I had hoped by now to write you a post from the bosom of Asia, home and surrounded by grass-fed meat and butter. Alas, I’m still on a plane, and we’re putting our diet to the ultimate test. We shall call it: The Delta Test.
I had a direct flight from Seattle to my home on Thursday evening. The red eye. In preparation, I ate a hamburger at the airport, sans bun or fries, but with bacon and cheese. As with all my international travels this year, I planned to just skip flight meals entirely. The flight was to take 11-12 hours, and I skipped the first meal service without any problems.
I dozed a bit and thought it was odd when the pilot started talking about making our descent only 10 hours into the flight. I’m thrilled with shorter flights, of course, but I’ve been doing this Asia flight since 1997, and it never, ever takes only 10 hours.
Well it turns out that half the bathrooms on board were broken. There were three groups of two bathrooms, and one in each group had stopped working. The brain trust at Delta deemed this An Emergency. They were about five hours into the trip–almost halfway–when they decided the only thing they could possibly do was turn around and go back to Seattle.
This is one of those things that would only happen in America.
In the rest of the world, people are sane about certain things. For example, in most of the world people realize that life isn’t always going to be perfectly and completely comfortable at every second. So in An Emergency like our plane faced, sane people would say: “Hey, guess what? Half the bathrooms are out, so you’re going to have to limit your trips. Hang on and we’ll be there in seven more hours. Stop drinking so much, you morons.” But the people at Delta didn’t do this. No, For Our Comfort and Safety they turned back and went the whole five hours home to Seattle. If you think that’s crazy, allow me to explain it to you.
In order to be Comfortable and Safe, Delta employees realized that we couldn’t possibly fly seven hours with only three bathrooms for 300 people. Instead, we should fly five hours with only three bathrooms for 300 people. Then we should spend two more hours in the Seattle airport standing in line for vouchers for $25 worth of food. Then we should fly 12 hours with six bathrooms for 300 people.
So we went back and unloaded. We were given $100 towards future Delta travel–a convenient little gimmick for people who’d paid a couple hundred extra for a direct flight that was now going to be longer than the longest possible multiple-stop flight. We were given our $25, which we had to spend in an hour there at the airport or it would be useless. And then we all climbed back into the same seats on the same plane (with all bathrooms working) for another 12 hours.
It would be more infuriating if it wasn’t so ludicrous. Not only did it make no sense to force us all to undergo a two hour layover and another 12 hour flight just to save two hours of flying with insufficient bathrooms, but Delta didn’t even get anything out of it. They had to pay an extra crew to do overtime for this second flight. They had to pay fuel for two, 10+ hour flights. They had to give away $30,000 worth of flight credit and $7,500 worth of immediate money at the Seattle airport. Nearly everyone bought travel pillows with their vouchers. Travel pillows and sugar.
So, here I am still on the plane and putting the diet to the test. In Seattle (the second time) I had a small cappuccino with whole milk, no sugar. During the meal service here on the second flight, I ate a few pieces of roasted chicken and a big slice of cheese. There’s no way I could say that I feel good, but I think I can honestly say I’m doing better than most people on this flight.
With the possible exception of some in business class who have drunk themselves into a happy stupor and slept most of both flights.
I was dismayed at our stop in Seattle to see how many people were loading up on thick slices of banana bread, enormous pastries in slightly unnatural colors, and drippy chocolate doughnuts at the Pacific Coffee Company. They were desperately washing them down with giant sugar-bomb coffee drinks. I really wanted to tell people that this would only make it worse. And by “really want” I mean that I almost begged the tiny woman in front of me to stop when she ordered some kind of “bear claw” as big as her own head, a doughnut big enough to feed three, and then saw the banana bread and said, ‘Oooh, one of those, too.” Now everyone is really grumpy and irritable, or completely unconscious.
It’s not entirely their fault. Really, there was no decent food in that section of the airport. It was sugar or nothing. You might be able to get some nuts at the Hudson News store, but frankly you probably couldn’t get any that weren’t coated in chocolate. And it just wasn’t the right moment to try and explain to people that they should just skip eating entirely rather than eat that junk. Most of them would have trouble going without their sugar. But I’m running on ketone bodies, and while it’s no fun at all, they are doing better for me than anyone else’s glucose seems to be.
Plato says he’s hungry
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