journal for 2004-01-04

floating in space

Actually, I’m floating in the atmosphere. Really, I guess I’m not floating, either, since the plane is heavier than air. To be really clear, I’m about seven and a half miles above the sea off the coast of Newfoundland. (Am I remembering my Canadian geography correctly? Aha! Yes, a caption just popped up onto the map on the display in the seat in front of me. Nice!)

I’ve marked this entry as 2004-01-04, though it’s still the third of January in Bethlehem. I’m probably in international waters, and if I’m not I will be soon, so I’m trying to reorient myself to UK time. Of course, if I was serious about that, I’d be trying to sleep. I tried that for a while, and I might’ve dozed just a little, but it didn’t work out so well. Then dinner was served, and I ate. I don’t want to go to sleep right after eating, so I’m writing this.

Before breaking out the knave, I tried watching some of the in-flight entertainment. One of the movies is Tomb Raider 2, but it was so abominable that I gave up on it. There’s an episode of Black Adder somewhere in the loop on channel eleven, but it isn’t up yet, and I don’t want to watch Ab Fab while I wait. Also, the headphone jack in my seat is pretty touchy.

The travel experience, so far, has been a really mixed bag. For reasons that revolve around people’s inability to follow simple procedures, I ended up having to meet one of our engineers at a roadside diner in Clinton, New Jersey. I was not amused. Gloria dropped me at the Newark airport around 16:45 and I got into line to get my tickets. I got my ticket around 18:00; my math skills tell me that I was standing in that line for an hour and a quarter. At the end, they were going through the line and pulling out people for my flight, lest they miss the flight while people for later flights checked in. I had to check my little pilot’s case, although I’m nearly positive, in retrospect, that I could’ve gotten it onto the plane and in an overhead compartment without objection. I shouldn’t have followed the rules until told I was breaking them! That works for most people.

Security has been odd. A few guys were hanging around the entrance to the gates, chatting. When I walked by, they all seemed mildly upset that I didn’t interrupt them to show them my ticket—except for one guy who was fairly apologetic. I went through the x-ray and metal detector just a bit later, and once I got to my gate there was another checkpoint at which I was wanded, frisked, and my bag was searched. Meanwhile, the PA system was insisting that all passengers on my flight rush to the gate. The two dozen passengers waiting to get through security rolled their eyes in unison.

The plane itself is really quite nice. The ceiling must be at least eight feet above the aisles, and even the coach seats are wide enough to be comfortable. Of course, to get to coach we had to walk through first class, which was almost disgustingly opulent. The seats alternate between facing forward and backward, and each can fully recline. The tray table folds up from an armrest, and the seat in front of the passenger instead holds a footrest. When the seat is reclined and the footrest is up, the seat is basically a bed. The second class seats were just like the coach seats, but a bit wider and with a slightly more complex entertainment system. Actually, I think British Airways has four classes, but I couldn’t distinguish more than three kinds of seating. Maybe I’ll look into that later. The price to upgrade one or two classes at the ticket counter was $250. Tempting, but too much. That’s a lot of money to throw away.

(Argh. The woman behind me keeps kneeing me in the back.)

The in-flight meal was pretty good. I know people have traditionally complained about airline food, but I’ve found the food on my last few meal-included flights to be just fine. I had a roasted chicken breast with stuffing and stewed beans, a mediocre green salad, a roll, a small stick of chocolate, a sliver of chocolate peanut-butter cheesecake, and a tiny bottle of fair white wine. It wasn’t spectacular, but it hit the spot. I’d been excited about our plans to have cheesy grits and sausage today, but we ended up not feeling very hungry, so I hadn’t eaten since breakfast.

I did forget that today was ice cream day, though, so I will have no ice cream until two weeks hence, at the earliest. Well, no ice cream from Barbara, anyway, which is roughly the same.

I read a bit more of Of Human Bondage, too. It remains good, and I’m hoping I can finish it on the flight. I really need to whip up a little bit of code to track what books I’m reading. It’d be keen to have something to remind me how many books I’ve started and not finished. Also, it would be one more datasource for Life::Story. JFDI, JFDI, JFDI…

(The woman behind me has not let up.)

Well, I guess I’m going to pay attention to something else for a while. Maybe I’ll watch the end of Bridget Jones’ Diary or something. If all else fails, there’s always Somerset Maugham.

Written on January 4, 2004