Monday, December 20, 2010

Last-minute flying

The second half of last week we spent on an unplanned trip to Florida for three days, though really it was one day there, and two days in transit. We flew out Wednesday morning, arrived Wednesday evening in Orlando, drove to Ocala, then returned Friday morning and got home Friday evening.

We had pretty good luck with the air travel itself. On three out of four flights, we had at least one empty seat in our vicinity, and boy, does that make all the difference. One of them, when we booked all we could get was middle seats on opposite sides of the plane, but there ended up at least a dozen empty seats around us and we got to have a row together to ourselves. The only flight we got crowded on was the last one (which was also the only one that got delayed); that one was a tiny plane with only three seats per row, one on one side and two on the other. That flight was uncomfortable for a number of reasons, but still not as bad as being two of three people in a three-seat row.

This was also my first flight using the noise-cancelling headphones I'd purchased from Woot. Previously I had used them mostly while exercising and I was dubious about them. With them turned on, they did block a bit more noise than with them turned off, but not as much as you'd imagine. The form-fitting ear cups did most of the work, and the creaking noise that the recumbent bike at work makes was able to cut through that, making it hard to hear the movie on the Archos sometimes. However, their intent isn't really to block short, loud noises, so much as to dull them. What they really do is cancel out low, constant drones, like the one the plane's engines make. And they really worked at that.

I can safely say that after each trip I got to wear them, I felt a lot less exhausted, drained, and cranky than I have after flights in the past. I can't say how much of that is due to the hypothesis that cancelling out that engine drone is a key part of it, and how much is because of having had shorter flights, more comfort, and a psychosomatic sense that it should be better because of the headphones. But I'm certainly planning to keep using them this way.

I didn't actually use them for music (that might actually work better at drowning out airplane noises), but for watching movies; I've been working my way through the list of movies that I really should have seen, or that everyone assumes I would have seen, but that I haven't seen. In fact, upcoming blog posts will be including a number of movie reviews.

I also brought my Kindle but in the end I didn't use it on the whole trip. Even so, it did occur to me that there's exactly one way in which the Kindle is inferior to a printed book: that limitation, which for all I know is entirely arbitrary, against electronic devices being used at the start and end of flights. (I seriously doubt a Kindle with its wireless turned off could possibly be emitting anything at all that could even be detected at 20', let alone interfere with things. But I can certainly understand why the airlines don't find it worth it to set up a program by which electronics manufacturers certify their equipment as plane-safe. I mean, we can't even bring a bottle of Pepsi onto a plane. Are they going to start trusting that that Kindle is really a Kindle, not an IFS-jammer?)

The visit to Florida wasn't for pleasure, it was for a funeral, and we didn't even set out to visit nice restaurants. (By happenstance we did get to have one unusual and good meal, though.) For all that, it was kind of nice to have a couple of days of sunshine and even some warm weather as a little break from the relentless grey that is December in Vermont. But it was really nice to be back home too.

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