Home > Uncategorized > Coming to America

Coming to America

December 15th, 2007

So here we go, yet another trip across the lake. As usual, there was the usual forgetting-of-random-items (the zoom mag lens for my S1-IS, and my glasses prescription) and last-minutes delays and rushes.

One included an insufferable UA phone “assistance” operator, whom I called to ask about wither or not I could carry on board a small (44ml) bottle of saline nasal spray to irrigate my nasal passages on the long, dry flight over. A few years ago, I had a cold, then flew, and then suffered from a massive nosebleed which lasted a few weeks and destroyed most of my vacation. Since then I’ve been paranoid of any bleeding or possible factors leading up to nosebleeds.

So I called the UA number, and got some guy who either was incompetent, or his English was far worse than it sounded like. I asked him, “The dry air on the airplane is very bad for my nose; I had a bad nose bleed a few years ago because of the dry airplane air. I have a small plastic bottle with water, a saline solution, to spray in my nose. Is that OK to bring on the airplane?” The operator then asked, “Is it an inhaler?” I said, “No, just a small plastic bottle with water, I squeeze it into my nose to keep it wet.” Then he put me on hold for five minutes. He came back and asked about inhalers again, so I explained again. On hold for another five minutes. He then said that since we were talking about inhalers… I corrected him; he put me on hold again. He came back, asking if my medicine had an electric motor. Quickly becoming frustrated, I corrected him yet again. Again, I was put on hold.

This continued until he had wasted half an hour of my time, and he eventually pronounced that I could bring it on the flight… only if I had a “medical certificate.” For a small plastic bottle of saline solution? I had asked him several times if there were a simple maximum limit, like 50 ml or 100 ml, but he completely ignored that question. I ended the call having no idea what I could or could not do, and had lost a half hour when I planned to use that time to do stuff, like leave some nice flowers and a note for Sachi, fill up the fridge with her favorite drink, clean up the house a bit, and so on. I was able to do it anyway, but had to rush a bit. There always seems to be someone in a “service” position ready to give you a hard time in one way or another. That call should have taken one minute (“You can take this or that but not that, up to x ml of this but not that.” “Thanks!”). As it turns out, I was allowed to take the bottle on board; the agent at the check-in counter recognized that immediately and told me so.

Apart from that, everything went smoothly. I guess after a few dozen international flights you get into the swing of things. Left on time with the apartment fully locked up and shut down, took a $6 taxi ride to the station, had ample time to wait for the Narita Express, smooth train ride, almost no line at the check-in counter, the E-Ticket system worked this time, smooth sailing all the way.

Here’s a question: when they let the passengers on a plane, why do they have passengers board from front to back? I know they don’t do that every time, but it’s been that way on almost every flight I’ve taken. Today’s patter was typical: First-class and Business passengers first, then people in the rows behind them, then the rows behind them, etc. Sometimes it’s rows 1-10, 11-20, 21-30, and so on. Okay, so I understand loading the higher-fare passengers first. But once you get to Economy, it seems stupid to load front to back: the people in the forward rows just clog up the aisles as they load their baggage and mill around their seats. It always creates traffic jams and slows things down. It would make much more sense to load the back rows first, and then move forward.

At least, on international flights, they treat you well. No chickenshit stuff like charging you for headphones or drinks. You get all you want to drink, for free, and headphones are in your seat when you board. You can tell the people new to trans-Pacific flights, asking how much for another beer.

One weakness I have: no matter what I try, I cannot sleep on a plane. I can close my eyes and partially doze, perhaps, but the passenger in the next seat moving his/her arm, someone banging my elbow as they walk down the aisle, or even slight patches of turbulence always wake me up. Frustrating, especially when I see so many other passengers dozing. I’ve got a protruding-arm neighbor on this flight, and half the ride so far has been turbulence, so no rest for me. Another gripe: I know it’s subjective, but I cannot remember the last flight I took, or any flight I ever took, where the person in front of me did not take the first opportunity to recline back fully and stay that way the whole flight. I see other passengers not doing that, but am never the lucky beneficiary. Although I have flown on sparsely-populated flights where no one was in front of me.

I must say, it is so much nicer to travel from the center of the city. In Inagi, I would have to order a taxi to come to my apartment–none drove by reliably enough to flag one down–take a longer ride to the station, then travel 30 minutes into Shinjuku, where I would have to walk my luggage up and down stairs and through narrow passages to get to the Narita Express platform. From Ikebukuro, it’s just a quick ride to the station and up a short flight of stairs and that’s it. Coming back will be even easier–the Limousine Bus from the airport direct to the Prince Hotel, which is a one-minute stroll from our front door. Cool.

Post-flight edit: Too bad the United flights have no WiFi yet. I don’t know when they will–I have noticed no additions to the airplanes I’ve flown in the past ten years–no backseat LCD screens, nothing. Actually, I’ve been home more than a day now. Gotten a lot of ordering done (the Canon Digital Rebel XTi with 70-300mm IS lens and the 28-105mm non-kit standard lens are on their way, along with some other items). Getting an early start, but still fighting jet lag. 6pm on my body clock, past bedtime here. G’nite.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: by
  1. December 16th, 2007 at 01:04 | #1

    Welcome back to the good ole U.S. of A.

    That muddle regarding the saline solution is a great commentary on today’s world.

  2. ykw
    December 16th, 2007 at 03:59 | #2

    I think if there is a small bottle of liquid in one’s pocket there is little chance they will detect it.

  3. Paul
    December 17th, 2007 at 19:00 | #3

    My gf is a flight attendant for UAL. She was bemoaning how far behind the times they are when I was telling her about the “DigEplayer” that Alaska Airlines offers up for its passengers.

    Granted, there’s a fee, but them providing a movie player is a lot more convenient than me toting one along. It’s a little portable device, all digital, looks like a small portable DVD player… except that it’s got like 3 or 5 movies, a dozen or more TV shows, and some specials that are pre-loaded onto it.

    It’s got a ten hour battery, comes in its own case, and sits nicely on the meal tray.

    Anyway, the vast majority of airlines DO load from the back to the front when it comes to coach/economy. They’ll let the First Class and Business Class cabins on first, but when it comes to the coach section they do it from the last row on forward.

    In Europe, RyanAir is like Southwest- first come, first served. No assigned seats. But they do have an interesting twist; they load from both the front AND the back of the cabin. They use two sets of stairs and the passengers split into two streams, one going up the stairs to the front left door of the plane (the traditional load door) and one going to the back left door of the plane.

    Myself, I greatly look forward to being able to fly in Business or First class on some upcoming trips, including one to Germany. It’s good to date someone in the business. 😉

Comments are closed.