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Monday, December 09, 2002

Getting There
What’s the best thing you can say about a discombobulating 15-hour three-plane journey that takes you to a place that has a nine-hour time difference from your home? Probably that you didn’t get lost, in a fight, or vow never to ride that airline again. I didn't!

The SAS flight from Seattle to Copenhagen was incredibly civilized. There was no hectoring or double-checking to make sure the folks on the plane were obeying instructions. They simply made their requests in English and a Scandinavian language (probably Danish, since Hamletland was the plane’s destination?) and then they went about their business. There was no peeking to make sure you’d obediently fastened your seatbelt, stowed your luggage, or put your seat in the locked, upright position.

The service was excellent. As always seems to be the way on Transatlantic flights, the booze was flowing freely; as never seems to be the way on Transatlantic flights, there was a decent amount of legroom. The seatbacks offered individjy screens and a choice of about seven movies, on which I watched Blue Crush (it made me want to see it on a large screen where the surfing shots must’ve been spectacular) and Hollywood Ending (apparently, no one’s told Woody Allen that he’s turned into a bad impression of himself, though it’s been obvious to me for years now). The cabin crew passed much of the flight changing their clothes—one of the male stews donned a full-on chef’s attire, complete with a natty little kerchief, in order to serve dinner; the women modeled tabards, which, I am now convinced, make everyone look homely.

In the Copenhagen airport, another “we trust you not to do anything too stupid, so we’re not going to try too hard to stop you” homeland, I was struck by a little box they’d placed in every toilet stall. At first it looked like an ash tray, but then I noticed a big “no ciggies” sign and some other international symbology. It was actually a safe place to discard hypodermics, razor blades, and safety pins. In the age of plastic diapers, safety pins are only seen in places where clothes are made, so since there were no sewing machines in the ladies’ lav, I’ve got to think the bin was intended for the disposal of drug paraphernalia. I’m all for safe needle exchange, etc., but my God you’d need some pretty massive stones or jones to do drugs in an airport, one of the most security-personnel-intensive places on the planet.

I was in business class on the flight from Frankfurt. It’s weird how only 15 months or so after 9/11, it seemed outrageously transgressive to be using metal knives and forks or drinking out of glass stemware on a plane. I was sure that a bunch of federal marshals were going to stand up at some point to bust us for improper materials usage.

When we finally arrived in Moscow, I was very grateful to get the full VIP treatment. No standing in line or having to suffer the indignity of carrying my own bags for me. Instead we got to wait in a nice warm Soviet-era lounge, where an army of staffers polished glasses or tried to look semi-busy, though they didn’t seem to feel obliged to try too hard to give the illusion of diligence. In the hotel, a standard soulless American jobbie, I was pleased to find my favorite luxury: a cotton bathrobe so plush that my weedy little shoulders could barely hold up the fat, phat fabric.