Mind My Personal Space!

sitting in the middle seat17B.

When you’re flying standby on a full flight, you’re happy to be assigned any seat, middle seat included. But if you’re in a middle seat, an exit row isn’t a bad way to go.

I arrived at the Philadelphia airport at 5:45 am for a 7:10 am flight. Because I’d been up late partying at #TypeAPhilly, I didn’t get to my hotel room until midnight-ish, and then I had to pack for an early flight. Winding down from the closing party wasn’t easy, and I didn’t fall asleep until after 1 am. This made my 4:40 am wake-up call brutal. What got me out of bed was knowing that I’d have a four-hour flight ahead of me, and I’d probably be able to sleep through a good portion of it.

As I boarded the plane, I scanned the aisles beyond first class to find my row. As I found it, I made eye contact with my aisle seatmate. He immediately gave me a look of horror. I gave him a smile and he grimaced. I glanced over to the man in the window seat, and he gave me a genuine smile.

I settled into my bulkhead seat, stuffed a book and bottled drink in the seat ahead of me, and pulled out my phone to pass time until the plane door closed. Mr. Window seat was asleep within 5 minutes of me sitting down, and he had overtaken the armrest to my left. My grouchy seatmate picked up his buzzing iPhone, tapped a button, and barked “This is Harry.” But it wasn’t just “Harry.” It was Harrrrrry, with a throaty growl to it. Like a parched dinosaur.

I sat back in my seat, put my elbow on the armrest, and he did this strange body wobble thing against my arm. I didn’t really understand the movement, but I tried to tuck in my arm as much as possible and ignore him.

I stretched out forward and crossed my legs, grateful for the extra legspace. The next thing I know, Harry barks at me “Mind my personal space!” Apparently, when I crossed my legs to get comfortable and avoid touching his arm, my foot had crossed some (invisible?) line in his mind. I had the toe of my sandal propped against the metal seat frame in front of me (separating the middle and aisle seat), but it definitely wasn’t in his “personal space.”

I was tired, so I decided to try to nap. I had a hoodie on, and brought a jacket with a hood. I put the hoodie hood over my head, then laid the jacket over me, with the hood covering my face. About 5 minutes later, I felt this awkward jab at my right thigh. Harry must not have liked my jacket touching the armrest, so he took the liberty of forcefully tucking my jacket next to my thigh. (Side note: I have a bit of a bruise today). I was a startled by his actions, but was tired and dozed off again.

Right as I was on the edge of dozing and sleep, there’s the big body wobble against my arm again. I know that bodies naturally relax as they sleep, but Harry wasn’t going to have it. He woke me up a few times like this, fully knowing I was TRYING to sleep, and after about a half hour I gave up, put my jacket under the seat, and pulled out my book onto the tray table. I was reading Stranger Here a book about weight loss surgery. A few seconds later, I heard Harry grunt “surgery” under his breath.

coke zero on delta flightI glanced over a Harry, who had his giant Beats by Dre headphones and watching “Django Unchained” on his iPad. His eyeglass frames were modern, and slightly more ornate than I’d expect on a middle-aged man. He looked unhappy, with deep frown lines and a clenched jaw. I could tell that he’d shaved, but not very well. His coarse salt and pepper hair bursted out underneath his dingy white Nike running hat. His Ed Hardy shirt was rumpled, and his jeans looked expensive, but dirty.

Harry looked very inconvenienced to be on the plane, and complained to a flight attendant about how he was unfairly denied a first class upgrade when she took our first drink order of the flight. I ordered a can of Coke Zero, he ordered Bloody Mary mix and extra peanuts. I reached down to my purse for some jerky, and he made a rude groaning noise as I was leaning down. I sat up and gave him a questioning look, and he snorted awkwardly and pulled out a hardcopy copy of Dante’s “Inferno.”

I attempted sleeping again, this time with my jacked tightly tucked around my legs. But I never really slept, because Harry kept doing this strange body wobble thing over and over. And over. And over. I counted EIGHTEEN times that he woke me up on this flight. WTF?

The second time the flight attendants took drink orders, I asked for water with ice and declined peanuts, pretzels, or Biscoff cookies. He curtly demanded “water with NO ice!” The flight attendant looked at me sympathetically. If there had been more open seats on the flight, I would have asked to be moved from my seat.

