In order to pass time on the plane to Oahu, Hawaii, I compiled a little list of gems to help make your future preparations and flight less gruesome. You’re welcome.
32B: For Small-breasted Girls and Procrastinators
* note: For you boys who either have been gay or Dungeons and Dragons players since eighth grade, 32B is a bra size for petite (32) and marginally endowed (B cup) ladies.
32B is almost always a middle seat in the tail of the plane, and is guaranteed to be one of the last chosen. Not only is the tail the bumpiest ride, but if your plane cracks in half, you’re destined for a more uncomfortable plummet to your death. If this is news to you, read on, and achieve Eagle Scout-level preparedness for your airline ticket acquisition.
There are three levels of purchase expertise – Ordinary Joes who buy tickets on Expedia, ninjas who finagle a $400 ticket to Tanzania, and newbies who pay over-the-top dollar and end up slashing said ninja’s tires. I’m of the Expedia variety, which is optimal for those who lack both perseverance and money. That doesn’t mean, however, that this endeavor is without stress. Much like using Turbo Tax, you should assemble the required information before hopping online, so you don’t fret about your session timing out while you’re on the can, or have a panic attack while deliberating over ordering the vegetarian meal.
Your first decision is when to buy – earlier is cheaper, but what if that destination wedding is called off over choosing a cake, or you get Avian Bird flu three weeks before? If even attending a wedding makes your commitment-phobic palms sweat, you may want delay taking the plunge until prices begin to creep up. Just don’t wait until 32B is your only option (I mean the seat. Small-breasted women, take heart).
Next, you must pick a flight. This one shouldn’t matter, because the odds that your flight will be moved at least three times or cancelled entirely are roughly 93.4%.
Decision #3 is where to sit. If you have ADHD or can’t go five minutes without taking a whiz, the aisle seat is for you. If you wish to gaze at god’s beautiful handiwork while avoiding the drink cart, take the window. If you are a masochist, go for the middle. Keep in mind, however, that this choice doubles the likelihood of sitting beside an obnoxious third grader or someone whose stomach needs its own row.
Finally, you must choose your meal. While this option seems to be going the way of free checked baggage, it’s worth a thought. Beef or chicken, vegetarian or vegan? First, pick something that will still resemble food after an hour in a steaming foil-covered tray. This generally excludes spaghetti and anything that should be crispy. Second, avoid things that might kill you before you land. This excludes anything prepared in China. Finally, if you must order something that will have you running to the can every 30 minutes, please think ahead and buy that aisle seat.
Leader of the Pack
There are four kinds of packers:
- Ordinary Joes who dutifully adhere to Trip Advisor guidelines
- Crusty hikers who hit Belize for 3 months with nothing but a fanny pack (they’ll call it a hip satchel)
- Gilded Age royalty who evacuate their closet onto the guest room canopy bed a month in advance, pack and repack an entire wardrobe for every mood and weather condition, then invite their feng shui consultant over to properly arrange it all into a configuration that aligns with their chi.
- Those who fancy themselves crusty hikers, but end up bumming everything from Right Guard to quick-dry underpants from their soon-to-be-former buddies.
Like Buddha said, the Middle Way is best. You don’t need a pair of panties for every day of your three-week trip, but neither should you “flip and turn” your Jockeys (front and back, then inside out) for four days of continuous use. But if you must, DO NOT return them to your generous buddy. If they don’t combust on their own, burn them on the way to the airport. Also, pack complimentary items you can mix and match: if you are bringing white flimsy skirts to Tahiti, for the love of god leave your black g-string at home. Don’t bring your skinny jeans to Naples, your Jim Beam halter top to Kabul, or your Birkenstocks to Milan.
Baby Got Snack
If you’re like me, you tunnel through 80% of your movie popcorn before the lights dim. I’ll chomp on Styrofoam with fake butter if there’s nothing better to do until some dancing cell phone reminds me to power down for the duration of the show. What does this have to do with flying? No – it’s not the in-flight movie. It’s the in-flight snacks. Trail mix marinated in sodium is something only a pothead would toss into their grocery cart. And yet, when you’re wedged in seat 32B between a five-year-old and a chatty Kathy whose name is Big George, this dog kibble is second only to the liquor cart. Also, it’s probably the only food you’ll get on the flight unless you’re crossing at least four time zones. So unless you want to be licking your finger and scraping the inside of that foil bag for seasoning remnants, listen up.
