Fly The Unfriendly Skies

Fly The Unfriendly Skies

“This is the story of America. Everybody’s doing what they think they’re supposed to do.” Jack Kerouac

Flying is stressful these days.  Passengers are more nervous to fly than ever. Going on a plane gives people a lot of anxiety. It is annoying to get to the airport an hour or two before a flight. Security is a headache. Fear of terrorism makes flying scary.  Flights are crowded. Fewer people are willing to volunteer to take a later flight. By the time you are on the plane, you just want to get where you are going safely.

My older cousin worked for United Airlines. It was at a time when stewardesses were always beautiful and families of employees could travel for free. Planes weren’t crowded and he was proud that he could always score first class tickets for his parents. My cousin’s license plate was FTFS    Fly the Friendly Skies. He loved his job. He was sick for a while and died young – a week before 9/11 happened. We were glad that he missed that.  What would he think about this particular incident?

There is no explaining away the forceful removal of a person with a ticket from an airplane seat who is bloodied in the process, because the airline has overbooked the plane. Computers are not always able to solve human problems. People who fly on Sunday nights tend to have to be in work Monday as well. We have no idea what was going on in his head, how he felt about flying to begin with or what he had to do to cause that reaction.

I read an article about this particular passenger’s character and mental state.  An unknown number of passengers travel with every kind of mental disorder. Many have sat next to me. It is alarming that they are trying to turn this around and blame him. I don’t know how I would have reacted being told that I was randomly selected to leave the plane so a stewardess could get to work. It wouldn’t have been pretty.

If airlines are going to throw people off flights where they will be losing income from their jobs, vacation days, non refundable hotels or activities, they have to offer better compensation. My price is a first class cross-country ticket or 50,000 frequent flier miles but that is just me. 

Several years ago, my friends and I were walking slowly through an airport to change flights to return home from a school ski trip. When we got to the gate, we were told that the flight was overbooked and we would have to spend twenty-four hours in Brussels. It made sense not to let us get on, if we couldn’t fly.  I was a bit surprised because we were sixteen and seventeen years old, part of a chaperoned school group and in a foreign country for the first time.

No one paid us, took our luggage off or called our parents who were waiting at the airport the next day. It was clearly a different time and a European airline. We were escorted to an elegant old hotel in the center of Brussels.  Dinner  had a dress code and since we did not have the correct attire or any attire with us, they asked us to eat an hour early and prepared a special dinner so we could taste some local food. We walked around the city and went to some bars where no one asked us for ID. In the morning we saw more of the city and then they came and picked us up and escorted us to the gate for our flight. We had fun and got to see Brussels. 

I still get nervous if I am at the end of a line going on a plane that it will be overbooked and I will not get on. Do I have to worry about being dragged off a flight as well? Given all the highly mediated flying incidents, did they really need to do this?  Bad behavior doesn’t stop being bad behavior just because the airline says it is legal.

Fly safe, (and I mean it)

JAZ

How To Bring A Wedding Dress From Los Angeles to Kruger National Park, South Africa (A cell phone documentation)

How To Bring A Wedding Dress From Los Angeles To Kruger National Park, South Africa
(A cell phone documentation)

“Even the elephant carries but a small trunk on his journeys. The perfection of traveling is to travel without baggage.” Henry David Thoreau

I met up with the WD in Paris.

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It had made the trip from LA. The WD had been packed with great care for the journey. The dress had already been through one security machine and one Air France closet.

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The bride walked out carrying the hanger high above her head with one arm. The dress was draped over her back. She wanted no help.

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We had a 12 hour layover in Paris until our next flight. The dress hung in a hotel closet while we had lunch and saw Versailles and the Louis Vuitton Foundation. The dress was happy. (Louis Vuitton Foundation designed by Frank Gehry)

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In the airport in Paris I noticed the bride’s arm had dropped a bit and the bottom of the dress was dragging on the floor. The bag was getting a bit dirty. The bride decided it was now to be a two person job. The mother of the bride was happy.

The dress went through a second security machine. ( In pre 9/11 travel this would not have happened) The mother of the bride was nervous but did not say anything.

We land in Johannesburg and change to South African Airways.

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The mood is festive. People start calling out “Is that my dress? Are you bringing this to me? Am I invited to the wedding?” There is a discussion at security as to the best way to put the dress through the machine safely. They straighten the bag carefully before it goes through. I’m beginning to see that a wedding dress in Africa is important business. We lay the dress on a bench carefully in the airport lounge. When no one is looking I open up the dress and check it. Three security machines are a lot to go through. The dress is fine.

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The mother and the mother in law are now both carrying assistants and happy to be doing it. The stewardess on South African Airways decides that the best place will be to lay it flat in the overhead compartment and moves the luggage so the dress can lie flat.

We arrive in Capetown and rent cars. The dress rides in the bigger one and reaches the hotel in Capetown quickly and unscathed. The other car is lost.

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The dress rests in the closet for a week in Capetown and prepares for its final flight to Skukusa.

