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30 November, 2008

Chapter 1: Seattle to Kona

Traveling almost always has some challenges associated with it. Getting from Seattle to Kona was just about the easiest trip I've had in a long time. There were no delays, no turbulence, no offensive airplane odors, no headaches from the cabin pressurization, no glitches in transfers, no problems with car rental, no difficulties finding the bed and breakfast where we are staying. It was largely uneventful.

But not completely uneventful.

As we made our way down the aisle of the airplane (Northwest Flight 805, a Boeing 757), and approached our row, we saw that a rather heavy, older man was sitting on the aisle seat. I had previously agreed to give Denise the window, since it had been a long time since she'd flown anywhere, let alone someplace worth flying. So this meant that I had (unknowingly) agreed to sit next to whomever was on that aisle. This guy was one of those people whose lower body is normal-sized, but his upper half was big-belly. And he was clearly of the mindset that whatever space his body needs to occupy, well that's just the way it's going to be. So he decided (apparently) that he owns both armrests, and then an additional inch of space into my seating area. This forced me to lean in Denise's direction. Now, I do not mind being in Denise's personal space, of course, but when you're on a long flight, you really don't want to be fussed with by anything. The matters were made significantly worse by what seemed to be either a technical difficulty or complete ineptitude regarding the functioning of the headset for listening to the television. I say this because this guy (who was from Duluth) spent at least 3 hours of the 6 hour flight attempting to adjust the volume of his headset. He could not figure out which buttons he needed to press, and he also could not figure out how to press them. And each time he attempted to press these buttons, he would put his hand all the way around the armrest that contained the controls (which meant his hand and his entire arm and elbow were in my seat), and he would start lifting and grabbing and fussing with this armrest. After 5-40 minutes of messing around with it, he would eventually give up and unplug his headphones, and then complain to his wife on the aisle across, who would offer him helpful suggestions for how to get it to work. Then he would plug it back in, and do the whole thing again. And when he finally did seem to get the headphones temporarily working, he proceeded to fall asleep, with his arm in my space (because his big fat belly was forcing his arms into my space). It was at this point that I needed to pee, of course. And I did not feel like communicating with him. I was reminded of the Seinfeld episode, where Elaine is so mad at the guy next to her, that when he finally falls asleep, she leans over to him and shouts "Hey!" So this guy really ruined my trip, though I should not call it "ruined" because it wasn't really that bad at all.

Then we arrived in Maui, where our plane stopped for 1 hour, and were disappointed to find out that there was absolutely no food for us, and since we had not bought the 10 dollar ham sandwich on the plane, we were starving. I could go on another rant about the airplane food thing, and am tempted to do so. I want to know why they don't just charge $10 more for the flight and keep serving meals? I am convinced it is for two reasons: 1) They want to demoralize us and make us feel as much like prisoners or vermin as possible, and insisting that we need to buy a shitty meal, after we've been fleeced for our tickets is the best way of ensuring that we have low expectations, and 2) Ever since September 11th, I think that airlines have decided that flight attendants are no longer on the plane to make our flight as comfortable as possible - flight attendants are now on the plane to make sure that don't attempt to use any electronic devices or box cutters while the plane is in the air. They are essentially short-term prison guards.

We arrived in Kona, on time. Caught a quick shuttle to the Thrifty car rental place. I had reserved an economy car, so of course they gave me a Dodge Caliber. This car is a piece of shit. It has more road noise than a lawn mower. It is larger than most mid-sized cars, but apparently it is Thrifty's "economy" car. I wonder what fueleconomy.gov has to say about it? Hm... actually better than I expected. 23 city, 27 highway. In fact, the more I look at it, it sort of looks like the same car as my Mazda 3 was before I got rid of it. But it's just horribly poor design. Every direction you try to look, the vehicle has a strategically implemented blind spot, including (my favorite) straight in front of you if you're going up over a hill! Yes, the dashboard and car front are designed such that if you go over a slight uphill, all you see is sky. I guess they figure that the road is not that important.

But they got us out of there quickly and we arrived at our destination on time.

The Cedar House Bed & Breakfast, in the town of Captain Cook, HI.

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