As soon as the flight touched down, he grabbed his iPhone and began madly punching out an email. I glanced at the screen, and the subject line was full of expletives. When the plane stopped at the gate, he unbuckled his seatbelt, sprung out of his seat, grabbed his carry-on bag, and went as far up the plane aisle as he could before other passengers boxed him in.

Nobody likes to be the middle seat passenger on a flight, but that doesn’t mean that anyone sitting in the aisle or window seat should treat them like a second class citizen. Or wake them up from a nap 18 times. Or forcefully tuck a jacket by their thigh. Or grunt about the things they are reading. If you want a seat in first class, pay for it – don’t punish your seatmate with your frustration.

Sure, it’s awkward to sit by a stranger on a plane. But don’t ruin the travel experience of the person next to you because you’re grumpy.

Your Guide To Sleeping In An Airport

sleeping in the airport terminalOnce upon a time, my blog had a very strong focus – pilot wifestyle. My husband was a newly minted airline pilot, and it took a while to get used to the lifestyle. For a while, there were very few pilot wife bloggers, and we were a pretty tight knit group. Because pay was so low in the first years, the main benefit of being married to a pilot was flight benefits. Even though I was at the very bottom of the standby list, I loved to take every opportunity possible to get out of town. And often that meant getting stuck in airports.

But over the years, I got a little tired of writing all the blog posts about airports, flights, delays, mergers, FAA rulings, non-rev nightmares, and long-distance relationships. I switched the focus of the blog back to me, and the things that interest me…namely health, music, pop culture,  blogging and social media. I still travel more often than the average person, but I haven’t had to sleep in an airport for a long time. When I came across this infographic by TravelSupermarket,  it reminded me of all the times in 2007-2009 I was perpetually stuck at the airport.

To see the full graphic, click here.

About 2 years ago, I presented at Ignite Salt Lake, with a presentation called “Enjoy Your Time At The Airport, Whether Or Not Your Junk Is Touched.” Please don’t mind how unprofessional my performance is…I was really nervous, felt awful, was short of breath and I ended up in the hospital with pneumonia the next day.

CPAP machine airportIt was at the height of the controversy over airports in the US installing the backscatter image security scanners, so the presentation does focus on that. However, I talk about sleeping in the airport, especially at Salt Lake City airport. I no longer travel with my CPAP machine (because my sleep apnea has improved greatly after losing over 120 pounds), but back when I slept in airports often, my CPAP machine took up a large portion of my carry-on suitcase.

Have you ever had to sleep in the airport?

Sneak Peek at How My Weekend Started

Sleeping at SLC gate C09
(Yep! I Even Brought my CPAP!)

London: Coming Home

We packed up our suitcases and checked out of our hotel around 10 am. We spent a little time in the Business Centre checking flight loads again, and coming up with more contingencies. We got a breakfast croissant at the kiosk in the Tube station, made with delicious ham and emmental cheese. We scrounged together the rest of our change to pay for our tube ride to Heathrow. It took about 30 minutes to get to LHR terminal 4. We checked in at the kiosk, went through security, and walked around the airport to pass the time until our flight boarded. We got a few snacks and drinks, and crossed our fingers for seat assignments. We missed out on business class by two passengers, and got seat assignments one row apart. A nice passenger offered to let us sit together (giving up an aisle seat for a middle…talk about a good samaritan!)

We napped, snacked, read, and watched movies. I watched “Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging,” “The Hangover,” and “My Life in Ruins.” The flight was slightly longer back to the US, approximately 10 hours. We came back through customs, grabbed some dinner, and checked out the flight boards. We were hoping to catch a 9 pm flight to SLC, but we still had about 3 hours till boarding. Taylor went down to Ops to check Deltanet, and it was pretty evident we wouldn’t make it on that flight. We looked at alternate flights through DEN, HOU, ABQ, PHX, MEM, OMA, DFW, DTW, CVG and TUS, but all of those cities would require an overnight stay before the connecting flight to SLC. We were exhausted from the day of traveling, and decided to call it a night. Taylor got a $36 crew-rate hotel (with free wifi…hallelujah!)

