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Going to Thailand: 21 hours on a plane (well, two planes)
The first thing I noticed about the 777 was that I could stand up straight in it. Woohoo! for big planes! The second thing I noticed was that I would have much preferred to be in Business Class or First Class. Yeah, well, so it goes.
I got to my seat and was happy to discover that nobody would be sitting next to me. Also, every seat had a little video screen embedded in the headrest of the seat in front of us. The surprising thing — to me, anyway — was that the quality of the video screen was so terrible. I mean, it wasn't unwatchable, but considering the iPhone I had in my hand, I have to wonder why airplane entertainment systems are so third rate. Even the map of the flight, which I became addicted to, looked more Atari-age than Google-age.
My assumption going into this trip was that we'd be flying across the U.S. I was looking forward to seeing the Rockies and the Grand Canyon from the air, as I've done many time before. But, to my surprise, the captain told us our trip would route us through Canada, the arctic circle, over Alaska and into Russia.
Russia? I hadn't expected to be thinking about the KoreanAir passenger jet that was shot down years ago, but there it was. I sure as hell hope we have airspace clearance.
Anyway, the view as we flew north was spectacular. (Um, no photos... sorry). The cracked ice sheets made it look like we were flying over Io. In Russia, the snow-covered hills and mountains of Siberia were stunningly beautiful. The outside air temperature at 30,000 feet was negative 71 degrees. I found myself thinking that a splashdown here would definitely NOT have the same happy outcome as the Miracle on the Hudson.
It was also around this time that I wondered just where we would go if we had to make an emergency landing. It wasn't just theoretical, either. Just before we approached the international date line, a woman behind me collapsed. Passengers and crew members rushed to her aid. The captain came out of the cockpit. The woman was having a diabetic seizure.
"Orange juice! We need orange juice!" one of the attendees called out. Apparently she got her medical training from watching The Godfather, Part III. But, armed with OJ and oxygen, they got the woman stabilized and back to her seat. Then they gave her lots of juice and pretzels. (Later, I would get so hungry that I thought about staging my own diabetic seizure in hopes of earning a few ounces of those precious pretzels.)
With that crisis averted, I took to looking over my fellow passengers. I noticed a blonde woman an aisle over reading Bill Bryson's "In a Sunburnt Country." It's one of the funniest books I've ever read, and the perfect accompanyment to a trip of this length. And yet, I couldn't help but notice that for the entire 14 hours, the woman never even cracked a smile. Clearly, she was brain damaged.
The Asian guy in front of my was watching the airline video as well as his own portable video player. I couldn't tell what either video was, but the multitasking was impressive.
As for me? I read Michael Wolff's unbearable "The Man Who Owns the News," listened to some episodes of Fresh Air and tried to get some sleep.
Speaking of Fresh Air, I thought of three things as I listened to various interviews:
Laurence Lessig says many blogs "aren't worth the electrons they use." I think he was specifically referring to this one.
I really don't understand why so many journalists refer to the Heritage Foundation without pointing out its conservative agenda. It's hardly a neutral source.
It pisses me off that health care is linked to employment. That is royally screwing us. Think of all the people who could be entrepenuers if there was government-back (and required) health insurance.
I wonder if Barack Obama has saved the Democratic Party from losing the black vote. It seems to me that Republicans could make big in roads with the black community through its socially conservative/religious views. Then again, it is a party that can't see why the confederate flag would be a problem.
Of course, this isn't about politics. It's about going to Thailand. It's just, over 21 hours of flying, the mind gets to wandering. Next up: landing in Bangkok.