Archive for the 'Travel' Category

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Pre-fixing it

Whoooeee! So I just got back to Israel about 2 weeks ago, after spending one of the more bewildering weeks of recent memory hopping from place to place. I won’t bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that I had 6 separate flights (4 international, 2 domestic) within 9 days, and that at one point I spent 9 hours in JFK terminal, and then a 9-hour flight later, I spent another 12 hours traipsing around downtown Istanbul. (Yes, the one in Turkey.) I think I’ll present one of the highlights1 here:

America seems to love the prefix “pre,” especially when it’s totally unnecessary. Among the precious pieces of mail still being sent to my parents’ house was a letter saying I was “pre-approved” for some sort of cellphone giveaway. I’m sorry, but is “preapproved” somehow a stage before approval? Because it seems to me that it’s just their way of saying “approved” while making me feel special: “Look, Mother! I’m not just approved for this, I’m pre-approved, before all those other chumps. I simply must order this product and/or service post-haste!” “Pre” crops up in other places, like a movie being exclusively “pre-released” or (one of my favorites) how the drinking before a college party (not that I went to parties in college…) is called “pregaming,” the “game” being (you guessed it) more drinking. But none of this tops my recent brief stroll into bewilderment with JetBlue. I walked up to the woman at the gate, and asked if I could board the plane.

“We’re pre-boarding,” she replied

I figured that this might mean that only the disabled and children were boarding. I was clearly not disabled, and, since I now sport a full beard, I also can no longer pass for a toddler. But I gave it a shot anyway: “So, can I go on?”

“Well, we’re pre-boarding.”

Then I came right out and said it. “How is that different than the actual boarding?”

“No, sir. We’re not boarding yet. This is pre-boarding.”

I kind of looked at her funny, shrugged, and boarded the plane. The Israeli in me was shaking his head and laughing, while the American was simply confused. I got to my seat and sat down without incident. Conclusion: pre-boarding looks an awful lot like boarding. Maybe they teach the difference in flight-attendant school.

Bonus story: I got a letter from Cornell, my alma mater, saying (yes, really) “We miss you as a dues paying class member.” I’m reminded of Conan O’Brien’s description of college fund-raising in his Harvard Commencement speech:

Here’s how it works. Your phone rings, usually after a big meal when you’re tired and most vulnerable. A voice asks you for money. Knowing they just raised 2.5 billion dollars you ask, “What do you need it for?” Then there’s a long pause and the voice on the other end of the line says, “We don’t need it, we just want it.” It’s chilling.

Yeah, I’m sorry, Cornell, but I seem to recall paying you about $128,000 in tuition. I think that should tide you over for a while. I did tell you not to spend it all at once, right?

  1. Note that by “highlights” I don’t mean the things I actually enjoyed, but the things that I think the reader will find entertaining.

Tweed

A few weeks ago, I was in New Haven to take a flight to Philadelphia. Mind you, I didn’t want to be in either New Haven or Philadelphia, but airports tend to be the kind of place you are with no clue why you’re there and a strong desire to leave – like the dentist’s office, or Germany. You don’t like the place you’re going any more than the place you’re leaving, but you’re at the airport, so what the heck. You fly.
This was, without a doubt, the smallest airport I have ever been in. Unfortunately, it wasn’t comically small, or this would be a more entertaining blog post. In any case, in the airport was this sign:


(I know it would seem that I was drunk or not wearing my glasses, but neither is true.) In case you can’t read it, it says “ATTENTION ALL PASSENGERS: TWEED NEEDS YOUR SUPPORT!” Needless to say, this was a bit perplexing. Why would tweed need my support? It seems to be a well-supported fabric, what with the abundance of elderly and/or stuffy British men. And why not promote support of some of the more flamboyant fabrics? Where is the taffeta lobby? The chiffon promoters? (Yes, those are both great band names.) Furthermore, how does one support tweed? Is there a Tweed Workers’ Union or a Tweed Foundation?
This truly is one of man’s great mysteries.

(It turns out that the airport is named Tweed, and apparently needs handouts. But I still think that Tweed Foundation idea has merit.)

Get Up, Get Down

So I said I would tell the story from after I arrived at the airport to go home for Thanksgiving. I get to the airport plenty early, and jump through the various hoops security makes you jump through (“Please remove your jacket, sir. Please remove your shoes, sir…..No, sir – j-just your shoes! Sir, please put your pants back on.” “But they were chafing something fierce!”) and arrive at the gate with nothing to do for an hour and a half. So I take my suit and my carry-on bag and go to see if I can’t get caught up on my email and blog reading.

