel.  They have reduced week long trips into a matter of hours.  It sounds like a great improvement, but is it really?

The way that people used to travel by car. (click image to see larger)Fortunately, those hours that I was speaking about are not short hours.  They are long hours.  Very, very long hours.  They allow you plenty of time to think.  You can really evaluate the positive and negative aspects of this modern way of travel, and it makes you wonder how much better it really is.

Living in Europe and calling America home has caused me to cross the Atlantic an upsetting amount of times.  The first few times I did it, I couldn’t believe how exciting and adventurous it was.  Just like a kid about to go to Disneyworld, anticipation would keep me from sleeping the night before.

Now, I just dread it.  You have to spend hours waiting for planes, being crammed into a tiny seat, being harassed by security checkpoints and border guards, traveling to and from airports, and eating high priced food with absolutely no taste (except preservatives).  All for what?  So you can start in one continent and end up in another in about a day.

About 100 years ago, I assume people would leave their local area and make their way to a train station.  They would then take a series of trains to the nearest sea port.  Then, it was onto a boat that would slowly float across the globe.  Once they hit land again, it was back onto trains until they got to their final destination – or as close as a railway could take them.

The way Red Bull encourages people to fly (and swim). (click image to see larger)I’m sure that way of travel wasn’t as fun as it sounds.  It takes much longer, and probably isn’t as comfortable as I imagine.  But, it does sound cool, doesn’t it (just think pirate ships and horse riding bandits)?  I always love the views out the windows of trains, and you can stretch out and walk around when necessary.  I’ve never taken a ship across an ocean, but it also sounds pretty nice (depending on the type of boat, of course).  I’ve seen the glamorous ships in old movies – if they don’t hit an iceberg, life looks pretty grand.

This is probably the point where you think I’m crazy.  Why would anyone want to take a much longer trip just to be a little bit more comfortable?  I have my reasons.  Oh, do I have my reasons.

I’m tall.  That means my knees are constantly crunched into the seat in front of me on a plane (before the person decides to recline for their own comfort).  Then, the dry air starts to get to me.  It feels like you’re in a metal tube that’s designed to drain your body of any moisture, and drinking liquids doesn’t seem to help even the slightest bit.  Plus, there are the smells.  Many people have a bit of a stench after a few hours of this, and those aromas get circulated over and over again.

That’s not even to mention things that can also happen in other forms of travel – such as miserable temperatures and lost luggage (two things I’m quite familiar with).  Nor do I mention the positive things – like little TVs that show movies you don’t really care about on screens you can’t see through headphones you can’t hear.  I can’t imagine life before all of those.

The Budapest airport, very early in the morning. (click to see larger)Anyway, I have a point for all of this.  I recently made the crossing back to Europe, and it was monumental for multiple reasons.  Where should I begin?

I flew on a 747.  I’ve been flying my whole life, yet, those jets have always avoided me.  I angrily look at them through the terminal windows and consider changing my flight path just to get on one (as if my money would allow for that).  Finally, Chicago to Frankfurt gave me my wish. Aren’t my goals impressive?

What’s better than flying on a 9 hour flight in a 747?  Sitting in the exit row, of course.  Don’t take this the wrong way and think that I had 3 extra inches of leg room.  There were at least two rows missing in front of me – it was for an actual door (not just a little push-out window).

There weren’t personal TV sets, but the plane had them on the ceiling.  Towards the end of the flight, they showed a documentary on Manta Rays.  This sounds like a negative, but it’s not.  Only at this stage in international travel is my mind in a state to enjoy a documentary like this.  I probably learned something, but I can’t remember.

Now, for the downsides.  There was a rather fat man sitting next to me.  That wouldn’t have been a problem except he squirmed a lot while he was sleeping, and he slept most of the time.  I almost opened the emergency door and gave him a little shove.  That would’ve taught him.

The way that I'd really like to travel! (click image to see larger)He was awake a few times during that flight, and two of them happened to be takeoff and landing.  What motivated him to wake up?  The flight attendant who had to sit in her little jump seat right across from him.  He decided that he loved her and spent all of the ascent hitting on her.  It would’ve been funny if she could walk away.  Or if I could walk away.  But, we couldn’t.  We were both trapped and he seemed to not know or not care that she wasn’t interested in him.  He was persistent, I’ll give him that.  It just felt awkward.

During the takeoff, he learned that she would soon be on the flight to Denver where she would have a one or two day layover.  What a coincidence!  He lives near there!  That was an exciting realization.  While landing, he asked if he could show her around Denver when she was there.  Politely, she declined.  I exited the awkward, recycled air of the jet as soon as possible.

The last comment about my awesome seat was the location.  It was right next to the bathrooms, so there were a lot of people walking by and standing around.  This sounds bad, but I enjoyed it.  The two movies they showed weren’t very good (before the Manta Rays, of course), and I had watched one on my previous flight, so these waiting people provided my in flight entertainment.  Except for one little girl – she glared at me every time she had to go to the bathroom (a surprisingly large amount of times).  I suppose she thought I was the reason the plane smelled.

In conclusion, get an exit row for Trans-Atlantic flights.  It’s worth sitting next to a creepy men who hits on flight attendants.  But, if you’re short, please save those rows for us tall people.  We would really appreciate it.  Oh, and glance behind you before you recline.  Your little bit of comfort can make grown men cry.

 My Lufthansa 747 from Chicago to Frankfurt. (click image to see larger)

Hungarian word of the day:

Repülőgép

Pronounced roughly ”Reh-pool-ooh-gape”, this word means ”Airplane”.  It could be a repeat word, but it doesn’t matter, it’s important.