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There is one more airport and security machine to go.  Everyone is excited.

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The maid of honor has arrived and is carrying the dress with the bride.

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The dress waits quietly for the most important moment of its life as the rest of us eat breakfast in the airport.

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We land in Skukusa.

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It is a a very different kind of airport.

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The luggage is loaded one last time.

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The dress goes on its final portion of the journey on the back of a jeep for an hour through Kruger National Park. (Under the groom’s suit for protection.)

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The dress sees its first elephant up close in Africa and realizes that it is a long way from Vera Wang.

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Fly Safe,

JAZ

Ten Things That I Like To Do In Airports

Ten Things That I Like To Do In Airports

‘If God had really intended men to fly, he’d make it easier to get to the airport”.  ~George Winters

I love hanging out in airports. It means I’m going somewhere. It’s a comfortable transitional place for me. Even in the most foreign feeling country an airport feels like an airport.

1. Buy trashy magazines.

2. Try a new kind of gum and if it’s a foreign country add in different kinds of sweets and snacks. Use up all my foreign coins.

3. Shop or look. Even if it isn’t Heathrow, Tokyo, Bangkok or Hong Kong there are always fun stores in airports no matter how small. I love the tourist gift shops to see what they think you should be bringing home. Heathrow has great sales in July in their designer stores.

4. If it is Heathrow,Tokyo or Bangkok get a massage or get my nails done. Yes it’s weird doing that in front of strangers but it passes the time.

5. Sit in the lounge, check my emails, listen to music, read, write my blog and sleep.

6. If its Miami – have Café Cubano, LA – Chaya Brasserie, Chicago – Einsteins bagels, London – Gordon Ramseys Plane Food, Boston – Legal Seafood and Hong Kong – Hungs Delicacies. When I am in Tokyo I buy green tea Kit Kats like everyone else does. . In all other airports, explore!!!!!!!! Try some food place that isn’t Subway or Mcdonalds.

7. Try to guess where people are going. Try to guess what Asian language they are speaking or what Spanish-speaking country they are from. Speak in a fake foreign language and watch people try to guess what language I am speaking. Pick out the people who might be terrorists.

8. Try to guess who’s carry on luggage is bigger than regulation size and will they get stopped. Try to guess by looking at them what kind of stuff they have packed in their carry on luggage, why they bought or borrowed that particular piece of luggage and how they fit everything in.

9. If it’s early in the morning wait on the line at a Starbucks – that could take a half hour in a large airport. If I’m bored I’ll change my drink order a few times and ask questions. I’ve always wondered about people who do that. Are they just looking for someone to talk to or are they really so undecided about coffee?

10.Take a moment to be grateful that I’m in an airport and going somewhere,

Fly safe,

JAZ

Annoying Things To Say To Stewardesses

Annoying Things To Say To Stewardesses

“A little girl turns to the stewardess as the plane is taking off and says,”When are we going to get smaller?” Anon

I can’t get this window to open.

Can you get me a blanket and a pillow?

I didn’t get upgraded because I’m too pretty. Flight attendants hate pretty girls.

Can you help me find the box cutter in my carry on luggage?

I’ll have a water and two sleeping pills.

I was using my cigarette lighter in the bathroom because I couldn’t see.

I have no idea who left this crackpipe in the bathroom.

How much more time do we have?

Can we lower the engine noise?

Am I going to make my connection? (like they know)

You went to college?

How is the pilot feeling today? Happy, sad, suicidal?

So are we just going to see clouds?

And my personal favorite. Could you help me put this heavy bag in the overhead compartment? (I heard a stewardess tell a 90 year old woman that if she couldn’t carry her luggage she should not be traveling.  I had “blood in my eyes”)

Fly safe

,JAZ

Top Ten Things Not To Bring On A Plane In Your Carry On Luggage

Top Ten Things Not To Bring On A Plane In Carry On Luggage

“Don’t let your luggage define your travels, each life unravels differently.” unknown

1. box cutters – ok I get this one.

2. Snow globes larger than a tennis ball. I think that they mean the large intricate ones that you buy in Christmas markets in Austria, Germany or Eastern Europe. I’m guessing it has more than 3 and half ounces of liquid. How do the TSA agents  feel taking Santa on a sleigh in the snow away from a kid in the airport at Christmas? I love snow globes.

3. Anything that looks like or can be used as a weapon – toy guns, baseball bats, hockey and lacrosse sticks ski poles, sabers, swords, knives of any kind and scissors that are not for nails.

4. Liquids over 3.4 oz. This limits my food shopping when I travel and my impulse food buys in the airport gift shops. This includes interesting sauces, weird nut butters, dips and spreads, jams, jellies, preserves, wine, liquors, salad dressings, olive oils, vinegars – things I am not comfortable with in my checked luggage. The TSA rule of thumb to remember is “If you can spill it, spread it, smear it, squeeze it, spray it, pump it, or pour it,” then travelers should check it. Why does the TSA being cute annoy me?

