All good things must come to an end, and on Sunday I found myself on a cab back to New York's Laguardia airport.
Cabs in New York are pretty sophisticated these days. Sure, they still have the classic yellow paint job, and you still stick out your hand and whistle "Taxi!" to hail one, but inside they're pretty advanced. The most notable feature of modern New York cabs is the presence of an LCD touchscreen built into the back seat. It lets you access everything from news, sports, and weather, to a GPS map. It also lets you adjust brightness and volume to suit your needs, or turn off the screen altogether. Of course, what media system would be complete without a celebrity endorsement or two? Sure enough, how to use the system is periodically introduced by none other than Regis and Kelly.
Another notable feature of New York taxis is the abundance of plastic... and I don't mean credit cards. I mean shielding. Particularly in the SUV models, but also in the classic Crown Victoria's, passengers are separated from the driver by a plastic shield. In the sedan versions, this partition only separates the back seats from the front. In the SUV, the shield forms a kind of capsule around the driver that protects him/her from even the passenger beside him. Money can be exchanged through a sliding plastic window, which is usually left open. Better yet, why not pay using the debit/credit machine? If you're sitting in the back seats, you'll be prompted by the LCD screen at the end of the trip to select payment by cash or credit. Above the LCD monitor is a card swiping or tapping (if you have one of those newfangled tap cards) machine which you can use to dispense payment.
Cab fare in New York is not cheap, but it's not atrocious. Still, I swear that for the last leg of our trip to Laguardia the meter was going up by a dollar a time... I was watching.
We flew American Airlines because it was a helluva lot cheaper than Air Canada. On my way through security, my bag was stopped at the X-Ray machine.
Guard: Whose bag is this?
Guard: I'm going to have to look through this.
Andy: Sure, yeah, alright.
Guard: Do you have a screwdriver in here?
Guard: Do you have anything sharp or a screwdriver?
Andy: No... I don't think so...
[Guard sifts through bag, pulls out a screwdriver]
Guard: I thought you said you didn't have a screwdriver?
To be honest, I had no idea how the screwdriver got there. It was definitely one of ours, but I certainly don't remember anything like that being inside my bag or for what purpose it could have been put there. My mother just kept saying, "Oh, they didn't catch that on our way here," which I wished she would stop because it made it sound like we had smuggled contraband that had somehow been overlooked in Toronto.
I really was worried that I was going to get pulled aside, questioned, beaten, and imprisoned in Guantanamo for secretly trying to sneak a screwdriver onto an American Airlines plane for allegedly trying to disassemble it from the inside out or stab somebody with it or something nefarious like that. Luckily, the security person seemed more amused than suspicious.
Guard: Where did you come from?
Guard: Poor Toronto...
I felt like my screwdriver and I had single-handedly soiled the Canadian image... In the end, they told us that the screwdriver was too big to bring as carry-on. We told them to chuck it. Crisis averted.
The lady at the gate gave me a dirty look because apparently we were supposed to present our boarding papers and passport to her before getting on the plane. Well, nobody told us that and I've never had to do it before, so that was a rather negative interaction.
Our plane was a dinky little two-and-one (two seats down one side of the aisle and one seat down the other). It was so narrow that the flight attendant had to serve drinks to each passenger individually because the aisle was too small for a concession cart.
The flight attendant and pilot were both very friendly and cheerful, even though the pilot didn't know he was flying to Toronto until ten minutes before the flight took off (I saw him checking at the gate computer terminal). It was a relatively pleasant (and short) journey.
I have to admit that ever since I watched the Japanese drama Attention Please, I've had a new respect for the airborne lives of cabin attendants and pilots. I'm sure that the show romanticized things quite a bit, however. Though if Asian and Western air service philosophies are as different as their customer service philosophies, then the show may not be exaggerated much. In that case, I'd very much like to fly on Asian airlines instead, where the cabin attendants seem to have higher standards of attentiveness, attractiveness, and attire. Ever since I watched the drama, I've been disappointed seeing flight attendants lacking JAL's seemingly prided neck scarves.
One year, Evey considered applying for a summer job as a flight attendant with Korean Air. Apparently, they were heavily recruiting Koreans that were fluent in both Korean and English (solid fluency in both is a rarity, I suppose). Unfortunately, she missed the height cutoff by an inch or two. I guess tallness is an important part of the flight attendant image.
While on the flight, there was a moment when I started to get a painful prickling sensation on my forehead and down the bridge of my nose. At first I thought it was my glasses irritating my nose somehow, but it was actually quite uncomfortable. "Oh no!" I thought, "V1 palsy!"
I rubbed the affected area, but it was still tingling a bit by the time we landed. I'm still not quite sure what the malfunction was. Bodies are such strange objects. In any case, we touched down in Toronto without incident and I headed home anticipating the resumption of classes the next day... Oy, if only we had robots to do all the work, we could just live on holiday!
Thus ends my eventful voyage to New York. My three and a half day journey spelled out over nine entries! I hope that sharing in my experience was entertaining to the end.