Around The Planet

Have you ever traveled around the globe? I have, many times. I’ve gone east to west on 12 occasions, and west to east 14 times. It’s easier, in my opinion, from a jet lag standpoint going west and chasing the sun, or so it seems. However when I sit back and think about all the time spent on planes and strange hotel rooms, it mounts up to about one-quarter of my entire life. I’ve been in more than 80 countries, 200 cities, some quite forgettable, and have friends on all 5 continents, and by friends I mean friends who I can genuinely pick up the phone, tell them I am arriving tomorrow and be guaranteed a bed, warm meal and great company. It’s wonderful to have been able to make this happen, and when I think back to some of the stories my grand parents told me about their travel experiences, not too many years ago, I am always in awe when I board that 747 for 12 short hours and find myself in another city on another continent, when the same journey would have taken my grandparents months, if not longer, been far more uncomfortable and dangerous, and near on impossible to keep in touch with home whilst exploring, what in those days, were the outer regions of this planet, depending on what way you looked at it. We just don’t realize how fortunate we are. My Great Grandfather left Poland, met his wife in Amsterdam, moved to England and ended up in Scotland. And, all of this happened before the end of the 1890’s! Can you imagine traveling that far, before planes, comfortable trains, cars, fast boats, and all the other transportation we are now so used to and take heavily for granted? It would have been a nightmare, and one that even today, I find hard to contemplate. Some people might say, ‘well that was what they were used to and they didn’t know any different’ Well my take on that is always,’you go and try it’

There is nothing worse than people who get on planes, listen to an announcement which says, “good morning ladies and gentlemen, we have a mechanical, and we are going to be delayed about thirty minutes” then get up off their seats and go nuts. “Why are we delayed? I have another flight to catch! MY son is collecting me at the designated arrival time”. Just some of the pathetic excuses I have seen over the years where people fail to comprehend that to fly from NY to San Fran takes 5 hours. A 30 minute delay makes that flying time 5 hours and 30 mins. Try walking it that fast! We have grown into a race that expects too much, demands even more and a race that fails to appreciate that we are all still only human. The worst one, and possibly the funniest, that I ever heard, was on a flight from Chicago to LA, when our DC10 aircraft hit bad turbulence  I was in the galley chatting and was asked to sit down when the seat belt sign came on. I remember this as clearly as if it happened just yesterday. The turbulence , got really bad and suddenly from the row behind me the flight attendant button began to ring. Ding Ding Ding. Continually and without pause. We were all strapped in, even the cabin crew, but this guy was going nuts, so everyone thought he was having a heart attack or some other medical emergency. One of the flight attendants got up out of her seat and whilst trying to balance herself on the way down the aisle to attend to this mans needs, looked like she was walking the plank. No word of a lie, she arrived at the guy’s seat, right behind mine and his exact words were,

“Can you ask the pilot to get us out of this bumpy air please. The movie is being ruined and I am unable to follow the story line!”

That folks, is a true story.

Another one, which made me laugh for years.

I was on a TWA flight from London to NY. The plane was empty. In front of me I had an old lady, she was about 80, and during lunch, she suddenly held her coffee cup up to the air vent nossel and started to push the call button continuously. After five minutes of ding ding ding, I got up, and asked her to stop. No flight attendant had come to see what she wanted, so I felt it was in my own interest and for my own sanity that I spoke to her politely, to see if there was anything I could do to assist. I proceeded to ask, “What are you doing?” With her cup still held up in the air and with the innocence of a child, she answered me. “The flight attendant told me that if I needed more coffee, I should ring the button!” Talk about an OMG!!!

On another flight from the US to Hong Kong, I watched, completely bemused, as a passenger went into the bathroom with his girlfriend or wife, and after five minutes the female came out of the room licking her lips, and with a huge stain on her blouse. This left nothing to an already overactive imagination, other than an offer, and again, this is a true story, from me to her which went something along the lines of ” Would you like a glass for the bits you missed?”

People are so consumed by speed and ease of getting from one place to another, often and perhaps it’s too often, seamlessly. There is so little thought given to the nature and ability along with the ingenuity of how the modern world functions. It’s all taken for granted, especially by the younger generation. Take the Holocaust for example. 6 million people transported, often for many days, on board cattle trucks on trains, most with only room to stand and not a single seat in sight. They all believed they were going somewhere where life would carry on, but we all know they weren’t, and even though they never knew that at the time, most of them managed to survive these cruel journey’s without complaint, without the necessity for a movie, a book, a good meal. They just did it. Can you imagine doing that today, even for fun? Can you imagine standing up inside a cattle truck for three hours never mind three days, without any hint of complaint?  No, it just wouldn’t happen. We have grown so accustomed to our comforts, out expectations and our downright inability to accept that things go wrong, things sometimes don’t work and things are so damn easy in comparison to say 50 years ago. We have become moaners. We are all guilty of it, myself included, and we expect far too much from situations where too much is very often too little in our eyes. Getting around the planet now is a breeze. Look at those who explored the world before we had GPS, telephones, travel books, food guides and so much more. Hats off to them. They were all superhuman in my eyes.

The next time you’re stuck on the runway, the terminal, the railway track, the freeway, remember the following. Time is precious, so why are we all in a rush to spend it by complaining? Take a good look at yourself and think back to those who never had an opportunity to live with the ease in which we are all privileged to live. Think back to your great grandparents and ask yourself what it might have been like to cross the Atlantic in a small boat just to fulfill your dreams of freedom. What it might have been like to go from London to Sydney Australia, in the 1800’s, just to experience a new land. What life would have been like crossing the United States on horseback, just to get from NY to California. Think about all these things and then ask yourself, “could I really do all of that without my ipad, iphone, imac, comfortable seat, nice dinner, nice snacks, deodorant, hair brush, toothpaste, etc..” I am certain not many of us could, nor would we want to. And so, with all that said, the next time you get stuck somewhere for reasons beyond all human control, take a deep breath, relax and remember these words of wisdom. “I could have just as easily stayed at home!”

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