In the morning, flight loads didn’t look any better, and we wanted a to find the most certain option for getting back to SLC…which ended up being San Antonio. Once in SAT, we ate lunch at Las Palapas Mexican Grill in Terminal 1. I’ve got to put in a plug for this place…very delicious food and insanely inexpensive for airport food. Two full meals with drinks, tax and tip came to $16. We were happy when our names were called for a seat assignment, and even more happy that we had seats in first class. First class in a short flight on a CRJ isn’t too swanky, just more opportunities for free drinks and more legroom.

We arrived in SLC in the late afternoon, picked up our car, and headed down to Lehi to pick up Rosie from my parents’ house. We shared our trip pictures with them, and got back to SF around 8:00. It was an exhausting 2 days of travel home….but it was totally worth it.

London: En Route

Since our trip to London has so many details and pictures I want to post, I figured that I would split if up into sections so it won’t take so long to post about the trip. Now for part one: Getting there!

I spent the evening before I left frantically packing. I went to the store to get some trip snacks and American candy to take to my friend Emma. I was going to bake some banana bread too, but ran out of time. I think I finally got to sleep around 11:30, and my alarms went off at 4:15. I double checked that I had my passport, ipod, chargers, and other necessary items and hit the road to the SLC airport by 4:40. I dropped my car off at Park and Jet (cheapest SLC parking spot, by the way. $5/day with a free car wash), rode the shuttle to the terminal, and checked in for the 7:00 am flight to Atlanta. The standby list was sketchy, but I got onto the flight at the last minute. I arrived in ATL and Taylor picked me up for lunch. We drove to my favorite Thai spot in Toco Hills called Top Spice. Then we stopped by Great Harvest Bread to use up a gift card on bread and kahuna bars. We got back to the airport around 2:30. He dropped me off at the terminal and went back to park in employee parking. I was to print out our boarding passes and meet him near the employee entrance.

Taylor forgot to write down our confirmation code when he booked the reservation, but I tried checking in at the kiosk anyway. No luck. Then I had a Delta Agent try to help, and she couldn’t get it to work either. I waited in a long line to talk to a ticket agent, who found our reservation easily. She swiped my passport, and then let me call Taylor for his passport number so I didn’t have to wait in line again. After security, we waited in the E concourse for the flight to board. We were thrilled when we were assigned seats in Business Elite!

It was so nice to have the swanky treatment for the flight. Our FA was wonderful and spoke to us by name. We had all the Dasani water and Coke Zero we wanted. We had a lovely four course dinner:

1. Veggies and hummus, curry soup, and green salad
2. Crab cakes (me), beef tenderloin and shrimp (Taylor), ciabatta rolls, risotto
3. Cheese and fruit platter
4. Hot fudge sundae

We watched “The Ugly Truth,” then tried to get some sleep. I slept about 90 minutes, but Taylor got even less. Breakfast was served about an hour before we landed, which was an english muffin sandwich with scrambled eggs, spinach, and havarti cheese with some fresh fruit. Before we landed, I stuck off to the lav to get my LAVIATOR shot.

We landed at Gatwick around 6:30 am, made it through passport control and customs fairly quickly, and called Emma to let her know we’d arrived. While we waited for her to “collect” us, we enjoyed looking at all the cars you don’t see much in the states: Citroens, Fiats, Vauxhalls, Peugeots. Even the Toyotas, Hondas, Nissans, and Fords looked different than their US counterparts. Although we were feeling jet-lagged, we were excited to get out and explore.

London: The Short Story

Cheers! It’s me blogging from London! Just a quick list of what Taylor and I have done in the London area:

Met up with my bloggy friend Emma (twice)
Piccadilly Circus
Hyde Park (including Princess Diana memorial fountain)
Science Museum
Buckingham Palace
Big Ben (Houses of Parliament)

Westminster Abbey
St. Paul’s Cathedral (all 600 stairs to the top!)
Tate Modern
Thames River Cruise
Trafalgar Square
LOTS of trips on the Tube

We head back to the states in the morning. It’s been an amazingly fun jam-packed 3 days. I’m still jet lagged and have about 15 blisters on my feet from all the walking….but I have to say I love this city!

