Sunday, November 20, 2011

Flying around, United in boredom

I made a mistake flying back to Hong Kong from San Francisco; not only did that mean flying for two hours in the wrong direction to start with, the flight from SFO to HKG is much more punishing than going from Seattle to Tokyo and then flying on. You're just not meant to be sat on a plane for 14 hours, especially when the only entertainment is watching a movie on a screen at the front of the cabin. No screens in the seatback? No individual in-flight entertainment? What are we, animals?

14 hours is longer than a laptop battery will last, long enough to work through most of the charge on my ipod, almost long enough for me to read everything on my Kindle.

There are other ways to distract yourself on the plane, like play "Is it a bird? Is it a bloke?" but it's only fun to poke fun at chinless wonders with mullets and formless clothing when you have somebody to play it with. Or I could listen to my stomach burble as it disagreed with dinner. Something I'd eaten really didn't agree with me, because I felt my guts pulsing and throbbing, as though Alien that I'd watched on the flight from Tokyo was a training video for what I was to endure.

Maybe it was the burger from Burger King that had done for me. In San Francisco, capital of the granola-and-catalytic-converter-loving state of California, you can get a pretty good tasting veggie burger, although because it's California, there's also a sign posted saying
Chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer ... may be present in foods or beverages sold or served here.
Perhaps it tastes better because you feel braver for risking your very health to chow down there. But it also seems a bit vague, or else cooking isn't being regulated properly.

Do they mean that Burger King have been cooking with benzene, or spraying the burgers with DDT to get that perfect flame grilled taste, or manufacturing milkshakes from nicotine and old X-ray machines? If somebody is mucking about in the kitchen with carcinogens, perhaps somebody should have a word about rewriting a few of the recipes.

Or if it's not that, aren't they just saying that everything is potentially fatal, and that we're all going to die? Which is probably accurate, but not very useful. As my brother points out, Proposition 65 says there's no acceptable level of any of the chemicals that it covers. But perhaps that's going too far; nobody wants to get irradiated, but that doesn't stop them eating bananas or having granite worktops. Saying that any amount of a chemical is unacceptable is very hard to implement, and can mean you waste time worrying about checking for things that pose a much lower threat to you than is really worthwhile.

A bit like implementing daft security measures at the airport to make people think they're safer, but it's not like that ever happens in the States. Oh...

Anyway, what would I know? I did pretty good growing up as a kid, sniffing leaded petrol and eating food cooked over a traditional open fire of burning polythene bags. Never did me any harm.

After a no-problem-at-all flight from Seattle to San Francisco, SFO-HKG was another grind, to get me reaccustomed to normality, I suppose. Everyone seemd to be packing at least two enormous pieces of luggage, despite the announcements on the gate that they'd couldn't bring it into the cabin, the plane was 100% full (but even when I was on and in my seat they were still offering upgrades to bigger seats if you paid 140 dollars - how? were they going to throw somebody off to make space?) and I had a fat bloke in the seat in front of me recline his seat as far as he could, which just added to the joy as the plane wobbled and bounced its way over the Pacific.

Today's flight to Singapore, where I got a row of seats to myself where I could content myself with trying to design a better laptop bag on the back of a ticket stub, and watch the clouds float by. It will feel strange tomorrow not being at an airport.


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