Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Thank you Michelle

I hate to fly. I know I'm not alone in this feeling, but I hate it nonetheless. It has become the most loathesome way to travel. Recently I read an article, on a flight no less, that the airline industry has a customer service rating just below the IRS. Okay, sit with that one a bit. The Internal Revenue Service offers a more pleasant customer experience than the airlines.
So this is what happened on our trip home from Dublin to New York. We walked into the Dublin Airport, searched for the Delta counter. Got in a line. A long one. War and Peace long. A lifetime later we stood in front of the Delta rep with open passports, handing over our prayed-over luggage (hey I will invoke the help of any and all saints to keep my bags in the same hemisphere as my plane) and answering quite sincerely that our bags have indeed been cemented at our sides the entire time and that no, no one has slipped anything that looks like a nuclear warhead in my Samsonite carry on.
The gal at the counter typed our names into her computer calling up our boarding passes and then before she handed them to us, she said something I will never in my entire life forget: "I've upgraded you to business class. You'll be boarding at gate B32."
Immediately my mind made the Scooby Do confused sound. My alter-ego, Yolanda who enjoys dressing like Carmen Miranda, whispered, "COMO?" In reality, I began to weep uncontrollably and grabbed the rep's hand, kissed it repeatedly, blessing her unborn children in a mixture of Yiddish and Spanish. In an instant, we had won the flying lottery. Our long seven and half hour flight had been instantly transformed from something resembling rowing the lower decks of a gladiator troop carrier to scoring an Oprah spa vacation.
The minute I got to my seat, I turned into Ellie Mae Clampett when she first views Uncle Jed's Beverly Hills mansion, "Sha-zam!!" Overstuffed, roomy seats that, wait for it, recline. Really recline. Not that centimeter of recline that in take-off and landing is the difference between life and death in coach. No, I'm talking all the way back, with a footrest that is controlled with a touch panel resting comfortably by your side next to your glass of champagne. Real meals are served in real portions, not hamster portions, on real plates. Hot towels are passed to soothe and refresh you. Ice cream sundaes are served for dessert, as well as fruit and cheese. If you want, you can have both. Movies, all kinds of movies are there for you for free. I saw two of them, The Namesake and Children of Men. Both excellent, especially Children of Men. I sobbed the big ugly cry the last ten minutes of that one. I got another warm towel for my face. Truth be told, the only thing that kept me from putting in a permanent change of address form for seat 4G was the absence of a vibrating feature on my chair.
I know people travel like this all the time. I also know that in the case of emergency, business class does not dislodge from the main cabin and transform itself into a James Bond mini-jet with the pilots leading us to safety, but it sure felt like that. Did I suffer from Business Class Remorse, a sense of nagging guilt knowing that the coach passengers were packed like coffee grounds in a cappuccino maker, sucking on a barely salted peanut all the way to New York? Yes, I did. They were having that "I hate flying" mojo and here I was nibbling on a piece of Brie on a fresh slice of mango. Was I in the other camp now? Those people who still insist they LOVE to fly? Maybe it was the fresh oxygen that was piped in that helped me think clearly but I remembered that this was a gift. It was a spectacular gift from the travel gods and that my lapsed Catholic upbringing should not wave in the guilt. Because when you have fortune smile on you, you should always smile back and enjoy the ride.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Ireland: Day 1

Trans-Atlantic jet lag is not to be triffled with. To simulate at home, take a cast iron skillet and hit yourself over the head repeatedly. I'm still not feeling in sync with my body and I have no idea what day or time it is, but I suppose when you're on vacation, that really doesn't matter.
Ireland is green, very green and being from Florida, it feels a little like home except for everyone driving on the left side of the road. It rained all day here and so there wasn't much time for exploring once we arrived at the hotel his morning. We are staying at the Clontarf Castle Hotel, a real castle refurbished with modern touches (internet access being one of them). I look for specific things in a hotel and this one isn't disappointing me in any area. A selection of great teas and electric teapot was waiting for us, as well as fluffy bath towels and a coma-inducing King bed with soft linens and a luxurious comforter. The room is spacious, so we can spread out as a nice antidote for 8 hours elbow to elbow crossing the ocean.
Folks here are helpful and friendly, not just the people working at the hotel. We met two local sisters, Ann and Celine Kennedy, at the hotel pub tonight and we chatted like old friends. They gave us great tips for our trip to the Dingle Peninsula and some suggestions for touring Dublin tomorrow (hit the Guinness tour early).
This will be a short post since the exhaustion comes in waves, and rest beckons. I lost sleep either yesterday or tomorrow. The time space continuum is no joke when you cross that international date line and I will feel more like myself when all my sub-atomic particles on the cellular level realign themselves after 10 hours of uninterrupted slumber.