Travel Math

Saturday March 7, 1998 Back Next

For the first time in recent memory, I sleep soundly before the flight. But only for about 4 1/2 hours. I think I"m currently so sleep deprived I could nod off anywhere. The Airporter picks me up on schedule (also a first-- usually it's 10 minutes early) and I spend a queasy hour deciding whether it's better to doze because it's still before 6AM, or whether I should force myself awake because it's noon on the sceptered isle.

There is perilously little to do in an airport at 7 AM on a Saturday morning. I was warned of this twice in tact -- once by the airline worker who checked me in: "It's a long walk to your gate and there's nothing open there.", and once by security as they xray'd my carry on luggage: "There's no stores, no restaurants." Yeah, yeah. There are open stores and restaurants in the terminal, just not in the part where I'm going, but they're really not as interesting as you'd hope. Once you get pas the welcoming light and presence of other stunned travelers, they're still just room in which people want you to spend your money. I don't want to get thrown out of the tribe, so I play along and buy a Globe & Mail (that's a Canadian newspaper for you foreign readers.) I imagine I'll be able to finish it in about a week. Maybe longer.

Just took the first picture of the trip. #18 on the mystery roll of film in my camera. It's of the plane I'm about to board at gate 111. I've resolved to keep track of every snap I take, if only for ease of identification later,. I need a snazzy icon for the log book so I can find them later. Here's some renderings:

<Picture goes here> Your basic elevation. Could probably be drawn over and over without much evolution.
<Picture goes here> Your basic oblique. I could never draw this the same way twice. But more easily recognizable. And accurate.
<Picture goes here> A Polaroid of a trite ocean landscape. This has a certain charm, and the possibility of subbing in an approximate sketch of the picture taken. If I spent enough time on this concept, there'd be no need for the photo.
<Picture goes here> Your basic racist concept. I claim I'm able to get away with it because of my Japanese heritage. (You can tell it's Japanese because of the glasses.) I could say it's a self-portrait. But I'm not bald, and I don't know how to draw my buzz cut so that it doesn't look like mange.

From my seat in the departure lounge, I can see the flight crew in the plane's cockpit window. Why do they wear neckties? Does it instill a sense of professionalism in them? (I mean, does it generate a no-nonsense work atmosphere?) Who sees them apart from mildly bored passengers who hope to pass a few quiet moments by staring out the lounge window? Which appears unbreakable because of an embedded wire mesh. Again I wonder why.

So can you do arithmetic (yes, I'm really asking you). I can, often. But I'm emotionally unable to puzzle this one out: I'm leaving in 1/2 hour at 9 AM. I arrive at 9 PM. Despite the fact that the flight is only 6 hours, I feel like I've spent a whole day travelling. A day is 24 hours. So how is it that 6 hours balloons to 24? Is this the same stupid emotional math I use in restaurants to calculate my portion of a group bill? No wonder there's always $10 too much or too little. And it's not just me -- I often sup with one of the smartest people I've ever met and neither of us can explain how this works.

<Picture of the Boarding Pass>

Seven hours later... it's earlier in England than I had thought. Saw two films on the flight: "L.A. Confidential" and "Wings of the Dove". I cringed overhearing two stewardesses (sorry -- "flight crew") trying to come up with the title for this last one, and eventually giving up with "Something about a dove." Heathen swine. Sows. It's written up in the in-flight magazine. Don't they read it?

"L.A. Confidential" was much the same the second time 'round. Only louder on account of the enormous jet engine which was attached to the plane. It came and went with brunch (quiche and fruit). "Wings of the Dove" caught my eye more this time than last. I was trying to figure out how Iain Softley (the director) mad Helena Bonham Carter's character look so out of place. Two things: she never seemed to stand of straight. And she never seemed at easy, always looking here and there, seldom smiling. So "acting"is my point. The second was that se was always positioned to be shorter than the other characters in the shot, even while seated, and was often more dimly lit. I saw Carter on Letterman a couple of nights ago. She was very pale, and said of a scene between her and Linus Roache's character: "I was cross-eyed." I thought it a telling remark. I'm watching the scene. She's seen the scene was is watching herself.And is able to see the things I wouldn't think to look for.

Blah, blah, blah. Film geeks are only so interesting.

Skippy meets me at the airport and whisks me away to Camberly where we gab and give the Riven CD-ROMs I brought along a spin. Despite a 2 1/2 year absence, much is as I remember. The roads around Heathrow are incomprehensible and there are walls everywhere. By "everywhere", I mean in front of peoples' houses especially. We drove through scenic Staines. At the local movie house, you can see the usual North American fare: "Titanic", "Flubber", and a couple of others whose names elude me. There is no wall in front of the cinema, but I still find the titles out of place in a country where I expect everything to be unfamiliar. After a moment's reflection, I realize I felt the same way the last time I was in Québec.

Back a bit: while in the customs queue, I wondered how succinctly I could answer the hypothetical demand to prove that I am Canadian. Some responses:


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