Well let me qualify that… here are 10 reasons I am not like George Clooney from the movie ‘Up in the Air’.
1. While I am pretty good at not getting pinged by the metal detectors I always forget to hold onto my boarding pass. George does this great routine where he places all his various items; belt, slip on shoes etc. into the tray and then holds his boarding pass ready for the TSA inspector to view. I do the first bits but keep forgetting the boarding pass. On a recent trip to India I left it in my jacket, which was in a tray going through the scanner. I endured this silly dance where the security officer tried to extract it from the jacket while not leaving his post.
2. I invariably choose the wrong queue at customs (we never see Mr Clooney have to do this however as he is only traveling ‘domestic’ in the movie, so avoids the whole drama of customs clearance). On a recent trip to Canada I narrowly avoided getting in the line of passengers from the Philippines who, to a person, had not completed their entry cards. As each one presented their passport to the customs officer they were sent back to complete the blank card they were holding. At no point did any official have the common sense to make an announcement to the bewildered and long queue of weary non-English speaking passengers. I did overhear one customs officer berate a cabin attendant from the flight for not having told the passengers. But that’s as far as his initiative went.
3. I travel economy/ coach. George’s magnificent status has him sitting in the comfy end of the aircraft in a big leather chair being schmoozed by pretty cabin attendants. I tend to be down the back with the elderly, the back packers, the holidaymakers and the young parents who choose to circumnavigate the world with dribbling little people. I’m not complaining it’s just cheaper back there so I get to do more of it. And due to my status with the airline I frequently get a visit from a poor cabin attendant who has been sent to hunt me out and welcome me onboard. And the great thing about being down the back with “the People” (as Captain James Cook used to describe the enlisted men under his command) is that it makes it so much more enjoyable on those rare occasions that I get to sit in a comfy seat. I come from a background where a treat is something that you don’t get every day.
4. Unlike Mr C I don’t ever frequent hotel bars by myself. It’s just not a good idea. I suspect that it is a short step from drinking alone in hotel bars to sleeping on park benches in sleeping bags or wrapped in newspapers. I tend to head to the restaurant and polish off a couple of bottles of whisky with my burger. Oh and that reminds me… here is a tune wonderfully written and recorded by my talented cousin Ian Hudson that covers this theme well
5. Not frequenting the hotel bar means I also avoid the opportunity to pick up women by comparing loyalty cards and thus miss out on nights filled with acrobatic shagging (a fact I imagine my wife is fairly pleased with). I tend to spend my nights acrobatically navigating the hotel chain’s pillow selection (again I usually select the wrong one and wake with a sore neck) or navigating the 154 crappy TV channels trying to find an advert free show. This also usually fails and I tend to watch medical adverts and decide I have not got long to live as I have never tried preparation Z. Oh and I have yet to experience a hotel where the temperature is just right. It’s either swelteringly hot or freezing. And where it is the latter I will have probably omitted to pack my pyjamas (see point 8 below). I once slept in my suit, true story.
6. I don’t have a wallet full of loyalty cards. If I had a loyalty card for every hotel I ever stayed in my wallet would be the size of a brick. I would then either have one man-breast (if I placed said wallet in the suit jacket pocket or thrombosis of the right bum cheek if I placed it in my jeans pocket). Neither appeal. I’m also worried I’d look like Kenny Rogers on a train bound for Nashville… dealing the silly things out at reception while trying to locate the correct one. If the hotel has a record of me in their system then that is a good thing. As an aside I understand there is a very real medical phenomena around male back pain caused by sitting on a wallet in one’s jeans for too long. It causes a person to compensate some how (that’s a wee wallet pun).
7. I don’t rent cars that often. I tend to catch the complimentary shuttle from the airport to the hotel. I enjoy this part of my ritual; it saves me having to navigate and allows me to take in the view. It does have a downside however, sitting in some van with a bunch of strangers listening to them chat about their hellish experience of being delayed 20 minutes while coming from city x to city y. I usually want to scream at them that they have just been in the air! They have made a journey that their ancestors couldn’t imagine or would have spent days or weeks undertaking and they are moaning about 20 minutes. If they stopped and thought about all the people involved in their flight, the technology, the planning, the awesome miracle of flight… but I tend to just sit quietly and imagine think uncharitable thoughts.
8. As with GC I do pack very well. I am an evangelist for using packing ‘cells’. Smaller bags that allow one to sort various items within a suitcase. I am tidy by nature and so this makes sense. It allows me to compartmentalise the trip. I also have a morbid fear of my suitcase exploding on the carousel at the airport and having the contents displayed as though on an episode of Bruce Forsyth’s The Generation Game (sans Cuddly Toy). I have seen this occur on two occasions to others. Now having said I pack neatly, I differ from George in that I never seem to get the climate appropriate clothing right. I have travelled to Canada in the winter without a coat of any description and to a conference at a beach resort in Mauritius without any swimwear. This tends to become rather expensive therefore as I end up having to buy the clothes needed for the trip. Sometimes I think I’d be better off just packing my credit cards and travelling light.
9. I don’t collect air miles for the sake of them like George. Those I do earn I use to upgrade my seat or I use them to fly family or friends about the place. They’re there to be used. I don’t imagine I’ll ever have a head pilot wander back and sit with me (especially where I usually sit… I’m lucky to have a seat spare next to me anyhow) and I doubt they’ll ever name a plane after me. But hell, I love travel and just like Mr Clooney I enjoy the rhythm of air travel, the ritual of the check in, security and boarding procedure. I am comfortable with take offs and landings. I find some form of peace in sitting above the clouds. It’s where these words are being tapped out.
10. Oh and while this isn’t strictly to do with ‘Up in the Air’ George Clooney is a much better person than me. He is doing much more about Syria than I am or are the majority of useless politicians on the planet. He was arrested protesting the atrocities in that country when the best I’ve done is rant a couple of times on twitter (scary me). It sickens me that there is such global apathy toward the evil that is being wrought by Bashir al-Assad our planet’s despot of the month. I try to find solace in the hope that karma will be the hole in the ground from which Bashir is dragged pleading for his life, as did Saddam, Gaddafi, Ceauşescu, Mussolini and the myriad of egotistical murders before him.
Well it’s time to switch off any electronic devices, stow carry on luggage back in the overhead bin or under the seat in front of me, fold away my tray table and return my seat to the upright position. I’ll ensure the window shade is open and that my seat belt is securely fastened (not so tight as to prevent feeling in my legs but low across my hips)… travel on.