First Day in England Summer 2011-A $300 Per Hour Job

May - 2011

I’ve lost count of the number of times I have done this now, maybe 30, maybe 40. You’d think I would run out of something to write about- Quite the contrary, they are all different adventures and there is always much to be experienced, good and bad, and new tidbits to be learned. One of the reasons bad experiences don’t bother me much is that they are usually (not always) more interesting and fun to write about than good experiences. It’s like the revelation that losing in poker is simply the cost of learning the game.

I have written about the pleasures of flying to Europe in first class and business class ( Flying Business Class. Is it Worth It? ) American Airlines offered me $300 per hour to fly in economy class and write about it. It is hard to turn down a half million dollar a year job for doing something I love to do anyway, so I accepted the job. What better way to pass the time in an overseas flight than to write about the experience while doing it? That's $5 a minute, almost as much money as my attorney, dentist, and vet make. Sounds too good to be true.

My business partner insists that any one flying over five hours in economy class is crazy, swearing that this trip in economy class-I will refer to this as doodoo class from here on- would require visits to a chiropractor at best and would put him in the hospital at worst.

Sitting here wedged in a hurt locker, too small for a grown up has me pondering that either I’m getting bigger or they have shrunk the seat spacing again. If the guy in front of me leans back another millimeter he’ll be watching me write. When he leaned back I measured four inches between my nose and the back of his seat. It’s a good thing that the entertainment system isn’t working since I would need reading glasses to look at it.

The fact that the movies won’t work doesn’t bother me as much as the thought that the other more sophisticated electronics needed to keep the plane in the air is being serviced by the same geniuses that can’t get the movies to play. The good news is that people’s bitching about tight seats got replaced by bitching about no movies. The bad news is that the kid setting in the same aisle with me with nothing to entertain him is making more noise than all the aircraft engines combined. The younger generations begin having DT’s if they can’t look at an electronics screen of some sort to keep their brain functioning. Every time I think American Airlines has optimized painful travel, they move it to a new level by introducing yet another form of torture.

The seat in front is too close to allow straightening my legs and putting one leg in the aisle has the down side that every few minutes someone stumbles on it or a flight attendant rolls a cart over it. The bent leg constraint becomes surprisingly painful after a few hours. Standing couldn’t be any worse, and I guess that is why the aisle is constantly full of people looking for something to do. I think it must be like being told that you will not be able to pee for a few hours. Fortunately, since Pauline is with me, I can stretch one leg over on her side without being sued for sexual harassment. She even leans over occasionally to give me a peck on the cheek to make sure I don’t start screaming in pain. I quickly discover how hard it is even to get in and out of this seat, especially when the guy in front leans back. A few airlines have set up a special section where for an extra price you get to straighten out your legs. Unfortunately AA is not one of them……..yet.

I tried forgetting the pain developing in my knees by thinking up ways to blow the three grand I was making by sitting in and writing about the doo doo class. I can rent my own speedboat taxi next week in Venice to take me from the Marco Polo airport in to my hotel for only 100 Euros, and I can do a gondola trip for another 100 and have drinks in St. Marks Square. There are so many neat ways to spend money. But the thought kept returning, “Maybe spending it on business class isn't such a bad idea”

It is hard to believe what American Airlines is palming off as food these days. The highlight of what may have been the worst meal I ever had in my entire airline experience was the cheese spread and crackers. Well, one can survive for a while on cheese spread and crackers while getting paid 300 an hour. I almost had myself talked into thinking I would be able to walk without assistance from the Doo Doo section into the terminal, when the bloke sitting across the aisle, who had been bitching constantly about his uncomfortable seat since before we took off, found someone to talk to while standing in the aisle next to me with his ass right at face level. Every time someone has to pass, he pushes his ass way over into my space. Up until now I had actually considered attempting to sleep. Forget that idea.

As I calculated this plane had only four working toilets for 300 economy passengers. I pity the guy with a weak bladder because there was almost always a long waiting line for the toilet. I manage to survive the flight without hospitalization by walking around. Even that was difficult because aisles now are too narrow for two way traffic and also because everyone else has the same idea.

I had worried some about increased security at airports because of the Osama Ben Laden assassination, but worries were unwarranted. Security in LA had been easier than usual and England, where I can use the automatic IRIS reader, was even better. I was at baggage claim even faster than Pauline, who is a citizen here. This was one job I was glad was over, even at 300 per hour.

It just occurred to me that I am going to Venice on Easy Jet Airlines, the airlines I prefer to call Difficult Jet Airlines, an airline that used to be step down from Americans. Each has its own unique form of torture for passengers.

England-Day 1 and 2

Within a few minutes of landing we were on our way by bus to Luton Airport where Pauline’s sister Alison Farrow, would meet us and drive us to our home in Flitwick, Pronounced “Flit’ tick”. With the days getting longer and the weather becoming nicer, May is a wonderful time in the English countryside. With horse chestnut, lilac, and Mayflower in full bloom, the motorways are lined with color. After a nice meal with the Farrows, a walk around the garden, unpacking and watching the news we crashed for the next 9 hours.

Even before rising the next morning we had our first invitation to do a woodland walk in nearby Flitwick Moor with the First Baptist Church walking group. Every other Thursday this group does a few mile walk along one of the many public footpaths and ends it in a tea shop.

A two mile walk took us along the River Flit through the Flitwick Moor, which is adorned with flowers, kissing gates, bridges, and cow pastures.

The River Flit-This is one of my favorite painting locations


The First Baptist Church Walking Group in a field of butter cups.


One of the many bridges in Flitwick Moor with cows in the background.

Flitwick Mill Framed with Mayflowers and Oak. The English countryside is never more beautiful.

Relaxing after the walk at the Tea Shop-I was tempted here by the Full English Breakfast which consists of Eggs, sausage, bacon, toast, beans, tomatoes, mushrooms, hash browns and black pudding. They say, "If you have to eat in England, make sure it is breakfast."

Oh, I almost forgot to mention. About that writing job American Airlines gave me? They didn't actually require me to write. I was just shitting you about that part. But the $300 per hour part is true. That is how much after tax money I saved by flying in economy class instead of business class. I figured writing about it would just help me turn it into a job. Not bad pay, either huh? Maybe I can even write off the economy fare as a business expense? That would raise my pay to almost $400 per hour.