I was wandering around ebay the other day and found a piece of TWA fuselage for sale for the low-low price of $48,500 (including two seats!), and it reminded me of a post I’d written a while back about recreating the flying experience in the comfort of your own home. It’s titled Flying First Class minus That Pesky Flying Thing.
And that reminded me that a lot of people may be feeling earthbound, what with all the current flying restrictions. If that describes you, here’s a collection of some old posts that I hope can help you scratch your itch for flight. (And don’t worry, I’m not buying the chunk of plane I mentioned above. As of this writing it’s still there and it’s all yours.)
Here are two posts with clever safety videos I collected a few years ago. In the first post, you’ll see that the link to the clip featuring Deltalina is broken. To make up for that, I’ve included two more, more recent, Delta safety videos below. The first has an 80s theme, and the second is styled after video games. In both, if you watch closely, you’ll see Deltalina make an appearance. Watch for her signature finger wag.
Find the gate
Don’t be late
Squeeze in tight
Stow your bag
Coke or tea?
Watch a show
Stand in queues
There’s something about flying that inspires me creatively. Maybe it’s the altitude. Maybe it’s the soda and snacks. Maybe it’s theinflight magazines and pretending that I belong to their target audience.
Whatever the cause, ideas come to me when I’m up in the air. What kinds of ideas, you ask? Well, they’re great ideas, amazing ideas, Shark-Tank-winner-million-dollar ideas. Understand that I have no plans to bring these to fruition—no, I’m just an ideas guy—but I do want to be on the record for creating these when someone else puts them in production. . . and changes the world of travel as we know it. And if you find out that someone has already come up with anything like these, I simply don’t want to hear it (fingers in ears, LA LA LA LA).
So without further ado, here they are, the fruit of a recent flight:
Out o’ My Way Beeper: A small speaker system that you wear on your belt that emits the high, sharp beep used by airport carts. Use one of these and everyone will clear the way for you as you hurry to your gate. By the time they realize they’ve been had, you’ll be long gone. I saw a man driving a malfunctioning, silent cart through an airport once. He called out “Beep, beep, beep,” as he drove. He could have used one of these.
Mag Pillow: Maybe you have a neck pillow that takes up too much room in, or hanging onto, your carryon. Maybe your pillow fills with air, but you have to blow it up for each flight. If either of these is true, you need the Mag Pillow. It’s a hollow, zippered pillowcase that you fill with the wadded-up pages of your inflight magazine. I know: brilliant.
EarThing I: A fake Bluetooth earpiece that screams “I’M SUCH A BIG DEAL!” as you yell such things as “WHEN IT GETS TO 2 MILLION I WANT YOU TO SELL!” or “I DON’T CARE HOW LONG YOU’VE BEEN CEO! CLEAR OUT YOUR OFFICE NOW!” You’ll get the respect you deserve without having to pony up for a real Bluetooth system. And, yes, those sideways glances you’re getting are looks of envy.
EarThing II: This one’s an earpiece connected to a coiled cord that leads into your collar . . . and goes nowhere. You’ll get all sorts of attention: “Are you a pilot? Are you a sky marshal? Are you important?” A slight shrug of your shoulders and a finger to your lips is your answer.
The One-and-Only Luggage Ribbon: Have you put a red ribbon on your luggage to make it stand out only to find that five other people on your flight had the same idea? Get a One-and-Only Luggage Ribbon and that will never happen again. Your luggage tag will be 100% unique. Billions to choose from! No one will every have your color and pattern because no two One-and-Onlies are the same. Guaranteed! In fact, if you find two that are identical, you’ll get a free, um, Mag Pillow.
I Heart Kiosk: This is not only a product but a place for selling it, too. You can set up this shop in any airport, but it works best in the small, regional, last-stop variety. Ever arrived home and realized you forgot to pick up a souvenir for that special someone in your life? Don’t worry—Look, there’s an I Heart Kiosk over there. It’s stocked with taffy, peanut brittle, pork rub, golf balls, teddy bears, and the kinds of et-ceteras that you can find in any locale. But the secret sauce is in the stickers that come with them, stickers printed with “I ♥ [name of a city of your choice].” And you don’t even have to visit a city to show your loved ones that you thought of them while you weren’t there.
Here’s one more installment of travel “isms”—created words and terms to help travelers talk the talk . . this time while they fly the flight. And if you’d like to get caught up on my past entries, check out Expatisms, Airportisms, and Pre-Tripisms.
passenger of imminent domain
This is the person directly in front of you on a plane who, upon sitting down, immediately pushes his seat back as far as it will possibly go. Intuiting that something must be hindering it, he tries to force it back farther, again and again. There. Must. Be. Something. Keeping. The. Seat. From. Reclining completely flat (possibly your knees). Finally, leaving the seat fully back, he leans forward to watch a movie.
chipillow The bag of snacks that you bring from home that bloats up once you reach higher altitudes. With care, it can be used to rest your head on, due to the fact that it’s in the same food group as the neck croissant.
The rows in the far back of the plane where you no longer get a choice between the brazed beef medallions over a wild-rice pilaf and the broiled fish and mashed potatoes. You get the fish.
This is the act of hovering next to the food cart as it’s making its way down the aisle. Timing a trip to the bathroom with the distribution of meals is truly an art form, and it is best done passive-aggressively (such as by wearing a smile while dancing from one foot to the other).
silent gotcha port
The “SGP” is the small screw hole on the seat armrest that looks as if it must be the place where you plug in your earphones.
Queen Ramona’s veil The dark mesh curtain that separates business class from coach. Its main purpose is to protect those in the front of the plane from projectiles thrown by the riotous mob behind, who are known to catapult dinner rolls at each other using slingshots fashioned from their airline-provided sleep masks and who sometimes divide into teams for prolonged games of ultimate Frisbee. In small planes, the curtain, only a few inches across and resting next to the cabin wall, is known as Queen Romana’s Veilette. Its purpose is purely psycho-social.
The term “Queen Ramona’s Veil” comes from the name commonly used for the wood-and-iron gate employed by the overly paranoid and little-known British Queen Ramona II to separate her highness from the filthy hordes sometimes present in the steerage portion of her royal sailing ship. Mention of the barrier is made in the English dirge “The Death of Queen Ramona at the Hands of the Filthy Hordes.”
Flight Attendant Sign Language. Includes such specialized hand maneuvers as indicating the exits by extending the arms to the side, palms forward, pointing with two fingers, Boy Scout style, and mimicking the pulling of life-vest inflation cords using the crook of the thumb and first finger with the other fingers fanned out, subliminally showing that everything will be “OK.”
(pronounced see-uh-tehm-ic) Your connecting flight is delayed and you have no time to spare so when it lands you run as fast as you can (and by “as fast as you can” I mean a combination of running, jogging, speed walking, walking, stopping, and wheezing) across the airport and arrive at your gate just as they’re closing the door and you speed down the gangway and board the plane and force your carryon into something close to an available slot and find your seat and quickly strap in so the plane can take off. . . . Now all you can do is sit still, sweating, with your heart racing and your veins coursing with adrenaline. Your body is in a fight-or-flight response but something tells you this is a different kind of flight. If you are suffering from these symptoms, you are seatemic.
Movies that are not allowed to be shown in-flight. The list includes Red Eye, Airborne, Non-Stop, Flightplan, Snakes on a Plane, Quarantine 2: Terminal, and Plane of the Living Dead. And, yeah, some of these shouldn’t be shown on the ground, either.
The sound of seatbelt buckles popping open the instant the plane stops at the gate and passengers hear the OK-now-you-can-get-up tone. This allows those in window seats to immediately grab their carryons, put them where they were just sitting, and wait, hunching under the overhead bins.
When Arnold Neuhaus was a small lad growing up in Amsterdam, he entered a contest sponsored by KLM, and won. The prize was a flight over Amsterdam, but he wasn’t able to collect because of his sister’s illness. Eighty three years later, with the help of his seven-year-old great-grandson, KLM delivered with a surprise for “Grandpa Nol’s” ninetieth birthday.
How’s that for a caring company?
Each year, AirHelp rates airlines by looking at their on-time performance, quality of service, and claim processing. I’m going to call that a “care” index (work with me here). Back in 2016, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines came in second. Since then, though, they’ve seen a bit of a dip in their ranking. Last year they came in at 11, and this year, it’s 11 again.
But KLM cares about caring, and maybe they’ll soon regain their number-2 spot. (Good look trying to be number 1. Qatar Airways seems to have a lock on that.) Take, for instance, their special-assistance program. It’s called KLM CARES.
And this summer, they’re introducing Care-E, a luggage-carrying robot that can scan your boarding pass and take you where you need to be, even if the gate changes. KLM tells CNN Travel that Care-E is currently in testing, with plans to debut it in New York’s JFK airport and San Francisco International later this year.
Care-E looks like another step toward airport robot domination, and it’s an upgrade of KLM’s Spencer, who, alas, couldn’t carry your bags.
