After once again having to deal with United Airlines, I’ve finally made it to Korea. We landed among severe turbulence into a dismal, drizzly landscape, just like those pictures I still have in my mind from the Korean War days of G.I.’s struggling through mud, water, and snow toward their objectives. Speaking of that, I’m to travel next Saturday to the DMZ.

I shall be writing United sometime this week, to express my displeasure. First, the plane was two hours late leaving due to a problem discovered with the air conditioning after everyone had already boarded. We were directed to leave the plane and take our belongings with us, a lengthy, time-consuming process. With my usual optimism, I was able to find “the Sweetness in Adversity” by heading to the men’s room in the airport, for a lengthy rest. After about a half-hour, we were told to once again load, and then sat there for over an hour. It was well that the AC had been fixed; some passengers had personal hygiene issues that cried out for resolution.                   

I had a window seat, deliberately chosen in order to view San Francisco Bay on departure, the Aleutians at Alaska, Northern Japan and Kachatka Peninsula, and finally Korea, as we flew over. My “seat mates” were a Korean young couple who have exceptional bladder control; neither left their seat during the whole 12 hour ordeal!

Those of you who have read some of my previous entries recall my comparisons of U.S. airlines with Lufthansa and Turkish Air; my comments hold even more truth after this flight. Generally, the flight attendants were grumpy, non-smiling older folks as compared to younger, energetic and friendly individuals on the other airlines. At one point, I had my window shade up about to 2 inches so that I could occasionally check to see if we were flying over one of the previously-mentioned landforms; one of the harridans snarled at me to “Shut that window down!”, apparently either extremely exasperated or mildly perturbed. I asked why and she responded, “So that all those people over there (She waved toward the middle section of the passenger area) can sleep!” I looked, and all seemed to already be with the Sandman, but I complied with her “order”. Being naturally passive aggressive, I occasionally raised the shade not only to peek out but to irritate her if she happened by. Only two of the attendants smiled, the rest seemed resentful that we were even aboard. I could understand that in my case, but the rest of the passengers seemed to be pleasant and compliant, even a bit tolerant. At 73, I don’t feel I still need to be tolerant.

Now, let’s look at the entertainment. I was embarrassed about the perception that foreigners were receiving about the US, given the TV shows selected for viewing during the trip. The wors tone, in my opinion, was “Two and a Half Men”, the Charlie Sheen fiasco. All of the trailers I’d seen actually grossed me out from the perspective of decorum and good taste, this one was no better. It was about him appearing on a kid’s TV show and teaching children songs about “cutting the cheese” and “boobies”. Very bad taste. The next tv show was about a British soccer coach, and featured multiple uses of the “f-bomb” by the players and fans. The other offerings were fine, “30 Rock” and the one about Raymond that I’ve never watched. And the movies were good ones—Sherlock Holmes, The Actor, Bad Robot, and The Tower Heist. I actually managed to doze and snooze briefly on this trip.

And now for the food. I still don’t know how Lufthansa does it. United offered only one meal on this 12 hour trip, and when I was offered the choice between chicken or beef, I chose beef. I got chicken. And it was not good, especially when coupled with the stale, whole wheat roll wrapped in cellophane, and a packet of spread. I missed my Lufthansa camembert cheese, real butter, and french baguette. A limp lettuce salad accompanied by a package of dressing completed the offering, along with a brownie. There were two other food occasions, one was a banana and stale roll wrapped in cellophane, which I refused, and a choice just before arrival of a turkey sandwich or fried noodles as a snack. The sandwich felt stale in its blanket of foil, and the noodles appeared unappetizing. This was affirmed by my seatmate, who chose the noodles and couldn’t eat them due to their gluey consistency. When The Snarler asked what I wanted, I told her that “What I wanted was a meal” and turned down both choices. She’s probably not lying awake nights worrying about it.

Fortunately, my next several flights do not include United. Turkish Airlines, from whom I had a good experience, and BWI are the next major carriers. I’ve been warned however, about Egyptair which will be my transport to Aswan. I was told that they spray for bugs just before you embark, and tell you that the spray is not harmful to humans.

Marco Polo

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