Melbourne 1

It has been a long time since I’ve done many things. The long-haul 747 flight over the pacific is one of them. The last time was back in late 2001 on the way back to New York from Japan after directing the Japanese version of MOBY DICK. So this last weekend I flew (with Barney) from New York to Melbourne (via: Los Angeles and Auckland). The design of the Boeing 747-400 has not changed significantly since the last time I was on one. Despite everything, I generally prefer the big jumbos to the smaller planes one flies domestically or over the Atlantic on. Leaving aside issues of carbon footprint, which is like saying “leaving aside the hungry piranhas in the bathtub I’m about to get into”: I like the size of these planes. Room to move around. Room for air to circulate. I recently heard (I think on NPR’s Science Friday) that there is a huge difference between the air purification and “scrubbing” systems on airplanes with two aisle and planes with only one aisle. Something about ozone build-up in single aisle planes. Apparently it contributes significantly to the fatigue one feels after long flights. So the 474 is better (leaving aside the ravenous fish in the tub). The culture that develops inside a plane like this, and my own emotional journey during the trip have always fascinated me. There is a certain rhythm to the trans-pacific flight, and although there are as many reasons to cross the pacific as there are people in the cabin, most of the reasons are not trivial in their lives, and none of these people can do anything about the fact that we’re in this fat tube for a double digit number of hours. So there’s this weird charge in the air. I’m someone who always (until recently) watched the movie(s) on long flights. Mostly because tt occupies time, and being rather close to omnivorous in my cinematic taste (or at least tolerance) I was often interested in the film. Back in the day, I would listen to the in-flight music as if my life depended on it. But all this has changed. The iPod and now the twin powers of the iPod and iPhone have put the control of what I watch and listen to, literally in the palm of my hand. This has totally changed my domestic flying. Loaded up with music, TV shows, and podcasts, the biggest problem is battery power. The iPod itself is fine in this regard, but the iPhone (which I use mostly for video podcasts) eats up it’s power faster than I would like on a long flight, and unlike the iPod actually has a job to do at the other end of the trip. With the prospect of re-entering the double digit number of hours world of the 747, I didn’t want to have to mess with this, so I bought a simple little devise that clips into the iPhone’s dock port and allows me to charge it with a couple of AA batteries.

So the NY to LA leg of the trip is on a double aisle (I’m not sure what model) plane other than a 747. I’m doing my iPod-iPhone shuffle. The movie on the flight is NO RESERVATIONS. (Quick dismissive review: A thoroughly formulaic vehicle for Catherine Zeta Jones, this romantic drama/comedy seems more like an essay question in a screenwriting 101 exam than an actual movie. Although there’s a fairly good performance by that young actress we all loved so well in LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, the movie is almost breathtakingly predictable. CZJ’s character is a hard-edged no nonsense chief at a top NYC eatery. She is then forced to take custody of her Niece while simultaneously having to deal with the handsome scoundrel of an Italian trained (she cooks French) sous-chief, who has suddenly been hired to work in her kitchen. I don’t think I was even mildly surprised by anything that happened in this movie. And it’s not that unpredictability is the central criteria of cinematic quality, but this film is so devoid of delight that a little unexpected something would have at least woken it up. Even the supposedly high pressure NYC kitchen seemed really laid back and slack to me. Don’t bother with this one. Nuff said.) In accordance with the ancient laws of flying behavior, as soon as the credits begin to roll, I’m out of my seat and in the bathroom. This is because by the time I come out, there’s a sizable line. People are watching the movie, and dumb as it is, they wait till it’s over to go to the bathroom. Meaning that a good number of people suddenly need to go to the bathroom at the same time. These are the ancient tidal patterns of a flight and you need to know them if you want to avoid various discomforts.

Now it’s changing though. On the Quantas 747 that we flew over the pacific, like on most long-haul aircraft these days, the entertainment system gives you a huge range of choices, and all of them under your control. Dozens of films, TV shows, games and what have you. This actually changes the whole equation for someone like me. Not only can I choose what I want to see and when, but if I get sleepy while watching something, I can just pause it and go to sleep. When I wake up, I continue it or watch something else. And since everyone is watching it asynchronously, there’s never a post movie bathroom rush. This simple level of control makes a HUGE difference. When Barney and I boarded, we were dismayed to find that we were in the middle two seats of the bank of four in the middle of the cabin. But although we both came close, neither of us lost our minds, and I think a lot of it has to do with the entertainment system.

Now there is another problem that is trickier. Barney and I have very different builds. I have a bigger body than his. It’s not just that I’m carrying more excess poundage than him. I have a bigger skeleton than he does. Now if walked into a clothing store, no one in their right mind would suggest that he and I should have to buy the same size cloths. It’s crazy. An even if we bought the same outfit and paid the same amount for it, we would not be expected to buy the same size. So why is it that we are given the same size airplane seat, and told to just deal with it. I don’t fit in economy class air-plane seats. There are a few that are close, but none that I actually fit in. My shoulders stick out past the sides and my head is well above the part of the seat-back that is supposed to support it. On this last fight the seats had those head-rest things that you can pull up and bend around your head, but I couldn’t get it high enough to actually support my head the way it was designed to. This sucks. It’s discrimination pure and simple. Show me how it isn’t. I’m not an unusually big person. I mean I’m big, but I see bigger people than me walking around all the time. It sucks. I know there are people with bigger problems in our society, I’m just saying this is one of mine. It sucks.

One more gripe: The hotel Barney and I are in here is fantastic. We have a gorgeous room on the 15th floor with a spectacular view of the Yarra river with the botanical gardens and the bay and the Victorian Arts Center etc. We’ve been sitting out on the balcony every night, watching the sun go down and the stars and city lights come out. However: Internet access is 11$ an hour! I mean that’s just crazy! There’s a 66$ for 5 days deal but when I looked into it, Barney and I would have to each get it because it’s a per computer deal. I’ll go more into this in a future post, but the point here being that this should have been posted 24 hours ago at the latest, but I’m having to hunt down public WiFi.

In the meantime… G’day Mate! (I can’t believe I just wrote that)

Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply