A Mind That Suits What doesn't kill me, makes me laugh... usually.

Saturday, November 29, 2003 :::
Delights in Flying...Further Depressing News on the Culture Front...The Best Airport

Third Time's A Charm, or Divebombing the Potomac. A Mind That Suits had, until this afternoon, gone through two difficult landings at Reagan National Airport. Said airport is kept alive solely because your Members of Congress want to be able to get on a flight back home within 15 minutes of the final gavel, and it is amazingly convenient. It is also well-organized and pleasing to the eye.

But it is also built over marshes beside a river which is sunk in a slight valley, yielding some nasty winds. And those winds have forced some pilots to display their talents more than passengers might wish to know, including the first such incident involving A Mind That Suits. Buffeted by nasty cross winds, the pilot at the last minute speeded the plane up in order to level it off as it touched down, and then he threw the engines to brake as fast as they could. The flight was scheduled to go on from Reagan, but a completely destroyed sounding flight attendant came on and bellowed, "All passengers must get off the plane right now," causing A Mind That Suits to turn to suddenly more disturbed looking fellow passengers and ask, "I wonder what they're not telling us?"

Today may be the topper, however. The newer, lighter, faster planes actually take turbulence quite well, but the nasty old Jet Stream has cut South this weekend, yielding some pretty unusual wind storms as the dying days of Autumn fight the onslaught of winter temperatures. And so from Atlanta to DC, the seat belt sign was on for all but perhaps 15 minutes, and the plane began to shake noticeably, but not badly, as the traffic choked highways and by-ways of the DC suburbs came into view. The plane also was descending rapidly, evidently to avoid those cross winds that had plagued the flight mentioned above. A Mind That Suits turned to his seat mate and said, "We must be flying right over the river," as the lazy, leafy Potomac was nowhere to be seen.

And then it was, off the tip of the left wing. And "off the tip" is the phrase. The plane was banking at what seemed like 30 degrees or more, and the water was very close. A Mind That Suits could not erase the optical illusion that the plane was really only 100 feet or so above the water, and so he turned away. And once again, the plane sped onto the runway and the pilot slammed on the brakes, though, again, the newer planes make that particular ride less of a thrill. As we were taxiing into the terminal, the co-pilot came on and said that he had nothing to do with it, that two planes in front of us had opted out of the 45 mph winds "with gusting conditions," that the pilot, with 23 years experience, had just done an expert job, at which the nerve-wracked passengers burst into applause. And, thanks to the two other pilots with less nerve but perhaps greater wisdom, who had passed on landing, we pulled into the gate early by a substantial margin.

On his way out, A Mind That Suits asked "just how many feet off the ground were we when you banked?" "About 100 feet," said the co-pilot. "It was all him (the pilot.) I couldn't believe it. I have a new hero."

Co-pilots, perhaps, should not say this kind of thing to passengers.

A Mind That Suits came up with a figure for the probable wingspan of the plane, divided it by 2 and subtracted that from 100ft, and wondered how fast it takes to go that many feet when you are traveling landing speed, which is something like 160 mph. or more.

He concluded it was pretty fast, and promptly tended to his frayed nerves with a normally priced burger and a wildly overpriced glass of wine at the TGI Friday's in the terminal, deciding that stopping at the Safeway near the airport and making his way to his office would make it entirely too long before he ate. He had not had breakfast, and that was perhaps a good thing. A meal and a refresher at just that juncture was perfect, without adding to his somewhat overfilled frame.

Keep in mind that A Mind That Suits loves traveling, and largely ignores the flying part. He copies his father in sleeping much of the way. But he has always had trouble with take-offs--particularly that moment when they pull in the wheels and the plane dips--and, since that first incident with bellowing flight attendant, with landings. So he is at peace for 90 percent of each flight.

Today did not make those landing much easier to take.

The Smuts is All Around, Why Don't You Take It. Those of you who are mite older may remember when the Attorney General was a competent but polarizing figure named Edwin Meese. The smut of the late "90's and early "oughts," (as in "ought-3,' the year just passing away) is actually not much compared to the complete porn of the late 1970's. Mr. Meese became Attorney General about 1985, and began a campaign to get regular outlets like 7-11 to stop carrying Playboy and the like. Which campaign worked, but not without cries from people who go livid over tobacco that this represented an affront to the idea of free speech and privacy. But 7-11 and most other stores stopped carrying the smut, or hid it behind the counter, and that practice survived most of the Clinton Administration, when reading the depostions reproduced in the Washington Post was probably a bigger thrill than reading most magazines available at the corner stand.

That began to change a few years ago, as retailers stuck their toe back in the water. The watchdogs of public morals have been busy elsewhere, and no one seems to have noticed this development. A Mind That Suits flies perhaps 9 times a year, across the country and using whatever combination of airports yields the lowest price. Just in the last 6 months, the dam has burst completely, and now entire sections of the newsstands are given over to what are euphemistically called "men's interest."

The other end of the newstand has "women's interest," which means beauty tips and gossip. So their magazines feature famous women in killer outfits with plunging necklines. "Men's interest" magazines have almost identical covers, actually. However, they do not promise beauty tips. Plus, you are unlikely to know the names or faces of the ladies on the covers in the killer outfits, as they are actually calculating that the photo session that put them on the cover of the "men's interest" magazines will utlimately put them on the cover of the "women's interest magazine," and that you will by then know their names.

The Coolest New Airport. Having surveyed a whole cross-section of the nation's hubs in the last few years, A Mind That Suits hands the "coolest airport" title to Detroit's recently redone behemoth. It would perhaps be better if the original had been designed along the lines of Atlanta Hartsfield, with 6 parallel terminals and a very efficient train system. Detroit's was designed as one long line, like a train station, and there was not much they could do about that, but the monorail, the moving walk ways, the airy design, and the really very good restaurants make for a most pleasant lay-over.

Worst? Memphis, or San Jose. Low ceilings and narrow halls, with lousy food, make for most unpleasant sojourns.

If you have friends who travel in the South, ask them what the name of Atlanta's airport is. A majority of them will probably say, "Hatfield," which is wrong.

Atlanta's is about midway on the list, by the way, with an efficient design being perhaps the best part of it. Bad choice of colors and lousy food are the biggest problems. Best deal in Altanta is the Chili's Express, or whatever you call it, on Concourse D, while Concourse B has a food court with a full service TG Friday and A has a food court with a full service Chili's. Only E, the international concourse, has a really nice restaurant, and a good Starbuck's. The other concourses all have Seattle's Best, which isn't. So if you have time (an hour or so), go to Concourse E. Less, go to Concourse D for the Chili's Express. If you order the salad and chili combo--for only about $5.50--you can get out with 1/2 hour to spare, which is plenty of time to get to your flight on any concourse.

Well, until tomorrow.

::: posted by A Mind That Suits at 5:21 PM



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