My flight to Paris started off early. Too early. My iphone sleep monitoring app woke me up right on time at 4am, although I wasn't out of bed for at least another 10 minutes. My bleary red eyes were not pleased that I was leaving at 4:30. But when you have a 7am flight out of SFO, you do what you have to.
Thankfully my ride was there on time. It's a true friend who will give you a ride that early. Although it's one of the rare times he gets to drive 101 to SF with no traffic.
I was certain I'd forgotten something critical, but I had no choice except to leave and make do later. I had to go to the check-in counter because I was checking a bag. With my recent platinum status, my bag was on its way in less than 30 minutes - hopefully to Paris - and I was through security, with my hopes of an upgrade to business class crushed.
Now I was getting hungry, which meant sniffing around all of the overpriced, unsatisfying options for food. I settled on a breakfast sandwich and also picked up a muffuletta to have for lunch on the plane. The breakfast sandwich was pretty good - with thick slices of applewood bacon (I have no clue what that means, or how it magically emerged 5 years ago.) Then I got to the end of the sandwich where the eggs were cold. Ugh. I ate it anyway. Every last bite.
I spent the remaining hour calling people at work, trying to fix the one item I left unfinished yesterday. Then I headed onto the plane, with no last minute reprieve from coach. That was fine; I'd already spent money on meals that would be unnecessary if I got upgraded.
The awkwardness began before I even boarded. I was one of the last passengers to line up. It seemed like the agent was annoyed, although I'll assume he was just distracted. When I said good morning upon showing my boarding pass, the response I got was "yeah", like " yeah, whatever."
I looked forward to my aisle seat. I was flying a 757 with a 2-3-2 setup, so 4 aisle seats per row (44%). I sat down and said hello to the young blonde woman in the middle seat next to me. She quickly admitted her English wasn't very good - although it was - and we switched to her native language, French. Of course I refuse to excuse my currently terrible accent and pronunciation.
Onward to discomfort. The plane was stiflingly warm - did it just land from the Sahara? On went the overhead air vent. The seat was shockingly uncomfortable. I couldn't even get back relief using the blanket for lumbar support. (What is a lumbar? Was Dr. Lumbar the guy who discovered how to make seats that create backaches?) Soon the temperature plummeted to standard airplane arctic levels. Off went the overhead air vent. And we were off.
After beverage service they started a movie that was not the one listed in the airplane magazine. (Could I subscribe to the inflight magazine for home delivery? Then I could sit on my uncomfortable couch and read it with an extra belt on.) By this point the mademoiselle has her eye cover on and is in full REM sleep, including sudden head drops every two minutes which are violently overcorrected, without her showing any signs of waking herself up. Then the movie started. It was supposed to be some awful mother-son comedy - which I would have watched, and I just now realized would have been appropriate for this trip. Instead it was about retired musicians living in a nursing home and it was so boring I nearly fall asleep during the opening credits, violent head nods and all.
But wouldn't have lasted long, since there was soon a cacophony of sound effects to keep me alert. A woman 5 rows back was sneezing the loudest "Ah!-Choo!s" I've ever heard, not bothering to muffle any of them, even when there were five in a row. There were children who begin screaming, either because they were denied the parent's iPhone - which is the 5-year old version of crack cocaine and the only thing that will possibly make them happy for the rest of their lives, ever! Or they were hit by their sibling, or hit themselves, or hit their sibling, and required the world to know how unjust their life-shattering pain was. My padded headphones only slightly muffled these piecing sounds.
Next up, turbulence. Not severe, but strong enough to get my attention. It made me a little queasy since I was playing a game on my iPad. The real annoyances were the repeated stern reminders that when the seat belt sign is on everyone is supposed to be wearing theirs, which requires them to not be walking down the aisle headed to the restroom.
After I passed through emotional, physical, and auditory torture, it was time for the visual assault. With the movie over, programming switched to The Office, known for "grimace comedy". It's my most detested show. And it was on 7 screens in my field of view, ensuring no reprieve. To make it worse, it was a lice episode, with folks shaving their heads, or shampooing with mayonnaise (is that a real remedy?). There was even a bright yellow hazmat suit. And plenty of close ups of grimaces. (Not the Ronald McDonald character, who would only be a slightly better option.)
You know what? In spite of it all, I can't wait to do it all again.