Friday, April 18, 2014

9 Things I Learned While Flying Across the Pacific in 2014

While flying from Thailand to the US I jotted down some thoughts in a notebook. It turns out you can learn quite a lot in those exhausting 15  or so hours. Between all the sitting, waiting and more sitting, there are many things you can reflect on. Here are a few tidbits from my recent journey.   





(1) There are honest tuk-tuk drivers in Thailand

As a Westerner there are many benefits to living in a developing country like Thailand. One drawback though, is the tendency for some people to see you as a walking dollar sign and give you a farang (foreign) price for services. This is especially true with tuk-tuk drivers. Fortunately I got a great driver who was able to take me to the Chiang Mai Airport for this trip. He was helpful and ultimately charged me a fair price for the ride. It goes to show that there are honest people everywhere. 



(2) The connections between people are precious and sacred

At the beginning of the British Rom-Com 'Love Actually' there's a nice montage of people meeting loved ones at Heathrow airport. Hugh Grant provides a touching narration which goes:  


"Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport...It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it's not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it's always there - fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends... If you look for it, I've got a sneaky feeling you'll find that love actually is all around.” 


I had a similar sort of feeling after seeing a couple parting ways at the security checkpoint guarding International Departures. I haven't had the best record with relationships so I can be a bit of cynic when it comes to romance. Still, watching these two prolong their embraces and kisses  before leaving each other made me appreciate just how beautiful the relationships between people can be.


 (3) Loud elderly people are more obnoxious then crying babies

I've been on a lot of planes in my life. In my years of sitting in tight rows of seats for hours on end, I've been lucky to avoid sitting next to disruptive people. That wasn't the case when I boarded the flight from Thailand to Seoul. Three elderly Korean women sat behind me and for the first hour of the flight their loud banter made certain that my headphones were firmly lodged in my ears. They quieted down after the stewardesses talked to them...three times. For the rest of the flight the low hum of the planes engines was broken only a few times, mostly by crying babies. This didn't bother me nearly as much though. After all, an infant has no other way of letting the world know it needs something. They also can't be taught social graces. 



(4) An actor can make you smile instantly when they appear on screen

Long airplane rides are an excellent chance to catch up on the latest films you were too lazy or cheap to see in a theater. One of the films I saw on the Thailand-Seoul leg of my journey was 'Saving Mr Banks.' It featured some of my favorite actors. Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Paul Giamatti were wonderful in their roles as usual and as they appeared on screen I realized their mere presence was making me smile.



 (5) Airplane navigational technology is amazing

 As we landed in Seoul the weather was so foggy that I couldn't see the wings out of the cabin windows. When we touched down, it was completely unexpected because I couldn't see that we were approaching the ground. I imagine the pilots weren't able to distinguish anything beneath us anymore than I could. Nevertheless, we landed without a hitch. It's an amazing testament to human technology and skill.




(6) Rice soup is truly the best food for a long flight

On the Seoul-Chicago stretch of the trip my dinner choices were between Chicken Beef and Korean. Since I was flying Korean Air I decided it was only fitting to the pick the last option. I was glad I did. The rice soup they served me was everything airplane-food should be. It was simple, unadorned and filling. I feel I would gain more satisfaction out of the meals served by airlines if they served base meals like that instead of trying to dress up half-thawed microwave dishes as something special. 

 (7) Stephen King's 'On Writing' is amazing

I managed to finish the book between awkward minutes of sleep in my chair. It was one of the most helpful works I've read when it comes to writing. I was pleasantly surprised that I had reached so many of the same conclusions King had on pacing, grammar and character development. I also know I have a lot to improve on. 



(8) Caramelldansen is a decent song to have stuck in your head 

I listened to the song by the Swedish pop group before leaving my apartment in Chiang Mai for the airport. It popped into my head off and on throughout my journey. It's not the best song I could have had stuck but it lightened my mood when I needed it. 



(9) On Korean Air you actually wait for the fasten-seatbelt sign

Often when a plane I've traveling on touches down, passengers immediately get up and start getting their bags out, regardless of whether or not the fasten-seatbelt sign is on or off. Passengers in the Middle East and Thailand tend to that I think. Not so with the passengers on Korean Air. In my view, there's no point in getting up early. It's not like you'll be going anywhere immediately as it usually takes a few minutes for the plane to get to its gate.

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