London Calling

by ahanagata

Why Hello There Heathrow!

Why Hello There Heathrow!

 

I’m flyin’ high over Tupelo, Mississippi with America’s hottest band… and we’re all about to die…wait, that was from a movie. I actually rode alone in relative safety along with 525 strangers. Safely, not necessarily comfortably; I stand at 6’2″ and airplanes aren’t necessarily known for excessive leg room. Ahhh Air-travel, showing us that ‘class society’ is alive and well. Standard boarding practice walks you through the premium social classes on your way down to the dungeon. With British Airways there are three classes, First class, ‘Club World’ and Economy. First class has ample room to lay flat (yep you read that correctly), privacy screens, nice headphones, a quilt, an actual pillow complete with embroidery and an air of superiority that can only be achieved by paying 23,000 plus dollars for a ticket. That’s right, those smug travelers paid Twenty-Three thousand and change just to be more comfortable than you, that’s the equivalent of a year’s salary for a minimum wage worker in the US. If that’s too steep for you, perhaps you’d like to try Club World where a ticket is yours for the bargain price of 7,000 bucks. It’s slightly less cramped than economy and everything including the food is of a higher quality right down to the basket of artisanal bread that comes out with your meal.

If you’re like me though, you’re walking right past those seats to economy or as I like to call it “Irish” (think RMS Titanic). Truth be told though, I don’t know that I’d pay the extra scratch for any of that even if I just won the powerball. It just seems like such a waste to me. In fact, if you are a first class or club world traveler; I have a challenge for you. Purchase the cheapshit ticket instead next time. That’s right, sit next to me and the rest of the Irish in relative discomfort for a little while. We’re not bad, you can make eye contact with us, hell you could even *gasp* make conversation. Who know’s maybe we will commiserate and become brothers in adversity. Why though? why would you do that when you could fly upfront like a shiny golden god? Do the math and give your savings to charity. The sort of paper it takes to sit at the front of the (air)bus could do a lot of good for people who need it. You’ll survive (probably), build character and you might even make a friend.

Once packed into my seat like a good little sardine I began to settle in. British Airways provides you with some amenities. This includes a small blanket, a toothbrush and a tiny tube of toothpaste, headphones, and a “pillow.” Just so happened I brought along my own air-survial kit which contained the following; a Therm-a-rest compressible pillow (which is far superior than the flat paper thing they call a pillow), Headphones (BA apparently purchases theirs from 1989), a journal (to remember the highlights for you savages), a comfortable hoodie (even in summer it can get cold inflight and the blanket they give you will not cover an adult), flashlight, snacks, a kindle, earplugs, and a Curad antiviral face mask (insurance against the chance of being seated next to a sick person). Incase you haven’t noticed, I nearly made the provided amenities obsolete as nearly everything they provide is garbage…with one exception…the toothbrush. It’s not technically advanced, it doesn’t vibrate or have gum massagers. I like what it doesn’t have, and that’s grams. It’s the lightest weight toothbrush I’ve been able to find, it’s basic but it’s not shit, it’s compact and great for backpacking. The toothpaste sadly is only enough for one use. My advice: Bring your own air-survival kit, throw their toothbrush in your carry-on, keep the blanket for your legs and kick the rest back to the flight attendant.

When the plane began to fill, as Murphy commands, I was seated next to an infant. Not near or next to, right friggin’ next to a screamy baby not yet old enough to comprehend reason or complex ideas such as not inducing insanity by wailing like an angry Banshee. To combat the sounds of infant sorrow I decided to see what the inflight entertainment was like. I fully expected all the choices of films to be shallow and filled with razzy contenders like Mickey Blue Eyes, Norbit or Battlefield Earth. To my sweet surprise the selection was plentiful and mostly filled with decent films. I popped on ‘Wolf of Wall St” and let the sounds of Leo snorting blow drown out the progeny of my co-travelers. At some point the stewardess brought the inflight meal, I had a choice of two mains and coffee or tea. I chose chicken tikka masala and rice for the main instead some kind of fish mistake they were offering and coffee, this came nestled next to a roll, butter and yellow cake. It wasn’t too shabby, kind of like a premium microwave dinner (which I’m guessing is exactly what it is). The yellow cake was actually pretty good and not at all radioactive. The coffee wasn’t all that great, it was reminiscent of American diner coffee pre-1990s. In other words, it was rather weak. Fellow Yanks might have also been puzzled by the lack of creamer, instead you get a small packet of UHT milk which stands for Ultra High Temperature processing; this is really cool because it can be left at room temperature in packets or tetra paks; the trade off is the process changes the flavor to something…else… I suppose like most things you can get accustomed to it.

