Travel is one of the five things I love doing most in life. This summer alone I logged in over 50,000 travel miles. But the way I see it, there is the “good and the bad of travel”. The good part is seeing all those wonderful places, different sceneries, different people, different cultures, the food, the aroma and the environment in those beautiful new places. And the bad part is the trip to the airport, the airport scene, the plane ride, ground transportation to the hotel and the hotel stay itself. To put it another way, travel would be more enjoyable for me if I can be tele-transported or beamed down to my destination then sleep in my own bed each night.
I hate the airport traffic, the long lines at the security gates, the cramped airline seats and toilets, the airline food if any, rude flight attendants, crying babies and 400 pound seat mates. For me, this is purgatory…sort of the hell I have to pass through to get to those heavenly places such as Interlaken, Dubrovnik, Amsterdam, Bristol, Prague, Istanbul, Sabah and other popular tourist destinations.
This year I have been fortunate enough to travel first or business class on trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific flights which made the “bad of travel” more tolerable. With all the miles under my belt, for me, the worst of “the bad of travel” is the plane ride. The take offs and landings terrify me. I call all on all the saints for intervention and silently pray several Our Fathers and Hail Marys during take offs and landings. The moment I get on the plane it seems a dark cloud follows me. There is always something. I often get a seat next to a woman with a crying baby or next to a 400 lb. lard ass. On the first leg of my trip to Brunei, I got a seat next to a Chinese man wearing a surgical mask who kept coughing and who kept monitoring his temperature. On the flight back, a grungy looking Japanese guy who must not have showered for 2 years sat next to me. Why can’t the airline god give me a break once and seat me next to Paris Hilton? Yes, I can never get a break. I can't even count the number of times when the flight attendant runs out of food just before she gets to my row, then skips my row entirely after replenishing. There have been many times when everybody’s TV monitor works except mine. There were times when I asked for beef and all they had was chicken but when I got up to the lavatory after the meal, I saw the flight attendants eating my beef dinner. Oh, I hate that!
Since I hate flying so much, I avail myself to everything the airline gives for free. Heck it’s all included in the fare anyway. I do not mean the airline blankets, pillows and ear phones which some passengers take home with them. What I really mean is that before the plane even gets off the ground I would have 3 glasses of champagne and two sets of hors d’ouvre. The moment the “fasten seat belt” sign is turned off I ask for a double gin and tonic, martini or scotch depending on my mood. Then a few glasses of wine with my meal followed by an Irish or Mexican coffee with my dessert. A short while later, a few shots of brandy nicely fall into place. If an airline such as Lufthansa, Qantas, Cathay and Singapore Airlines offers caviar or foie gras, God help them because I will keep asking for more until they run out of it or until the plane lands. I am shameless and guiltless when it comes to getting my fill. My rationale is that I’ve paid for it. Despite all the alcohol I find it hard to sleep more than 1 or 2 hours even on long trans-oceanic flights and even on relatively comfortable fully reclining sleeper seats.
I hate stop-overs for connecting flights. Oftentimes they require you to go through airport security again which can become very stressful if you have too short a connection time between flights. Amsterdam’s Schipol airport is a strange one because they make arriving passengers go through a security check before leaving the airport which does not seem to make sense. But I will tell you why I do not mind stop-overs in Narita, Nagoya and Osaka. It is not just because of the pretty, young Japanese girls in the airport shops who keep bowing, seemingly eager to take care of every man’s needs. It is because of the Japanese toilets. Unlike the airport toilets in America which generally are not so clean, quite stinky and open enough for your next stall neighbor to measure your stride, Japanese toilets are clean, almost odor free and privately enclosed down to the floor with the door tightly fitted to the jambs. No weirdo can sneak a peek while you are busy doing your business. In addition to the cleanliness and privacy, most of their “western type” toilets are equipped with a water spray, with optional perfume, perfectly aimed “at the spot” which is triggered at the push of a button. You can also increase or decrease the pressure of the spray. It makes going to the toilet a pleasant experience. I have been successful in timing it perfectly so as not to go for number 2 in those midget airline toilets. I hold it and run to the airport toilet, after which I am well and good and smiling again ready for my connecting flight.