Last year, the airline introduced the KLM Care Tag, a smart luggage tag that uses GPS and a speaker to provide helpful “tips and tricks” as you travel around Amsterdam. It’s another technology that’s in beta mode, as it was available only during September of 2017.
The Care Tag. Yeah, it’s kind of like having a stewardess riding on the back of your bike or on top of your roller bag. Of course, that’s not going to happen (though the images are kind of seared into my brain). But don’t be surprised if a member of the KLM cabin crew sneaks up behind you on the street to zip up your backpack or adjust your child’s shoulder strap. “It’s not the blue uniform that make us stand out,” they say, “It’s because we care.”
And if you still don’t believe me about KLM’s karing kulture, here’s a video in honor of Mother’s Day, for those who live far away from Mom. It’s actually my favorite of this whole bunch.
By the way (#1), do you know what KLM actually stands for? It’s Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij, which translates to Royal Aviation Company.
By the way (#2), in case you’ve never heard of AirHelp before . . . besides rating airlines (and airports), they want to help you get compensation for any flight delays, cancellations, or overbookings that have affected you in the last three years. Just let them know the details, then “sit back and relax while [they] jump into action.”
Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door.
When Ralph Waldo Emerson said that (or at least something like that*) in the 1800s, a new-and-improved mousetrap was a suitable metaphor for innovation. I would submit to you that today’s mousetrap may very well be the carry-on bag, and the door is an Indiegogo campaign.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Modobag. (Sorry, I mean the Modobag!)
The Modobag, the creation of Kevin O’Donnell, with the help of Boyd Bruner, is a TSA- and FAA-compliant carry-on bag that you can ride around the airport. It has an electric motor, telescoping handlebar with thumb throttle and hand brake, and professional motorcycle-grade foot pegs—and it can carry your clothes, too.
Here are some of the specs from Modobag’s Indiegogo page:
two speed settings—5 mph indoors, 8 mph outdoors
ability to carry a person up to 260 lbs
8-mile range (for a 180-lb person)
two USB charging ports
Pre-orders for the Modobag are available at Indiegogo for $1,000. The campaign was set up with a modest goal of $50,000, and with two weeks left, it has already blown past a quarter of a million dollars.
According to CNN, O’Donnell doesn’t want to limit his invention to the airport. He wants people to ride it to the train and use it to navigate conference venues. And he takes it for spins himself in the bike lanes of Chicago.
It all sounds like a great idea to me, but I do have a few concerns . . . where the rubber meets the airport walkway, so to speak. But I think each one is fixable with the simple addition of an accessory.
First, there are the images in the video above of riders leaning into tight Modobag turns. I can imagine middle-aged travelers (like myself) wiping out on the way to Gate 26. Solution? The addition of fold-down wheeled outriggers—a fancy way of saying they need training wheels.
I’m also wondering about trying to pull two, or more, pieces of checked bags on your way to an international flight. A guy only has two hands, and one is already busy with steering, throttling, and braking. Solution? Some kind of proprietary linkage system to form a giant super luggage trolley.
And finally, I’m worried that airport authorities will step in to shut down Modobag riders in the name of safety (for example, see “wiping out” above), much the way that the anti-progress lobby has unfairly hampered the would be life-changing Segway revolution around the globe. Solution? A simple beeping mechanism and pop-up flashing light. Hey, it works for those airport carts.
*[and now, for quote geeks like me . . .] According to Garson O’Toole of Quote Investigator, the earliest form in print of
Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door
is from “Current Comment,” in The Atlanta Constitution. The passage, titled “The Value of Good Work,” is ascribed to Emerson and was published on May 11, 1882, a few weeks after his death:
If a man can write a better book, preach a better sermon or make a better mouse trap than his neighbors, though he builds his house in the woods, the world will make a beaten path to his door.
Giving credence to Emerson’s authorship of the sentence, or at least the thoughts behind it, is a journal entry that Emerson wrote in 1855, under the heading “Common Fame”:
I trust a good deal to common fame, as we all must. If a man has good corn, or wood, or boards, or pigs, to sell, or can make better chairs or knives, crucibles or church organs, than anybody else, you will find a broad hard-beaten road to his house,though it be in the woods.
Sarah S. B. Yule and Mary S. Keene include the “If a man . . .” quotation above, crediting it to Emerson, in their book “Borrowings,” compiled in 1989 and published in 1893. The article “The Mousetrap Quotation: The Verdict,” from 1912, quotes Yule telling how she heard it from the lips of Emerson:
To the best of my memory and belief, I copied it in my handbook from an address delivered long years ago, it being my custom to write everything there that I thought particularly good, if expressed in concise form; and when we were compiling “Borrowings” I drew from this old handbook freely. It will seem strange to you, as it does to me, that Emerson never incorporated this in any of his essays. He did use the thought and similar wording, but never exactly the wording, of the quotation I used in “Borrowings.”