I take out my laptop and behold! There is free wireless internet access, and lo, it is good. Well, I start going through my reading, and soon my 1.5 hours become 3 hours, due to a delay. I realize that I should keep my laptop battery charged for the plane, and I look around and find an outlet. I close my laptop, put it in my bag, and take my bag and suit and go over to the seat with the outlet. Put down suit, put down bag, open bag, get plug, plug in, get laptop, open laptop. And then I think I hear my name over the loudspeaker. Ok, I unplug the plug, close the laptop, put it and the plug in my bag, pick up my bag, pick up my suit, and go and wait in line to talk to the person at the information desk.

In retrospect, I think I’m so obsessed with my own name that I just assumed it was me they were calling. I’d probably respond to any name with a reasonable number of vowels and consonants. For example, I could see this scene playing out:

LOUDSPEAKER: Marie Antoinette, Marie Antoinette, please come to the front desk. There’s an mob of angry French peasants waiting for you.
ME: Hi, my name’s Ilan, there’s a mob here for me?
AIRLINE PERSON: Um, yes…over there. Are you-
ANGRY PEASANT 1: Hey, I thought she was prettier!
ANGRY PEASANT 2: Hey, I thought she was a woman!
ANGRY PEASANT 3: Hey, I thought love was only true in fairy tales / Meant for someone else but not for me / Love was out to get me, that’s the way it seemed / Disappointment haunted all my dreams. / Then I saw her face, now I’m a believer / Not a trace of doubt in my mind….
[At this juncture, a wonderfully choreographed dance starts, complete with the peasants twirling their pitchforks and juggling their torches. At some point, the real Marie Antoinette shows up, and the control and grace the dancers exhibit when setting up the guillotine and executing her – without missing a beat, mind you – can be described as nothing short of “masterful.”]

Eh, where was I? Oh, right. So, as you see, my tendency to assume everyone’s talking to me can dangerous. Beheading-level dangerous, or worse – spontaneous-public-musicals-level dangerous. But nothing so dramatic happened. After waiting for fifteen minutes on line, holding my carry-on and my suit, I get to the front of the line, where I am promptly informed that I wasn’t called at all. Shoot, I could’ve spent that time I wasted in line watching a cat attacking an air conditioner on YouTube! (My money’s on the air conditioner.) So I go to sit down again and discover my outlet’s been taken. Oh, well. Suit down, bag down, laptop out, laptop open. And then I hear the announcement again. It sure does sound like my name, but they’re saying to go to the desk by the gate instead. Well, at least there’s no line there. I ask the woman sitting next to me if she heard what name they just called. She says no. (I will note at this juncture that I have no qualms speaking to total strangers. The reverse is not always true.) Close laptop, put in bag, pick up bag, pick up suit, go over to desk. As I’m walking there, I hear an announcement for a woman named Linda with the same last name as me. I pause and check my ID. No, I’m not Linda. It must’ve been her they’ve been calling. I go back to my seat, smiling sheepishly at the woman. “It wasn’t me,” I say, not wanting to seem like a crazy person. She just smiles in my general direction and goes back to her computer. Then (wouldn’t you know it) comes another announcement, and they most definitely just called me to the gate desk. Close laptop, put in bag, pick up bag, pick up suit, and march over to the desk.

“Did you call _________, party of one?”
“Yes are you [checking the list] Ilan?”
“Yes.”
“Oh, well, there’s a problem with your assigned seat.”
“There is?”
“Yes, it doesn’t exist.”
“It doesn’t…?”
“Yeah, there isn’t a row 23 on the plane.”
At this point, I consider going mad, perhaps gibberingly so. I decline.
“So….now what?”
“Oh, we’re assigning you to a different seat.”

And I get a new boarding pass, and go back to sit down. I was worried for a moment there that I would be forced to sit on someone’s lap for the whole flight. I mean, that could be ok, depending on the comfortableness of the lap in question, but non-lap seats are certainly preferable. Anyhow, I put down my suit, put down my bag, sit down, open my bag, take out my laptop, and soon, a plug becomes available, so I plug it in. Then, after a while, the boarding call finally comes. Plug. Laptop. Bag. Go! I stop, turn around and go back. I pick up my suit and go back towards the gate.