5.Guns, gun powder, bullets, explosive devices, spare parts of guns and fire arms, grenades, flares, gunlighters and ammunition. So where can you actually have this stuff? I would like to avoid those areas.

6.Tools over seven inches. This includes hatchets, axes and saws. I like this one. I often see people on planes who look crazy.

7.Anything flammable. I’m good with that. I have bad fire karma. My house burned down twice as a kid. The second time it was hit by lightning. This is probably not a good time to tell that story.

8.Illegal controlled substances. Does that mean drugs? Watch a few episodes of Locked Up Abroad (they are almost always picked up in the airport)  and you probably won’t want to be carrying that with you. These are not Martha Stewart prisons.

9.Disabling chemicals – bleach, fire extinguishers, chlorine, spray paint, tear gas, recreational oxygen (what is fun oxygen?) How did they make up this list? Did someone think of things that could be dangerous? Was it a committee? Are these things that were confiscated? I have to say I would also be suspicious of someone with a fire extinguisher, spray paint and tear gas in their carry on.

10. Anything they feel like taking. I’ve lost many lip glosses, lipsticks, tweezers, batteries and sewing kits. Sometimes I feel protected and other times I feel they are saving the world one confiscated item at a time.

Fly safe,

JAZ

The Last Things That I Did When Traveling

The Last Things That I Did When Traveling

“it can hardly be a coincidence that no language on earth has ever produced the expression”as pretty as an airport” Doug McAdams

People magazine thinks that I want to know the last things celebrities did before that interview.  I think that you must want to know about the last things I did when traveling .

The last piece of gum that I chewed on a plane before landing – Trident Peppermint I prefer the Bubblegum flavor for flying but I didn’t see it in Sydney airport.

The last trashy magazine that I bought in an airport and the last trashy article I read in it – Australian OK magazine – I only buy gossip magazines when I fly and then I buy all of them like they are crack cocaine. The last article was some Kardashian story like the hem on Kim’s dress was falling down creating yet another fashion faux pas. Her publicity hungry “mum” was happy. Khloe was jealous and doing something outrageous like divorcing her cheating, drug addict husband for attention. Kourtney was whining.

The last presents that I bought in an airport – Tim Tams, Crocodile and Kangaroo Jerky.

The last room service meal I had in a hotel – The Henry Jones Art Hotel, Hobart Tasmania. I believe it was fish .

The last movie I saw on a plane – Identity Thief and half of the Great Gatsby

The last book I read on a plane – In A Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson . It is published under the name  Down Under in Australia and everywhere that is not  Canada or the US.

The last thing I took from a hotel room – It is always the baby soaps, lotions, shower caps and tea. I have a whole collection. I think that I might be a hoarder.  In Japan there are a lot more “giveaways” as I call them – hairbrush, razor, toothbrush toothpaste, nailbrush, pajamas, kimonos etc.

The last souvenir I bought for myself – It’s always a Starbucks mug from a country with Starbucks. I don’t even like the coffee anymore but I like the collection of mugs.

The last time I used hand motions to communicate – Kaiseri, Turkey. At the airport, I was trying to explain that my friend was given the wrong thing in the coffee shop. I was saved by someone who spoke Turkish and English.

The last song I listened to on the plane with my iPod – “Ways To Go” Grouplove.  It is also the last song I listened to in my car today.

The last time I got lost in an airport – It is always Miami. I went to school there and it was a cute little airport. Now it is a big confusing airport. it is easier to find my way in downtown Tokyo where I don’t speak or read the language.

The last time I cursed at Customs in my head – It is always Miami (except when it is Chicago or summer in any major airport)  It is always a mess unless you arrive at 4AM when they open.

The last selfie I took with my Iphone – Misiones, Argentina. It was terrible and reminiscent of Picasso.  I havent attempted it since.

The last flight I missed. – Sydney to Melbourne. There was a computer glitch. The airline I booked with (Delta) had a record of the Virgin Australia flight to Melbourne but Virgin did not.  They were dealing with other people’s problems and by the time they got to mine it was too late to board the plane. It is a once in a while thing that happens. If you are booking with two different airlines, it is a good idea to call the second airline to make sure they got the flight reservation. Don’t assume because you got the email with both flights on it that the second airline knows about it. Always bring the email –if I didn’t have it, they would have made me get another ticket. Who knew?

The last time something was stolen from my luggage – Moscow, Russia . All my luggage tags (Is that a big black market item?), and all my dirty underwear and sox which I keep in the outside zipper compartment. My thinking of who would steal dirty underwear and twice worn sox did not apply to people working in the airport in Moscow.

The last time I lost my luggage – JFK in NY. There were a couple of years after 9/11 that AA was constantly losing luggage. It happened numerous times in NY and Chicago. The suitcase always arrived early in the morning.  I now  fly with a change of underwear, big t shirt., medicines makeup and a toothbrush in my carry on.

The last time my luggage was overweight – always.

I hope this was as interesting for you as reading about Don Cheadle’s last things he did before that interview was for me.

Fly Safe,

JAZ