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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Flying Across


I began writing this post 7 hours into my 12 hour flight from Frankfurt, Germany to Los Angeles, California. I started this morning with a 10.15 flight from Stockholm after being stuck in traffic and arriving to the airport a little too close for my comfort level. Everything worked out fine but it's not a good feeling to be sitting on the airport bus and not moving. That's when you wish you would've just paid the extra money and gotten on the fast train to the airport!
Half on a dare from my book club, half out of my own curiosity, I did a little experiment while taking this long flight this time around. The reason we are going to the US right now is because we were invited to do a wedding by a couple who met in our church! She is American, he Malawian and they are getting married in Fort Wayne, Indiana on 22 June and will then live in the US. So, of course, once you make the trans Atlantic hop, it's silly to not make a vacation out of it. So, because we are doing this wedding and because they want us to wear our high church attire, I decided to travel while wearing my priest collar to see if it made a difference in the way I was treated. (That's code for, will they give me a free upgrade!?). Let me assure you that it made no difference whatsoever in getting a better seat. But I did get many different looks from people. Some would see me and look away, others smiled, while most just went about their business. I felt a little odd at points, exposing my profession in this way. All in all, it was an interesting experience but clearly, clergy get no privilege whilst flying.
Upon check-in, I was disappointed to learn that no, there was no upgrade possibility, even through using points, and no, there were no seats with an empty next to them. (Always an essential question when checking in for a long haul flight.) Instead, they said it was packed to the gills (well, not really.  A German would not use that expression, but they did say there were no empty seats) and thus I was dismayed to see that the Lufthansa plane we were on was an oldie. No inflight entertainment center at your seat but rather still using overhead monitors for the day's entertainment. And a seat configuration that is killer any way you slice it. 3 4 3. I am on the side, in a 3, next to the window with two men occupying the middle and aisle seats. It is not an easy task for me to get up so I'm just kind of hunkered down in my little seat. Oh, and I'm also in the back row of our section which is actually OK because no one is kicking me from behind or pulling on the seat as they get up. The Italian man sitting next to me is taking up a bit too much space.  I have to gently nudge his leg now and again to remind him that I am sitting next to him in a cramped space!  He had pretty bad breath too, which I learned when he fell fast sleep with his mouth open thus breathing out hot, stinky air with every breath.  Oh well, such is the bizarre intimacy you share with total strangers on a plane!
But a hysterical thing happened mid-flight that I've never seen before. Of course, on a 12 hour flight it is good to keep moving and do some exercises of your arms and legs, even in your seat. I try to move a bit, but with the two big guys blocking my way to the aisle, I'm know I'm going to be incredibly stiff later. But I digress. Out of no where, an older gentlemen gets up out of his seat and starts doing arm lifts! He just stood there getting some exercise and I thought, well, good for him. He knows how to handle the long haul. But then I started seeing arms shooting up all over the place! People all around him caught onto the fun and started doing arm lifts from the comfort of their own seat. No one else stood but it was quite a sight seeing all these hands and arms popping up and down around me!  Always good to have a little unexpected inflight entertainment!
I'm finishing this blog post the next morning at 5:32 a.m. pacific time.  I've been awake since 3.45 after getting some much needed rest.  The rest of the journey was fairly uneventful.  I got on earlier flight out of LAX to Palm Springs which was delightful.  I ate some tacos, enjoyed seeing my parents, watched the Angels win in the bottom of the 9th with a walk off homer, and sat in the jacuzzi before I collapsed into bed.  I'll be jet-lagged for awhile but that's OK...I can always take a nap.  I'm on vacation!  I did Skype with Doug so that was an added bonus of being awake at 4.00 a.m.  It was only 1.00 p.m. in Stockholm and he was home on his lunch break!