“And dress shoes. Always wear dress shoes. People look at your shoes. Dress shoes say you’re important. They say you’re official. They say you’re employed. People respond to that. I’m nobody special; I just happened to be the dude in the shirt and tie. I’m always looking at these cats that show up looking like second-string Hunter S. Thompsons. People don’t respect them. Detectives don’t want to talk to them.”—
“Bound by a noncompete clause, he focused largely on Wink Media (now Winkreative), a branding and advertising agency that he still runs from Midori House. This time, it was the corporate world that sought out the Tyler Brûlé touch. Among the early big-name clients: he was hired to rebrand Swissair as Swiss International Air Lines with a sleek new look that extended to the cabins’ lighting and crew uniforms.”—Snake, tail.
It’s not because things are amazing, as Louis C.K. likes to point out, though yes, the miracle of flight is pretty great. No, travel in 2012 is better than any time in history we’ve never expected so little but yet been able to supplement so much.
Think back to a “happier” time in air travel, say, 1995. You still booked your ticket through a travel agent. She got you a middle seat that you didn’t know was a middle seat until you got to the airport. Sure, you breezed through security but the airport didn’t have much in the way of shopping, or worse, was smoky and dark. (Yes, even Frankfurt. Especially Frankfurt). I love to mock JFK but since 1998, when the current Terminal 1 opened, what else happened there? Well, the new T4 opened, JetBlue’s T5 Terminal opened, T6 was razed, T7 was renovated, and the brand new T8 opened. There’s been more progress than you’d realize. (Save Delta, which is a separate rant).
You had to call an 800 number to see if you had enough miles to upgrade your seat. If you didn’t, the back of the bus had “food,” and you entertainment was whatever stack of magazines, books and newspapers you brought with you. Domestically, you were almost certainly on a DC-9, 727, Fokker or MD-80, so I hope you enjoy your seat by the engine.
Do we get fewer amenities now? We sure do. And we have to pay for them. I’m not saying that we have to enjoy being treated badly as we travel in 2012, but there are so many more things that we can do for ourselves to make the experience a lot more pleasant. And if that’s the case, what’s so bad about that? Americans, in particular, hate people who “expect” things to be given to them, so why should travel be any different?
Gordon Bethune, when he ran Continental, used to remark that once you took the cheese off the pizza, it stopped being pizza, as an excuse for keeping blankets and free food. Except, we’re trained now to bring our own cheese now. And buy the bread and tomato sauce on board, or at the Hudson News, at the very least. It’s simply knowing what to expect. The worst of travel in 2012 is when logic rubs up against that ability to steel oneself for air travel today, i.e., turn off your e-reader for takeoff for no discernible reason.
In 2012, I can check my seat online on SeatGuru and change it, I can buy miles to have enough miles to upgrade to Business (assuming the bucket is available, which I could also check on ExpertFlyer or wherever) or even premium economy so I’m not by the engine. I can entertain myself with wi-fi which is more or less universally available at this point. I could bring hundreds of books on my e-reader, and I can buy relatively good food at the airport or choose to buy whatever slop they’re serving on board. Is it ideal? No, of course not, but there are things you can do to make the experience better, things that weren’t really an option 15 or 20 years ago. Lie-flat seats, seatback VOD, iPods… these were not part of the travel experience. Remember choosing which CDs to bring on a trip?
So you can complain about the unbundling (and remember that tickets are more or less the same price that they were then. I just bought a JFK-SFO ticket for $320 RT which is ridiculous) or you can just bring some things with you, as you would do on the train or the bus. I, for one, am happy to have all my travel stuff that makes my trip better with me. I don’t expect Delta to make my trip better. Sure, there are things that they could and should do, but I’m not holding my breath for that to happen. I think I’ll just read another book on my Kindle and fire up some music on my iPod.
Sing karaoke for the first time bike from Prospect Heights to Red Hook and back stand up on a surfboard successfully while it’s in the water drive a scooter host a real dinner party at my apartment
I was 3/5; I didn’t go near the ocean, which made surfing rather difficult, and I didn’t scoot for reasons to numerous to mention. (I wanted to copy Paul Brady and do it in Bermuda, OK?)
I did sing karaoke for the first time, in Fort Wayne, Indiana. I sang Alison by Elvis Costello. This was probably a poor choice for many reasons, not the least of which was that I do not have the range for Alison. At least it was a short song. And it was fun. I would do it again, but have more of a game plan of what to sing. And also be much, much drunker.
Biking was one of my favorite parts of 2011. Not only did I manage to bike to Red Hook and back on several nonconsecutive occaisions, but I also biked twice to the Verazzano and completed the MS Ride, which is a circuit of Manhattan. I am a convert about biking. I’d do it more but I am not a convert about leaving my bike locked up anywhere outside that’s not within my line of sight.
I also hosted a dinner party at the apartment, in which I roasted chicken and vegetables and generally felt very adult while having Dorothy and Robert over for dinner. Next time I won’t even have to go to Ikea beforehand to make sure there are enough chairs.