|Memoirs of an infrequent flyer
||[Oct. 24th, 2014|10:27 pm]
When I completed the previous post about our American holiday, I thought I had said all I had to say about the joutney: I'm impatient to get on with the fun stuff. And yet...
Three things set me thinking again about flying and how I feel about it. In no particular order, these were: turning the page of my notebook and discovering that I had, in fact, written more on the subject; steepholm's post in which a jar of Marmite was confiscated by security; a conversation with J. who is about to set off for Italy by train, about the comparative merits of this form of transport.
The next page of notes begins: There are no Guardians at the airport. Such outrage: I grew up with the idea of flying as an expensive, glamourous way to travel, and although I know this is no longer the case, every now and then I stumble over something as trivial as this, that none of the (several) newsagents can provide me with my newspaper of choice, and my illusions shatter all over again. Implicit in this, I suppose, is that I don't fly very often.
As an infrequent flyer, I'm very aware of the rules without being all that familiar with what they actually say: I wouldn't dream of trying to carry a jar of Marmite in my hand luggage, but it took me a while to realise that I could make sandwiches and take a packed lunch. Indeed, the cup of coffee I bought once we were through security didn't have to be gulped down when it was time to board, I could, and did, carry it on board.
Quite late in the day I realised, too, that while hand luggage stashed in an overhead locker would never be accessible during the flight, the backpack which I use as hand luggage is small enough to qualify as a 'personal item' and be kept under the seat in front of me, so I could swap one book for another, or for my notebook computer, at any time. This makes the already restricted legroom even more cramped, but it's worth it. I'm slow, but I'm learning.
Some aspects of flying, though, are outside my control. I particularly dislike the whole security theatre palaver. I didn't realise how much I dislike it until we were given accelerated passes on our homeward journey: excused removal of shoes, belts, computers... None of these things is particularly onerous, yet I felt as if a weight had been lifted. On our outbound flight, though, I got the full treatment, body scan, pat down, the lot. (The scanner which was X-raying my hand luggage didn't seem perturbed by the roll of jewellery in the bottom of the bag, which has raised questions in the past, so that's something).
We were flying United, which seems to be a pretty 'no-frills' operation (which is fair enough, given that our tickets were pretty cheap) - hence the DIY catering on several flights. Given the quality of the catering that was on offer, DIY didn't seem like a bad option: durham_rambler's remark on tasting the coffee was "Oh, that's an interesting fluid, isn't it?" Every flight, until the very last one, was full to capacity.
For United, all roads lead to Newark, which they promounce N'ork, confusing me at first since I was pretty sure we weren't supposed to be going to New York (though we had some fine views of the city from Newark). On the very last stage of our trip, Newark to Edinburgh, we found ourselves on a plane which was somehow more generously designed, with seats in pairs rather than threes, and what felt like more space between rows as well. What's more, there were empty seats on it. If only it could be like this all the time.
In short: nothing you didn't already know. Flying: we do it when it's the only way to get to where we're going, there are ways to make it pleasanter, some of which we can't control, some of which we can. D'uh!