More details when I return 🙂

Post 499: MIA?, Portland Trip, and non-revving nightmare

Thank you to all those who checked up on me to see if I was okay. “A week without blogging? Are you seriously ill?”, several people asked. No..I’m not ill – just in need of a break from the rigors of creativity and daily blogging.

The Portland trip was exciting and exhausting. Rosie and I flew in Friday night and stayed in Tualatin with the Grahams, a family that my family has known for decades. Saturday was fun, start to finish. I had breakfast with Coral, a middle school friend, at Rose’s in West Linn. We had the cinnamon roll french toast (to DIE for) and got caught up on all we’ve missed in the last 12 years. Next, we drove back to Tualatin by way of the Wanker’s Corner general store (where we got drinks and snacks.) Our original purpose for going to Portland was to attend a wedding reception for Rosie’s cousin…but we didn’t realize we’d put the wrong date down until after we got their gift. We met Carisa, an elementary school friend, for drinks at Starbucks. She’s getting married this year, and it was fun to hear all about her fiance.

For lunch, we went to Newport Bay Restaurant with my aunt Laurie and cousin Christi. We hadn’t seen each other in 7 years at Grandpa Gene’s funeral, so it was lovely to have some family time with relatives I rarely get to see. We did a little shopping around Washington Square Mall, then I followed Laurie over to Auntie Dona and Uncle Bob’s house. Their daughter Margi found out I was over and she immediately joined us. We caught up and reminisced for the afternoon. Aterwards, I dropped by my cousin Jillian’s apartment. Her husband just graduated medical school, and they’re off to Colorado at the end of the month for Ben’s pathology residency. They gave us a McCormick and Schmick’s gift card, so we had a free super-fresh seafood dinner there after pics at the Portland Temple. We arrived back at the Grahams’ around 9, visited until my eyelids could no longer stay open, and set my alarm for 3:40 am.

We woke up, packed our bags, and went out to our rental car. Once inside, we realized that things were missing…my Blackberry and Ipod chargers, some papers and food items. It didn’t look like the car had been broken into, so I’m guessing the rental car’s alarm clicker wasn’t working. Luckily the chargers can be replaced. We drove to the airport, grabbed some breakfast, dropped off the car, and waited through a horrid security line at PDX. I complained over the 40 minute wait…but little did I know the non-revving disaster I was about to encounter.

We tried for the 6:00 am ATL flight – we were part of the 9 that didn’t make it on. Then we tried for the SLC flight – denied again. Tried for a MSP NWA flight – nope. Tried for another ATL and SLC flight – was told our best option was to get an ID-90 pass from Horizon, fly to Seattle, and get a SEA-ATL non-stop flight. We waited till we didn’t get on another MSP flight, went out of security, purchased the passes, walked across the airport again to Horizon’s gates, where the gate agent said our luck was pretty bleak to get on a SEA flight standby. So we went back across the airport to try for the last SLC flight – denied again. Finally, we made it on a MSP flight at the last second, and we had to check our bags. Once we were in Minneapolis, we were too late to make it on any outgoing flights. Taylor Priceline’d an “airport hotel” that didn’t have a shuttle and was nowhere near the airport. We paid so much in cab fare that we could have gotten a really nice hotel. We got about 5 hours sleep before the 3:30 am alarm woke us up, the cab took us back to the airport, and we were crossing our fingers for the 5:15 am ATL flight. We were top of the list, made it on, and were able to sit together. We touched down in ATL just before 9:00 am – which meant I was late for work.

It was a bittersweet trip: wonderful visits and horrible trip home. Was it worth it? I say yes cautiously : this experience has put the fear of the flight Gods back into me. I don’t think I’m going to tempt fate like this again when flight loads aren’t wide open. The next time I fly will be on a confirmed positive space ticket.

Crazy Way to Chicago

Finally in Chicago, by way of Milwaukee. Bumped flights, lost phones, lost wives, lost on the tollway with not enough change, reconnected with an old friend with a charitible streak. It feels like a feat to be here. I feel sick about what happened with Misty…more details to come.

