Fear of Flying

I’m sitting in my usual seat, 21F, on a flight from Chicago to Salt Lake City. We’re having training there this week so of course they had to mark this occasion with a heavy spring snowfall. I assume that since I’m in the air that I’m going to make it there, although I won’t count on making it back until I pull into the driveway at the farm.

I’m looking forward to the class. We should have 14 people if everyone is able to make it. This is the first class based on 1.3, so in addition to all of the normal OpenNMS stuff we’ll cover Alarms, Automations, the Dashboard, Page Sequence Monitor, Distributed Monitoring and other cool stuff in the development release.

So far the flight has been smooth. There is no one in the middle seat, so me and the guy on the aisle have spread our stuff out and we have a place to put our drinks. I don’t always have an easy time getting around via planes, but my biggest beef tends to be with my fellow travelers and not the airline, so I thought I’d rant about the three main things that bother me about air travel.

Roll Aboard Luggage Was Invented by Satan

You may ask why I hate roll aboard luggage so much. Yes, having little wheels on the bottom of your bag does make it easily to move around, but some people interpret this as they have to use the wheels all of the time.

Case in point – I’ve been on a flight for 3 or more hours and I’ve downed a number of Canada Dry Ginger Ales. Sitting in the window seat, I try not to visit the lavatory unless absolutely necessary, mainly to avoid disturbing the people next to me, and since the bathroom was the place nerds like me got beat up in school, I have great bladder control.

When we land, I often have an urgent need to get off the plane. Since I like the exit row, there tend to be a large number of people ahead of me all trying to get out of the plane as well.

Imagine my anger when the “executive” gets up out of his/her aisle seat, slowly puts on their suit jacket, then they have to take their oversized roll aboard out of the bin, place it in the aisle, extend the handle, strap on their oversized computer bag and then decide to attempt to move down the now quite empty aisle.

However, the bag doesn’t quite fit in the aisle, so he/she has to fight their way, again slowly, down the aisle, pausing to dislodge the strap of the computer bag as it invariably snags on a seat armrest or two.

I want to scream “Pick up the damn bag and move!” but I’m afraid such exertion would ruin the tenuous truce I’ve made with my bladder.

Please, please, carry it the 40 or so feet out of the plane, then stand to the side and assemble your roving sherpa surrogate. Better yet, carry it all the way out to the boarding area when you can choose an out of the way place to get organized. I’ll have shouldered my two bags, hit the restroom and be out of your life forever by the time you are done.

If it’s too heavy, remember the words of that Southwest attendant who said “If you need help getting you bag into the overhead bin, it is no longer carry on. Please bring it to the front and we’ll check it”.

Escalators and Moving Walkways are Not Rides

It has been a long time since I’ve been to an amusement park. It was probably ten or more years ago and probably involved a famous mouse, but I can’t recall exactly. In North Carolina we have access to a couple of nice parks: Carowinds on the North Carolina/South Carolina border and King’s Dominion in Virginia.

Even though it has been a long time, even the slowest attraction was better than a ride on an escalator or moving walkway. So I am at a loss why people can’t seem to get the hang of it. They are not rides, people. They are meant to move you from point A to point B, especially if point A is an MD Super 80 exit row and point B is the nearest men’s restroom.

People outside of the US seem to get this for the most part. It’s “stand right, walk left”, even in those countries where they drive on the left side of the road. You will quite literally get beaten if you stand on the left of a London Underground escalator at rush hour.

Why some people seem to totally lose it on these things is beyond me. They stop. They spread out. They park their fracking roll aboard luggage so that it is impossible for anyone to pass on any side. Of course my unreserved bile is held for those who take the large metal luggage carts onto the moving walkway … and then stop. How lazy can you be?

Aside: in case you were wondering, and I doubt you were, you should always walk like you drive. In other words, in the US if you meet someone walking the other way, you should pass on the right. In London, Singapore, Japan, Australia, etc., you should pass on the left.

I have spent an inordinate amount of time watching people in busy cities, and this is the conclusion I’ve come to after studying it over the last few years.

See, in the US we drive on the right side of the road. However, we walk on the left side of the road, so we can face traffic and possibly get out of the way if need be. I always wondered if you should, thus, pass on the left of the person you meet when walking. The only way really to test this was to go to a country where they drive on the other side of the road to see on which side they wanted to pass. Almost everyone seems to pass on the same side they drive. QED.

Your Tray Table is My Seat Back

I seriously try to be a nice guy while flying. It can be stressful, uncomfortable and in many other ways unpleasant so I don’t want to add to it.

Nothing is more unpleasant than to be trying to sleep and have someone shove a large plastic water bottle into the small of your back. It seems most travelers like to live in their own little world so they fail to notice that every time they grab the Sky Mall to check out the latest nose hair trimmer that the manner in which they grab said catalog says a lot about their grasp of etiquette.

The “cool” way is to gently grasp the top of the magazine with two or three fingers and slowly pull it out of the seat back pocket.

The “uncool” way is to roughly grasp the top of the pocket with one hand and pull it back as far as it will go while using the other hand to maul the damn thing out just in time to let go and send the spring loaded pocket slapping into my lumbar region.

Of course nothing can replace a young child for sheer seat back destructiveness. The average kid today is so overloaded with video games, iPods, and DVD players that how one can spend most of a transcontinental flight discovering the physics of a spring loaded seat back pocket and remained engaged is beyond me. In the rare cases that distraction does wear thin, there is always the tray table drum set to take its place.

That’s one reason I like the exit row – kids aren’t supposed to be able to sit within one row of it.

But I guess if the internet had been around 150 years ago, someone would be blogging about the three things that bothered them about covered wagons. At least flying gets me to interesting places where I can ramble on about how much I love OpenNMS.

Uh-uh – I hope my students don’t have blogs …