Sunday, February 17, 2008

Flying on American

Lately I've grown to have an affinity for train travel. Big seats, power for your laptop, and a comfortable ride. Not to mention, you can get up and walk around.

If I want to go from Chicago to San Francisco, though, flying is pretty much my only option. Unless I want to spend two or three days straight on a train. I'm sure it'd be more relaxing overall, but who's got the time? As a result, I'm currently on an American Airlines flight from Chicago's O'Hare airport on my way to San Francisco.

The airport experience was fine. Checked in online the night before, and utilized curb side check-in at the terminal. The curb side check-in booth I was in line at was staffed by one very, very, very slow guy with too many people to handle, so I started to itch, worrying about making my flight on time (or more specifically, about my bag making it on the flight). Another airport employee noticed me on the verge of jumping up and down and helpfully directed me to the next door down, where there was no line to check a bag. Worked out great, and it very nice of him to point that out to me.

Got through security uneventfully. I was kind of wondering if I'd get questioned – I have all the gadgets in the world with me. I've got an iPod, my Nokia N800, my Windows Mobile phone and two tiny laptops (an OQO Model 02 and an Asus Eee). I'm selling the OQO to one of my friends when we meet up out in California, so it was necessary to lug it along in my messenger bag.

Nobody seemed to care. We'll see if my luggage was searched – I'm sure it looked weird that I had somewhere around six power supplies packed in the luggage. (And a spare battery, which supposedly they're concerned about nowadays. I'm sure it was under the size limit, though. And I was careful to put it in an ersatz carrying case (also known as a #10 envelope), as supposedly loose batteries are verboten.

Waiting at the gate, I noticed a standby list of 25+ for our flight, which was full or nearly full already. Maybe American had cancelled some other earlier flight to San Francisco. I know the weather was iffy inbetween here and there. Indeed, we sat on the tarmac for perhaps 20 minutes, our departure delayed due to weather west of us. Eventually they got it figured out and we got on our way.

We're on a “Super 80” jet with five seats across. There are signs indicating that there are DC power plugs under the seat. I'll have to figure that out after my Eee DC power adapter arrives.

Nobody's tried to squish their seat back on to me, and I can't hear a screaming baby for miles. This is as near to bliss as I'm ever going to get on an airplane, I suspect.

Terminal 3 at O'Hare is newish and generally clean, but like all airports nowadays, is completely overrun with people and none of those people are happy to be there. This goes for the employees, too. Nobody I've ever bought a magazine or McChicken from has ever showed the slightest hint of a spark that suggests that they enjoy life. But can you blame them? Their life is dealing with people at the airport all day.

Flying used to be a situation where I'd sit back, have a couple of drinks, and try my best to nod off and not think about landing or takeoff. I guess lately I've gotten to more of a zen place where I can sit and just force myself to relax. Lately, I tend to bring a chocolate bar and a large bottle of water, and that alone for food and drink in the air. It seems to help keep me calm.

Also, did I mention the gadgets? Nothing beats toys to play with while cooped up on an airplane. I have a pair of fancy-ish Sony noise-cancelling earbuds, which bring a cone of silence down and around me with a push of a button. Hooked them up to the Nokia, then caught up with a couple episodes of one of my favorite TV shows. Now I've got Miles Davis on the iPod, while I sit here and type this in OpenOffice on my Asus Eee.

The Eee has really turned out to be a traveler's best friend. It's the only laptop I've ever had where I can actually manage typing just fine on a seat back tray table. I might not be the only person who thinks so – I can see at least one other passenger typing away on one a few rows ahead of me.

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