Friday, March 11, 2005

Red Eye

We interrupt this travelogue to bring you an urgent message on the dire state of international travel on U.S. carriers.

Although my flight was officially on a United ticket, 3 of my 4 roundtrip legs were operated by Lufthansa. It was not until my final flight bringing me from Frankfurt to DC that I found myself on a United operated plane.

Let me set the scene.

As I board the United flight in Frankfurt, I am 15 hours into my total travel time of 24 hours. Said travel hours actually began at 1:30 am Almaty time, so I have actually, at this point, been up and about for 32 hours, and facing a nine hour flight to Washington. Attempts to sneak me into the business-class lounge during my six-hour layover in Frankfurt were fruitless, so I am left to wander the halls of the airport for that time, flopping from duty free shop to duty free shop. Buying gummi bears galore and big honking salamis until I try to catch a cat nap on some bench with all my belongings nested beneath me (a technique I've studied carefully from our street dwellers in MacPherson Square).

On to the plane, then, finally, only to discover that I'm strapped into a middle seat. Oh, the humanity. AND it's one of the old crap planes that doesn't give you your own television monitor in the back of the seat in front of you so you can select your movies according to your own taste. Oh, the injustice. Still, I settle in as comfortably as possible and count down the nanoseconds until I can get the flight attendant to bring me a beer so I can break out my Nyquil + Booze sleeping cocktail.

And then.

They announce that our economy-class customers may purchase alcoholic beverages for 4 EUR or $5 US.


I stopped a passing flight attendant. "Excuse me," I smiled sweetly. "I may have misheard but it sounded like they announced that beer and cocktails are not complimentary. But this is an international flight, so that's not right, right?"

"Oh, no, we now charge...." the rest was lost in the hum and storm of Western Civilization crashing to its very foundations. Subsequent research has revealed that as of January 5, 2005, all U.S. carriers now charge for alcoholic beverages on international flights for economy class. So, those Lufthansa coach seats my squeeze your kneecaps until they invert backwards and pop into your seat cushion, but at least they give you a mother effing glass of wine to ease the torture.

AND speaking of torture, the ignominy of my flight and the rancid taste of my 4EUR wine were compounded a thousand-fold by the screening of the Worst Movie Ever Made, aka, Ladder 49.

This movie has as its protagonist, gruffly and uninterestingly handsome hero firefighter Jack Morisson, who we know is Irish because a little whimsical pipe tune starts playing whenever he makes an appearance. We are introduced to young Jack when he is a naive and wide-eyed rookie who has joined the firefighting force out of a deep-seated desire to do good and save people. We follow Jack as he meets a nice young girl, falls in love, very quickly marries her as a good boy should, has darling little children that he devotes caring attention to, weighs the competing challenges of staying alive for his family versus his need to save people in a dangerous job and resolves the issue without much turmoil or fanfare, clowns around with the fellas at the station who are real jokesters, I tell ya, those guys. Jack hasn't any flaws or conflicts that go any deeper than how to make his wife and kids even prouder, and he is so boring that you want to impale yourself on a cocktail stirrer that you do not have because you do not have sufficient Euro for a cocktail.

Meanwhile, whatever city in which Jack lives and works must really investigate its building codes, because all buildings and structures seem to use rocket fuel as insulation and furniture upholstery. That at least, is the only explanation I can summon for how simple apartment fires turn into raging infernos complete with catastrophic explosions and massive, sudden structural failures that cause the fellow next to me to shout out loud, regularly, in the accent of my brethren of the South, "Holy Crap!" "Holy Crap!" (And when Jack faces certain doom, my seatmate intones, "Holy Crap! This movie's sad!")

I should mention that I am biased against these fire-porn pyrotechnics, because although I am a full-fledged pyromaniac, I don't really believe in the destructive power of flame. In college, my roommate and I were awoken in the middle of the night by her dog barking uncharacteristically at the front door. We looked outside to see that our next door neighbor's car, parked at the curb in front of his house, was on fire. Like, with flames and everything. We quickly dashed to try and move our cars out of the way, because as anyone who has seen a movie knows, we have about 15 seconds (just enough time for our Hero to start his dash for safety, but not so much time that he doesn't need to make a flying leap for cover) before the whole thing goes ka-blammo! So imagine our surprise when, after 10 minutes or so of watching the flames smolder, the fire departments limps by lackadaisically and sprays the thing out without any further fanfare. So. Cars don't explode. Buildings don't explode. Fire is bullshit. United Airlines is bullshit. Beer should be free.

Aren't you all so glad to have me back?


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