Hit the grocery store the day before your flight and fill your reusable bag with dried fruit, baked chips, granola and nuts, even a sandwich – anything that won’t rot your teeth or require more dry ice than an 80s strip club to keep from rotting. This means you have to pass on the Candy Corn and triple cream brie, but for good reason. First, the obnoxious kid next to you will ping you every three minutes for your Snickers, so save that for the movies (see paragraph one). Second, there’s more than enough time to ply yourself with fat and sugar once you get where you’re going. If you don’t leave your destination with a bungee cord holding your pants together and at least five cavities, go back and do it right. Even smuggled potato chips will make you the culinary envy of your seatmates, particularly if the $15 in-flight meal looks like roadkill, or is spaghetti from China.
Bonus points for bringing a garlic and onion bagel on board. That should keep your seatmates from engaging you in conversation.
The Deliberate Wardrobe Malfunction
There are certain days when ordinarily tacky clothing is acceptable.
- Wearing an ironic ugly Reindeer sweater to that December party
- Dressing like a slutty nurse, slutty cat, slutty __________ on Halloween (for the ladies)
- Sporting your best “my lover just dumped me and I haven’t changed my underwear since Tuesday” look
Not widely known is the FAA ordinance that #3 is also applicable to flights over three hours. I forgot to do this on my current trip, and I ended up cajoling my mother into holding up her jacket while I hid in a corner of Gate C9 to change my underwire bra for a comfy sleep bra. Avoid this misadventure by dressing in clothes you could comfortably sleep in. If your flight is between midnight and 7 AM, an FAA corollary gives you permission to wear your owl jammies. Note, however, that you may have to remove your flannel onesie if the security mafia deem your padded footies to be shoes.
Don your sweats or “Thanksgiving pants,” bind your hair into a headphone-friendly configuration, and slide on those shoes that say to your date, “I just want to be friends.” If you happen to end up next to an Adonis on your flight, you have several hours to redeem yourself with your personality. And when he sees you on your first date, he’ll be pleasantly surprised. Of course, this tactic will not work if you are an asshole.
Keep Calm and Carry-On
Now that airlines demand your firstborn in return for forking over your Samsonite, everyone shoves two months’ worth of wrinkle-free blouses and toiletries into a 10 x 17 x 24 carry-on. The zipper teeth on these poor bags are clenched like the fly on skinny jeans stubbornly greased-and-shoehorned on by a plus-sized diva.
While I normally wait until the boarding line has fizzled to peel myself off those plastic seats, I have, of late, recanted. Wait too long, and your carry-on will end up 78 rows behind you, strapped to the wing of the plane, or worse – in the checked baggage bin.
After spending 4 hours vacu-packing your goodies to fit inside something you don’t have to check, the last thing you want is to spend 30 minutes awaiting your suitcase like it’s a tuna roll on a sushi joint conveyor belt. If the flight is only partially filled, this may not be an issue, but odds are that two cancelled flights have been crammed into yours so that everyone under 120 pounds has to sit on someone’s lap (see Buying an Airline Ticket for statistical data on cancelled flights). One way to avoid this entirely is to be the Crusty Hiker, and stow everything under the seat in front of you.
Whether it’s the aforementioned hiker, a spread-kneed lounger, or a run-of-the-mill American wideload, your in-flight neighbor may not be Facebook friend (or seatmate) material. Enter the armrest. Defend your turf by popping this puppy down within 5 seconds of clinching your seatbelt. Then plant your forearm on it like a flag to indicate that this border is as defended as the Berlin Wall. Even if you Pricelined your ticket two days ago for ½ price, you still technically paid for 100% of your seat. Don’t let someone ooze, stretch, or spread onto a cheap fabric seat that belongs entirely to you. Keep Big George on his side of the invisible fence.
But the armrest is more than a physical barrier – it also erects a divide in the air space, a verbal no-fly zone. This will help you fend off the monologuer who rattles off his life story with the words-per-minute rate of an auctioneer. Even if his adventures shouldn’t get him past take-off, he manages to stretch it out until you’re returning your tray tables to an upright and locked position. Advanced avoidance tactics include screwing in your ipod buds or burying your nose in an offensive book.
One thing that requires more drastic measures is the smelly neighbor – maybe he’s a greasy, dred-locked hippie who follows 1980s French standards of hygiene; maybe the schlep to the gate made her sweat like a rhinoceros. The first option here is the hospital mask. I prefer the stylish, more comfortable Vietnamese cotton anti-exhaust mask. You can justify this with the fact that recycled cabin air is a petri dish in gaseous form.
The other option is perfume. Not for them – that would be rude. Dab a bit under your nose and you’re good to go. Perfume will also help if you missed your alarm and opted for 1980s French hygiene to avoid missing your flight.
More in the coming week, as I glean invaluable knowledge about how to navigate the perilous landscape of beachfront property in Hawaii.