Following up on my Modest List of Invented Expatisms, here are nine new terms to help you describe your traveling experiences. So the next time you’re in an airport, remember
Do not leave your bags unattended.
Do not stand on the toilet seats.
And do not let your words fail you.
Here for your vocabulary building . . . airportisms.
duffling Upon hearing that your checked bag is three pounds overweight, you feign frantic action by grabbing zippers, patting your pockets, turning in circles, and saying things such as “I could . . . ,” “Well, I . . . ,” and “What can . . . ,” hoping that the ticket agent will take pity on you and say it’s OK. Be careful that your duffling isn’t too aggressive or the agent will actually let you follow through on solving the problem.
Birds that have somehow gotten into an airport and fly around amongst the rafters and indoor trees. Birds stuck inside a place where people come to fly. Sense the irony?
A flaggle of tourists is a group of middling to senior travelers, led by a tour guide with a flag and bullhorn. The flag is akin to the kind I and my friends used to bolt onto our banana-seat bikes when we were kids. Oh, if only we’d had megaphones, too. You can tell that the flaggle is on the return leg of their trip when you see them bringing home food and souvenirs packed in large, branded gift bags or boxes with tied-on handles.
making a this-line’s-not-for-you-turn After standing patiently in a line for fifteen minutes and realizing that it doesn’t lead where you need to go, you nonchalantly walk away—as if standing in lines is simply your hobby and you’re now looking for another place to queue up for more pleasant amusement. (Aren’t you glad you came early?)
shuftle The standing-room-only shuttle bus at some airports that shuffles passengers on the tarmac from plane to airport terminal (or vice versa). This word can also be used as a verb.
Happens in the moment when you accidentally kick a pulled carry-on with your heel and it flips onto one wheel and mo.men.tar.i.ly balances before flipping completely over or wobbling back to both wheels. This brief pause at the top of the carry-on’s arc is actually a tiny breach in the space-time continuum, caused by the rapid upturn of the luggage in combination with the forward motion. The effect is named after Bernard D. Sadow, inventor of the wheeled suitcase, and Bob Plath, creator of the rollaboard.
glizing Glizing is the act of experiencing the wonderfully smooth exponential forward motion as you stride confidently on a moving walkway. This only happens when you’re not in a hurry, in part because, as studies show, the walkways do little to speed you up, and often slow you down.
BlackNSquare When you try to describe your piece of luggage at the lost-luggage counter, all you can remember is that it’s part of the BlackNSquare line made by the Yuno company. Question: “What Kind of luggage do you have?” Answer: “Yuno, BlackNSquare.” Yuno also makes the upscale models BlackNSquare with handle and BlackNSquare with wheels.
To sit down, with plenty of time before boarding, able to relax because your bags are checked, you’re definitely at the right gate, and a quick look shows that your passport is right where it’s supposed to be. You take a deep breath and contemplate the hopeful possibilities of your trip. You can charge your phone, read, or people watch. You’re free to walk about and might grab a cup of coffee, browse the bestsellers in the bookstore, or window shop expensive luggage and watches . . . and on the way, you can go glizing.
On a recent flight over the Pacific, I perused the October issue of American Way, the inflight magazine of American Airlines. Here are my thoughts:
Gracing the cover, singer/songwriter Jessie J “continues to redefine herself.” I wasn’t familiar with her first definition.
At CashInYourDiamonds.com, I can sell my “unwanted diamonds for cash.” Finally, a place to unload all those gemstones that have been dragging me down.
People Tools, by Alan C. Fox, is not a book about people who are tools.
Reading the tagline “Athlete and TV host Michael Strahan knows how to dress” didn’t quite pull me into that article.
Voodoo comes from vous, the French word for you, and the English do. Who knew?
Judging by all the advertisements, hair loss must be a big deal for travelers.
Oh yeah, Bondi is a beach in Sydney, not just an iMac color.
The mag writers’ favorite shirt is made by Ledbury, with its “fused canvas interlining” in the collar to keep it from collapsing. . . because “crushed collars are a business traveler’s nightmare.” Can you say, “First-world problems”?
It took me a while to realize that Amber Kelleher-Andrews, of kelleher-international.com, has been awarded “top global matchmaker,” not “watchmaker.” By the way, who exactly gave her that award?
The editors let me know that “78% of readers will act on an ad they’ve seen in this magazine.” If that includes people who blog about the advertisements, count me in.