Preparing to shoot a few segments of Big Jon in 5 for BEER2WHISKEY in our upstairs studio at Barley's Taproom in downtown Greenville. That's owner Josh Beebe preparing for his closeup.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Flying: It Ain't All It's Cracked Up to Be

I'm not the kind of guy who can't enjoy a couple of weeks of down time. I categorize “down time” as days that I'm not on the road. For the past 25 years or so, there have only been four or five years when my days on the road didn't outnumber my days at home. Three of those have been since moving to South Carolina eight years ago, and another was my last year in Florida when I had a nine-to-five job editing books. 

This year will be another of those down-time years. Usually by June of a typical travel year for me, I have at least 35,000 to 40,000 miles under my belt. In my salad days of flying, I would have had 50,000 to 60,000 miles in the bag by mid June. This year I have just over 25,000 and almost 10,000 of that were carried over from 2013.

There was a point just before Delta filed bankruptcy and I began liquidating my stockpile of Sky Miles that I had 1.2 million miles piled up in my bank. When you fly all over the place for a living, you don't feel much like flying on vacations. The miles just kept mounting up. Thinking that I might lose those earned miles in the bankruptcy, I began flying everyone I knew all over. I flew former girl friends into Florida for long weekends; I flew family members first class here and there; I took some trips I really wasn't all that interested in taking. Finally I had my miles stash down to about 200,000 miles. Other than making a bunch of people very happy, it turned out to be a really bonehead move. Delta and its frequent-flier program both survived.

Don't get me wrong; there is nothing even remotely glamorous about clocking 120,000 miles or more a year in the air. Sure, from time to time I have been booked in business class by a car company jetting me to Europe or Hawaii to drive some new car, but those perks are few and far between. It's happened fewer than a dozen times in 25 years. Otherwise, flying is a dehumanizing, fatiguing, frustrating cattle call, and that's when I fly Delta on which I have sufficient clout to obtain a choice steerage seat or be awarded the occasional upgrade to first class.

I wish I had kept track over the years of how many hours I've sacrificed cooling my heels in airports waiting on flights, or how many nights I've spent in flea-bag motels as the guest of an airline because of a canceled flight. I suspect I've changed planes in Atlanta close to 1,000 times over the years, and in Dallas another 300 to 400 times when it was still a hub for Delta. One year, when I still had hair, every haircut I had was in the Delta terminal of the Dallas airport. I can't imagine how many miles I've walked through airports getting to my departure gate or, when changing planes, from an arrival gate to a departure gate. Ten thousand steps, my ass.

I rarely sample airport food, but I have sat at more than an occasional airport bar. I can't begin to guess the number of beers I've guzzled in airports to pass the time. What must it be in gallons?

Technology today is such that a percentage of the time spent flying and sitting in airports can be at least somewhat productive, but that's only been in the past 10 or 15 years. Before that? Forget about it. It was a lot of time wasted. Even today, I don't typically do much work on a plane or in an airport.

Yep, I'm dealing with a little down time right now: two full weeks at home. I have one trip at the end of this month, but four already looming in July.

So I'm enjoying this down time while I have it.

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