Economy Plus

The journey of a thousand miles begins, as it turns out, with Ray helping Boris move his screen printer upstairs and getting blue fabric ink on his pants merely ten minutes before leaving for the airport. Fortunately there was some dangerous and corrosive antidote to this so that we don’t travel the world looking like smurfs.

When we got to the airport, we found that we had no assigned seat. We had nobody noticing us either, the checkin people were all teaching each other aspects of the system while the line grew longer. When we finally got there, the lady at the checkin desk, while taking our luggage gamely enough, would not give us a seat assignment either. She said, Go to Gate 92. I did that, while Dave went to Peets, and he said, wait 40 minutes. During that 40 minutes the whole plane boarded and by the time we were called to the gate desk there were maybe ten people left in the departure lounge. I wasn’t sure we’d get on the plane at all.

Some marketing guy at United Airlines has decided on a strategy of trying to get people to pay $79 to have a few more inches of legroom in “Economy Plus”. He learned at school that this is called “upselling”. Or maybe he learned in school that you can invent drip pot words and put them on Betabrite displays at airports just like they were English. “5 inches more legroom! Tell us if you’re interested in a $79 upsell.” It’s almost like the ads you get in email, except only 5 inches. Anyway, the problem this created is that they refused to give us a seat assignment until they became absolutely convinced that no one was going to go for it. And, we ended up in those seats, for no additional money, with lots and lots of legroom — in fact there were no seats in front of us at all! The flight was about an hour early — there was a 100 mph gulf stream that the pilot rode through Manitoba across just the southern tip of Greenland.

The people around us were all similar victims/beneficiaries of the seating policy, including a nice guy named Jay who is spending a term abroad from Cal Poly with whom we had customary airplane conversation and the time went a bit faster along with the jet stream. Cal Poly is getting their money’s worth: Jay will spend several weeks visiting new and old and online friends all over Europe and then settle into London to check out the art scene and at the end he’ll be that many units closer to a degree in Videography. He didn’t know Alex Lambert though, colleges are too stratified timewise for any continuity even within the art department.

And the incredibly expensive Heathrow Express gets you to Paddington through hyperspace, it seems. They have “Entertainment free” cars according to a placard on the outside but we went in one of the other ones so I don’t know what precisely is missing from our experience in the cars that are free ot if.

Everything in London is incredibly expensive — we went thru $200 today without even trying (including two nights of hotel, admission to the Persian antiquities exhibit at the British Museum, subway passes, breakfast, a map, etc.) But it does have gems like this vegetarian Rajasthani Indian restaurant Frank Colcord just took us to (Chai Pani on Seymour Rd, no relation to Chez Panisse as far as I know) that had all kinds of stuff you never see in US Indian restaurants, even in Mountain View, like deep fried cluster beans, millet soup, another unidentifiable porridge, and some new bread options including some puri-like substance all decorated up like a Christmas piñata.

We got our strange cellphone SIM card working. You dial a number, and instead of dialing the party, it sends a text message to a machine in Liechtenstein, and then it calls you back and you hear the person’s phone ringing. But it seems less expensive than most of the alternatives. We just paid a pound to use an Internet cafe computer for an hour and then discovered that our laptop has a really good free wireless connection as well. So we’re both connected now.

Since you’re reading this, you’re connected too — send us e-mail and let us know what’s happening where you are.