Tag Archives: air travel

Lame Adventure 381: The Dog On the Plane

I have recently returned from visiting my family in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The Golden Gate Bridge photographed by the back seat photographer.

The Golden Gate Bridge photographed by The Back Seat Photographer.

Excluding the nine hours of my life I burned getting there and the twelve it took to return to New York, were it not for the hassle of traveling, it was a welcome getaway. Whatever anxiety I suffered on the plane immediately dissipated when I was reacquainted with one of my favorite relatives, Thurber, the family dog.

The Back Seat Photographer's assistant.

The Back Seat Photographer’s assistant.

Because I only see Thurber twice a year, it heartens me that he remembers me. My sister, Dovima, thinks this is due to his natural canine instinct i.e., he knows that I am a dog-lover, a friend who’ll play with him and someone he can reliably count on to scratch that itch behind his ears. Splashing myself liberally with steak sauce might also encourage these feelings of mutual affection.

Thurber catching a few pre-walk z's.

Thurber catching a few pre-walk z’s.

When I was sitting in the lounge at JFK airport waiting to board my JetBlue flight west, I noticed that there was a fluffy mop of a pooch lying peacefully in the seat to my right. Her name was Ginger. She was so tranquil. I was impressed. I smiled at Ginger’s owner. I wanted to say something complimentary, something flattering, something that would make this woman beam with pride about having such a well-behaved pup. But I was a bit crispy fried from working at The Grind before racing to the airport. The best that mush-minded me could offer was:

Me: Your dog’s so relaxed. Is she sedated?

In response her owner was silent. She smiled shyly at me. I felt like a jerk.

When it came time to board, Ginger obediently entered her pet carrier. Once inside the aircraft, I was stuck in the middle seat between two women. The rotund woman radiating heat sitting on the aisle seat next to me noticed that it was not a full flight. The row ahead of us was empty. She asked a flight attendant for permission to move. It was granted. I was so elated with her taking charge, I considered proposing, but I decided it might be best that I take a vow of silence across the country. I wish I could say the same for the three-year-old of indeterminate gender sitting two rows ahead of me. This moppet shouted in an outdoor voice for the entirety of the flight — with fatherly encouragement. How I would have loved to wield a burlap bag full of mashed stone at him.

From the vantage point of my aisle seat, I saw that Ginger’s owner was sitting across from me but one row ahead. When we were airborne, I noticed that Ginger was once again out of her carrier. Her owner was cuddling her.

Cuddle-time with Ginger.

Cuddle-time with Ginger.

The air conditioning was at Arctic-level so the cabin felt like a flying freezer. Snuggling a warm beast in a frozen tube at 35,000 feet must have felt comforting. I would have loved to stuff Ginger’s forepaws in my ears to silence that squealing kid.

A flight attendant with a figure reminiscent of a prison matron cross-bred with a brick wall motored down the aisle. Her peripheral vision saw something suspect. She instantly slammed her brakes, backed up, hovered over Ginger’s owner and read her the riot act.

JetBlue’s JetPaws rules and regulations insist that pets must remain in their carriers at all times. This includes during the flight as well as at the gate. This second rule I have seen violated on numerous occasions without incident. But seeing someone cuddling a pet on a plane was new to me.

Ginger’s owner did not object to the loud dictate. In fact, she didn’t speak. She obeyed. I wanted to break my vow of silence and pipe up at Turbulence In Orthopedic Shoes:

Me (piping): Hey! What about telling Dad to make his brat shut the hell up?

Apparently JetBlue’s rules for demanding silence from a three-year-old shouting six hours straight in confined quarters requires that the kid simultaneously bust out a window, ignite a fire and demand more Terra Blue chips. Therefore, Turbulence In Orthopedic Shoes was steering clear of that infinitely more combustible situation.