Sighing, I enter the line for boarding. This is going to be a long flight.

Keeping Me On My Toes

So…I’m in the airport right now, ready to fly to visit my family and friends back east. My flight should’ve left 20 minutes ago, but we have yet to board, due to a delay. So I figured I’d blog. It seems I’ve broken out of my 1.5-year-long posting slump lately. Let’s hope it lasts.

To get to the airport, I took a cab. I call up the taxi company, order a cab, and try to figure out why the receptionist keeps calling me “honey.” (It may have been a reference to how some of my friends in college called me Hunny, but that would be odd, since none of those friends work at the All-State Taxicab company.) So after a half day at work, I go home, gather and pack the last few things, and catch the cab waiting outside. The cabbie is nice and jovial and figures out without me telling him that I’m going to the airport. Nice.
We set off at a nice clip, and almost hit another car, but that’s ok, since my motto in driving is “a near miss is still a miss.” (This being my second driving motto, my first being “The brake is on the left, stupid.”) And then as we’re going along, the car hiccups, like we ran over something, or the engine is coming down with the black lung. I raise my eyebrows.
“What was that?” I ask.
“Oh, the air conditioning isn’t working.” He rolls down the windows. Hmmm. Kind of confused here.
“What was that?” I ask again.
“I don’t know.”
“You don’t…?”
“Yeah, I don’t know. I am surprised too.” This would’ve been an ok thing to say if he had said it in an adult-being-concerned voice. But no, he said it with a kind of wonderment, as if the car had just started dispensing free candy out of the broken air conditioning vents, and we were just reaping the benefits.

Note to self: Design candy-dispensing air conditioning system for cars. Make millions and get a tummy ache.

“Oh,” I say, unable to properly respond to this. Then he offers some new information.
“The check engine light is on….like always.”

Great. I am going to die.

UPDATE: I did not die after all.

I’ll tell you my in-the-airport story soon, but I think we may be boarding now.

Under My Skin

Excerpt from my journal:

I’m here on the plane to Israel, about to formally declare myself an Israeli, and it just hasn’t sunk in yet. Something makes me wonder whether it will in any reasonable amount of time, if ever. Perhaps I am going to wake up suddenly in the middle of the night, months from now, and say, “wow, I’m here in Israel. I’m an Israeli citizen living in Israel.” Or maybe I won’t come to the realization abruptly at all; maybe through a series of little pinpricks of experience it will slowly enter my mind or crawl under my skin, the way that cold air seeps through the cracks into old houses in the winter, or like a worn hammock will gradually sap your consciousness from you, until you find yourself dreaming with no clear idea how you got there, but perfectly content to live in the dream for as long as you are permitted.

Leaving On A Jet Plane

Days until departure: 1
No time for too much writing tonight. The time has come to stop counting the lasts (my last visit to NYC before aliyah, my last Shabbos before aliyah, my last time driving before aliyah…)

and time to work on firsts.

Driving to Distraction

You know what’s worse than a fatal automobile collision?
A fatal automobile collision with a clown car.
I can see the headline now:

TWO-CAR PILEUP LEAVES 53 DEAD; CIRCUS MOURNS

But the thing is, despite the tragedy, it’s kinda funny, ’cause, well, they’re clowns.

Driving

So I’m back here in Ithaca. Yay, Ithaca.
The process of getting back here was a bit more interesting than usual. You see, I drove all the way from Connecticut to Ithaca by myself, the longest trip I’ve driven by a longshot.
In any case, I learned a few important lessons, which I will soon impart to you, dear readers. But first, let me issue this cautionary message:

If you are now, or ever intend to be my father or mother, please do not read further. That’s right. Just click somewhere else. Or go find a shiny thing to play with. Everyone likes shiny things.

No, I’m serious. Please don’t go on. I beg of you.

When driving…

1. Do not attempt to keep pace with the car with whom you are merging. Neither waving at the other car nor looking guilty helps the situation. Not much, at least.
2. If you stray too far to the right, you’ll hear this noise, like “krrrrrggg.” That’s bad. Don’t do that.
3. Don’t ever mix up the two pedals, as they do opposite things. This goes doubly for when you’re on an onramp to a highway.
4. Note that the blind spot, unlike Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, or the Pope, is not imaginary. It is very, very real.