My Memphis Valentine

A few months ago, the radio station I listen to had a contest called Lovers in Japan : tickets to see Coldplay in Tokyo on Valentines Day. Needless to say, I didn’t win the contest, but it did get the wheels spinning to do something special this year. Taylor’s February schedule gave him 2.5 days off for the V-day weekend, so it sealed the deal. We would have a Valentines Date away from ATL. It would be the first trip Taylor and I took away from home, just the two of us, since our honeymoon in 2004. Some friends from our new ward agreed to watch Rosie for us, and we were off to Memphis, TN!We flew into MEM Friday night. We picked up our rental car and drove across the Mississippi border into South Haven. We got dinner and dessert at O’Charleys. The caramel pie didn’t live up to my expectations, but the mural on the wall was pretty cool. After dinner, we headed to our hotel. We got a great rate at the Fairfield Inn…but I won’t fill you in on the sordid details of our hotel time 😉
In the morning, we had our free breakfast. I like staying in Fairfield Inns because they have comfortable beds, and good hot breakfasts! After we ate, we checked out and headed into town. We stopped at the Memphis Pyramid – it was build with hopes of being a destination convention site, but as far as we know it sits vacant as a spot for photo ops.
Then we crossed the bridge over the Mississippi River into Arkansas. I have never been, and really don’t have reason to. We just went so I could cross it off my U.S. map.

We stopped for drinks at the Pilot. I made him pose for this shot. He wasn’t amused.

Then we drove back across the MS River back into Memphis. The city is definitely more interesting coming in from AR than it is from the suburbs.

Then we had the sentinel moment of our weekend…Corky’s Bar-B-Q! We shared the ribs for two set up, with rolls, beans, and fries. We had half a slab of dry rub (Taylor’s preference) and half a slab of wet (my preference).
More than anything, we love the Apple BBQ sauce. We could drink it straight! (At least, I would)

Next we went to Beale Street…which is what Memphis is probably most famous for. We were immediately greeted by a drunk wino asking for money. I immediately slung my purse over my shoulder, inside my jacket. that’s why my butt looks bigger than usual in this pic.Random Elvis Mural
What do you think, can I pull off this look?
There were blues bars a-plenty, but none were offering daytime karaoke (much to Taylor’s relief)
Boas a-plenty! I chose the red one for Valentines Day (don’t worry, I didn’t buy it)
Who wants some totally uncensored pork?
More Elvis paraphenilia than you’d ever care to find.
This is my favorite find of all the kitschy stores: A tin that says “Well behaved women rarely make history.” Appropo, no?

After Beale Street, we drove back to the airport, turned in our rental car, were harassed by rude TSA agents (who threw my lingerie out for all to see, and made Taylor check his bag for no good reason…even though he had his crew badge). We flew back on the 3:40 flight, and were home for a quiet evening with Rosie by 7:00 pm. Memphis, I’m sad to say, is probably not a place I’ll visit again (other than Corky’s) but we had a great, memorable time.

22 Hours in Utah

On Friday night, I’d decided not to come to SLC because the flight loads were yucky and I needed to take it easy to recover from bronchitis. My mom called to guilt-trip me about it, but I told her my mind was made up. But I woke up at 3:30 am and started IMing my sister Mary. She had driven 4 hours down from college for the weekend and really wanted to see me. I checked the flight loads for the morning flights, and they were quite positive. Taylor was on a high speed to Pittsburgh, and would be on another one to Dayton the next night. I dragged Rosie out of bed, packed up our overnight bags (couldn’t find the camera because of all the moving mess), and drove to the airport.

There were 55 open seats on the flight, and all 55 people on standby got on (the plane was totally full) Rosie was across the aisle from a nice girl a bit older than her, also the child of a pilot. They chatted through much of the flight, which helped the 4 hours go by. We arrived in SLC at 10:30, and my sister’s friend Melina picked us up. We made a few necessary stops (Sunflower Market, Seagull Book, Downeast Basics, etc), had lunch with Melina, Mary and her roommate Katie, and went down to my parents beautiful new home in Lehi.

My friends Esther and Emily both visited, and the three of us went up to South Towne Mall to do some shopping. I came back for my mom’s 51st birthday party. Dad made teriyaki chicken, I made my famous Better than Sex Cake, and all the family was together for a few hours, sans Taylor 🙁 Since I’d been up since 3 am EST, I was totally dead tired by 11 pm MST. Mary will be taking me to the airport at 6:30 am, and I’ll be back in ATL around 2:00 pm..as long as flight loads cooperate. Wish me luck!