In an attempt to be a nice guy and not spend an insane amount of money on a business class ticket over to Amsterdam I thought I would help my department’s budget by flying over here in coach and returning in business (via Frankfurt). That combo cost less than 1/3rd the price of a simple round trip to Amsterdam in Business.
Of course the moment I bought the ticket I started dreading the flight over, despite my choice exit row seat location on the United 757-200. It’s worth noting here that United has turned the coach rows in front of row 20 into Economy Plus seats on the 757-200s (which fly primarily, though not entirely, to Europe). This makes a gigantic difference in comfort, as the seat pitch on the former Continental’s jets are optimized for extracting information from prisoners of war rather than passenger enjoyment on a flight over 90 minutes. Also worth noting here that the addition of that legroom in those rows means that you should never, ever choose Row 20, known as the non-reclining Exit Row (NRER), since the rows in front of it now have ample legroom. Every Continental frequent flyer has found themselves debating whether to subject themselves to Row 20, a highly subjective and personal choice for all. In my case, flights under 3 hours can be enjoyed in Row 20, as the extra legroom trumps the recline. Though I suppose I could be convinced otherwise.
This brings up the Trade-Off Game many have played where you have to figure out what seat-related tradeoffs you are willing to make. To wit: would you take an aisle seat in NRER over a middle seat in the Reclining Exit Row (RER)? Would you take a middle seat in RER over a window seat in a regular row? Aisle seat in RER versus aisle seat in regular row, but you know the middle seat will be open? If I were to post this as an open question on Flyertalk, I’m certain we would end up with Talmudic-length discourse on the topic. I will spare us thereof.
In any case, I had been stalking the seat map leading up to the flight and I had an empty seat next to me when I checked it just prior to boarding. Having an empty seat next to you is in many ways better (in case you wanted to know my opinion) than extra legroom, as you have width to spread out, plus you can angle your legs over into the middle seat’s legroom area (MSLA). But the seatmap means nothing when 6’7″ gentleman lumbers up and aisle and sidles into 21E. Given his height, I couldn’t fault him for this move but I knew that meant I would not be sleeping much on the flight. This turned out to be true because, also in part, I had run out of Ambien and was carrying Melatonin (which my brother swears works well, but about which my brother is incorrect).
I will now pose a question. That question is this: What is wrong with this service schedule for a 6:05pm departure to Amsterdam on UA 70? (All times Eastern):
6:05pm: Pull away from gate
6:30pm: Wheels up
7:00pm: Drink Service
7:20pm: Meal Service
8:15pm: Lights out
11:00pm: Announce over loudspeaker that duty free service will soon be shuttering
11:30pm: Lights on
11:40pm: Breakfast Service
If you guessed “why in the name of Jeff Smisek would they turn the lights on 3 hours after they turned them off to serve me a croissant in the middle of the night?” you are correct. (You would have gotten half credit for, “why would they make an announcement about duty free service when approximately 92% of the passengers were sleeping?”)
My cab driver on the way to my hotel was a chatty feller who put on Europe’s “The Final Countdown” at full blast and started asking me questions, some of which pertained thereto. A snippet from that exchange:
Cab Driver: Do you like this kind of music?
Me: 80s metal? Sure. Why not.
Cab Driver: (Sings along with Final Countdown)
Cab Driver: (Puts on “I was made for loving you” by Kiss). You like?
Me: Kiss? Sure. What’s not to like? (I actually hate them with all of my soul, but I didn’t feel I needed to get into that).
Cab Driver: They gay?
Me: I’m sorry, what?
Cab Driver: They gay? They homosexual?
Me: (Thinking perhaps I’m in a dream of some sort). I don’t think so. Gene Simmons talks an awful lot about how many women he’s slept with (maybe he wasn’t referring to Gene Simmons? I’ve certainly never heard anyone posit that Paul Stanley was gay. Or the other 2 who now rotate based on their current state of addiction. But then it gets into my brain that if Gene Simmons WERE gay, and was covering that fact up, wouldn’t the best way to cover it up be to talk in-freaking-cessantly about how many women he’s had sex with? Perhaps he doth protest too much?)
Cab Driver: They not gay?
Me: They’ve never told me they’re gay, no.
Cab Driver: You like this Lionel Ritchie? “Hello….is it meee you’re loooooking forrrrrr????”
And then we arrived at the Marriott Amsterdam….