After my film had finished I decided it was time to try and get some sleep in hopes this would prevent or at least lessen the oppressive jet lag that I had been warned. This is where the earplugs and therm-a-rest pillow from my air-survival kit come in. Sleeping on an airplane is all about selecting the least uncomfortable position you can and finding out how long your body can tolerate said position. What that means is, you’re never 100% in comfort. The seat reclines to a point just before comfortable happens and you might be able to get most of your body content, but this is always because you’re sacrificing another. For me, I feel blessed by the gods if I can get an hour and change of shut-eye before a body part beings screaming at me by throbbing, aching or going numb or all three. This could just be the case because I’m over six foot tall and planes are designed for those of shorter stature. It could be the one place where the napoleon complex relaxes in righteous superiority able to stretch out, relax and actually obtain REM; my ability to easily see and stow luggage in the overhead bins swiftly neutralized by the way they hamper me from standing upright like a properly evolved human. Let’s not even mention maneuvering in the restroom.

Aforementioned earplugs firmly wedged into my sound ports, pillow fluffed, I kicked off my shoes and began to navigate into the uneasy world of air-slumber. I tossed, turned, ached, individual body parts fell asleep only to wake up angry, and somewhere in that mess I got a little sleep here and there.

I woke up (or rather gave up on trying to sleep) when the flight attendants began wheeling by carts holding what appeared to be actual sandwiches. You know, the palatable kind that you get from your kitchen or favorite sandwich spot. After wiping the sleep from my eyes and dialing in new entertainment the attendant dropped a box on my tray and gave me again the choice of coffee or tea. I again, selected coffee and again it was no better than the first time around; but at least it was reminiscent of coffee. I opened the box and instead of finding that beautiful sandwich, I found one of those gas station jobs that’s in the little plastic container with the cellophane lid. Those fancy sandwiches went to the fancy people up front. The sandwich wasn’t bad, it was perfectly serviceable so I’m not complaining really it just wasn’t what was walked right past me moments ago.

After eating my goodies, I was about halfway through the latest Captain America when the Captain (the one flying, not the one on the screen fighting Hydra) announced that we needed to prepare to land. Within minutes, I could feel my excitement building as the plane lowered to the runway.

Without much fuss, we all shuffled off the plane and found our respective immigration lines based upon the origin of ones passport. The wait wasn’t too bad, but as I got closer to the front where all the Immigration and Security officers were bustling about something seemed off…it was the first sign of cultural difference. Not a one person as far as the eye could see had a firearm. It was an interesting subtlety. The immigration officer at the counter asked for my passport and asked what I was doing, how long I was staying and the like; before I knew it I was on my way.

I followed the signage to the luggage collection area, grabbed my bag and found the nearest place where I could re-configure my gear. I pulled my Baltoro out of the Airporter which also contained a box of US goodies for friends. I changed from shoes to boots, stuffed everything not the box into the Baltoro, strapped it to my back and I was ready for action. I walked toward the exit and laid eyes on a sign that forever would change my view of public transportation.

Forget everything you know about public transit.

Forget everything you know about public transit.

Alright Savages, I’m outta here!

Join me next time, when I’ll be navigating the Underground, the National and visiting the Bushcraft Store!

(part 1 of the Britain Diaries)

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