For the remainder of the flight, every so often Ginger’s owner would pick up the pet carrier and embrace it. Sometimes she’d zip it open and slip her hand inside to pet her furry friend. All the while, that kid loudly bleated and Dad gushed praise at his progeny. Outside of three soft yaps emitted upon landing, Ginger was silent as the dead. I swallowed a fistful of Excedrin and wished that JetBlue had a toddler-sized carrier that could be stuffed under the seat.

"Okay, let's take a walk!"

“Okay, let’s take a walk!”

Lame Adventure 140: To Read or Not to Read?

Most of the time the answer to that question is not to read unless it’s The New Yorker, The New York Times, or New York Magazine but when I’m in the mood for horror, I chuck my all-things New York fixation and scan the sodium content on a food label.  The one time I do read an actual book is when I’m on a plane, especially when the flight is of significant duration.   Soon, I will be embarking on my annual holiday visit to my family on the West Coast, the perfect time to devour a novel.

Before I can board the plane I have to endure my first TSA pat-down; something I dread.  Greg, my sidekick, will be departing Gotham City for St. Louis this evening.  He has a very laissez-faire “go ahead, tug it” attitude.  What is my right-hand man thinking, that he’s going to be dry-humped by a lingerie model?  Men are patted down by men, and women by women.  I highly doubt that my super straight buddy is going to get a charge when he finds himself molested by the second coming of Grandpa Munster.

"Let me give you a hand with that, Greg."

As for me, a woman whose pendulum swings in the direction of her own kind, I welcome being groped by a member of my own tribe.  I’m a veteran in both the giving and getting in this area, but usually under ideal lighting conditions, with music and so much alcohol soaking my brain, even Rin Tin Tin’s mother, who I dated briefly in high school, resembles Gisele Bundchen.  Tomorrow, I envision being brutally felt up by Kirstie Alley’s look-alike spewing garlic breath as she’s suffering raging PMS.  If after surviving that trauma, my flight is subject to the insult of a terrorist attack, my final thoughts following a negotiation with the God I’ve resisted believing in my entire adult life (“please don’t sentence me to roasting on a crowded New York City subway platform in July for eternity”), will be, “The last woman that laid a hand on me was the direct descendant of a rhinoceros and now I’m gonna die.  This sucks.”

Assuming that I survive both the pat-down and my flight, there remains the question of what to read?  Recently, when I returned home from work, someone in my brownstone left a book atop a pillar on the staircase landing.  I wondered, “Hm, finders, keepers?”

The reading material of a Mensa reject.

Quickly, I realized that this tenant mistook the landing for the trashcan.  I brought the book to my building’s vestibule where it rotted for a few days until it disappeared into another tenant’s apartment or was reduced to mulch.

Rotting away.

In recent years, I have been making an effort to read the novel that has won the Pulitzer.  My avid-reader boss, Elsbeth, introduced me to this habit when she loaned me her copy of Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides.  My Lord and Master said:

Elsbeth:  This is an odd, very intelligent story; you’ll like it.

She was right.  Another year she gave me Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lihari, but then I committed the faux pas of requesting the graphic novel, Persepolis.  My boss gasped, “You want that cartoon book?”  The next year I was gifted with a sweater.

For some time I have wanted to read Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, but it’s 656 pages long and I prefer to travel light, so I have decided to go with 2010’s prize-winning slender tome, Tinkers, the first novel by Paul Harding.

Over beverages in B Bar on the Bowery, I told Milton that I was going to read Tinkers on my flight.

Milton:  That’s such a beautifully written book!  I couldn’t get past page three.

I stared at my dearest friend in astonishment.

Milton:  The story’s too emotional.  It made me too sad.  It made me think of my mother.

Me:  You have that book!  I bought it off Amazon and paid $3.99 shipping!

Milton sips his Margarita in screaming silence, delivering his droll “you should have asked” look in my direction.  The next time I fly West, I’ll ask him if he has Kavalier & Clay in his library.

A pile of plane reading.