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Have phone, will travel

This is a blog on a plane. It is the story of a number of systems I’m using to make the overall travel experience simpler, more efficient, and less painful. It will include this plane. It will include a few trains. It might also include a taxi or two. And hotels. And maybe some government systems that will allow me to enter the country without all those questions they felt necessary to ask me back in 1984 because I had a bit of a beard and looked like I maybe hadn’t slept much.

It will definitely include online booking systems.

All of today’s journey was researched online. Of course it was. How else do you do it these days? Nearly all of it was booked online, apart from the taxi. The taxi company we use for work does have some kind of online booking system I think, but it works rather better to phone the night before and tell them in person, because I’m not entirely convinced the online system is anything more than a copy of wordstar sending faxes to a pigeon.

And everything has been tracked online. Confirmation of booking, booking reference, whether the train is on time, what platform it will be on, checking into my fight, getting my boarding pass, checking the plane will be on time, what departure gate it will be at, right up to me sitting here in 27k somewhere over a cloud the size of Greenland, having taken a photo of my feet and a highlife magazine and bored 1044 to death with it on twitter.

When I say online, of course, I mean, on my phone. Everything I’ve mentioned here has been done using my phone. That’s to say the train company, the airline, the hotel chain (not the taxi company) make it possible for me to arrange and book and track an entire travel itinerary just using my phone. I mean, I could have used a desktop computer or a laptop, but, you know, that’s not the first thing we do these days. I fill the gaps between whatever I do either side of gaps by fiddling with my phone. It might as well be productive fiddling. Those companies might as well make it easy to use their service over someone else’s, because, increasingly, if I can’t do it on my phone, I won’t do it at all.

There are of course, some drawbacks to a wholly phone-based travel experience. When I want to print out the hotel details to leave at home, I’m a bit stuck. It’s almost an affront to have to turn on the poor neglected desktop just to connect to a printer. But really, that’s about it. For me, this is an entirely paperless trip. So paperless, in fact, that I forgot to take the most important piece of paper of all. My passport.

Ok, so I didn’t really forget it, BUT I NEARLY DID. That’s a good enough anecdote for me to describe the modern travel experience and how it’s changed our expectations of what is possible. The ubiquity of mobile and its effect on some of our largest ecosystems continues to change the way we manage our lives, mostly, I think, for the better.

I should probably point out the some of the apps and mobile sites I had to use to make this happen were fucking awful, but that might take the edge off my nicely upbeat story, so I won’t.

twitching in the flatiron crossing

Nordstrom, Foleys, Nordstom, Foleys, erm, left. No, straight on. will they have socks? of course they will. they’ll have those thin old man socks that cost $15 dollars and have diamonds up the side. right then, Foleys. Left. No, hang on, I can get presents in Nordstrum too. right, Nordstrum it is. ok, left. I think, hang on, ALRIGHT MATE! I’M THINKING!

stick the ceramic aztec trophy in the boot and swish through the doors, straight into Chan in menswear. “is there anything I can help you with today sir?” erm, no thankyou, I’m just being british and stalking around your footwear in a deliberate fashion while hunting for socks I refuse to ask you to locate for me. these shops are always empty when I go in them. I mean, Nordstrom. it’s huge, but there’s absolutely noone in here. is that just me? anyway, I don’t find socks, but upon realizing that flatiron crossing isn’t just 2 huge department stores stuck together in the middle, I head off into the wilderness of thursday evening mall shopping in Colorado. I need a tshirt. I have to fly back tomorrow in a tshirt that was fine when I flew out a week ago but following numerous bar meals in the tap room, with fat tire, slabs of hotel chocolate, lunchtime sushi, nachos, burgers, subways, beer, enchiladas, tubs of lard etc., my uber gut stretches the etnies logo out of shape and I look like I should be sat in a golf cart in florida with a havana in one hand and a colostomy bag in the other. so I just need to scale up slightly for the plane. it’s the altitude you see, it adds 20 pounds because of the air pressure or something, honest. right, banana republic. nope. helly hansen. yeah, right, I really need microfibres that stretch to fit and expose every contour. gap. nope. dick’s sporting goods. ooh, maybe, lets have a look. eh? there’s people wall climbing in here. that’s just stupid, get me out of here. hang on, they’re playing the carpet crawlers by genesis in a sports store in a broomfield mall in 2005. that’s just weird. mind you, I hang on for a couple more minutes to listen and pretend to look at basketballs I’ve no intention of buying. “you gotta get in in to get ou-ou-ou-ooou-out”. nope. abercrombie and fitch. it’s too dark in there. and a man just came out with a sideways head, I don’t like the look of that. pacific sunwear. sorry, Pac Sun. sounds a bit like Pac Man that martin has in his basement. ok, there’s 21 year olds in there I aspire to be like and I desperately want to wear their tshirts and be in their gang, so I’ll take a look, even though I’ve come straight from BRM01 and I’m wearing my meeting clothes so obviously I just look like their dad. or creepy trying-to-be-trendy uncle or something. ah so what. right, over to the shirt rack. ooh, fox, etnies, hurley, mad monkey, wet dog, quiksilver, billabong, rolf harris, and they’re 3 for 2. I have to try one on, because I still don’t know whether a US medium is a UK large or whether that’s just random. “Hi I’m Sara! I’ll be unlocking your changing room door for you today and closing it behind you! If you have any questions in Pacific Sunwear today, please give me a shout!”. er, ok. in the end, medium is medium, and I really need a fat git size today, so large it is. $42 dollars and a withering smile from me that says please let me be in your gang later and I’m out of there.

still no socks though. but now I have a shopping bag with stuff I’ve bought in it. that makes me a shopper. that means I can browse around other shops and for some reason staff completely ignore me, like I’ve been seduced by the dark side and they don’t need to pursuade me to part with my money. I’ve crossed the line. I will spend more, it’s the law. so with me bulging comfort blanket in me right hand and me left hand in my trouser pocket, I head back to victorias secret which I passed by earlier but pretended not to be interested in, even saying something like “ah yes, brookstone” out loud to myself so people thought I was intent on going somewhere else. I can now cross the threshold of this place as a shopper, which means I’m not just gawping at plunge bras like a 15 year old, I might actually buy one as well. for my wife. but actually, victorias secret is just so rampant it all gets too much for me and after doing one circuit, humming to myself apparently nonchalently, I try to stumble out gracefully, but I trip over the electronic tag detector in the doorway and set off the alarm with the magnetic strip on my library card. I think I just about hold it together while I crawl around the floor, picking up the contents of my wallet as it slithers away from me across the polished floor and me glasses fall out of my shirt pocket, where I’ve been keeping them like some professor or something. stand up. shoulders back. walk on. smile. try not to notice the entire staff in there are peering at you around the counter and the stock cupboard door like you’re some kind of pantomime freak on holiday who left his costume on. never mind that they’re all 19 and called Kirsty and they would have been happy to help you if you had any questions in victorias secret today, it’s too late. you’re an idiot. a fat idiot who hasn’t bought any presents and looks like a stupid dad person on vacation, looking for socks and loitering around lingerie shops.

anyway, I did get some socks. calvin klein, $10 each. then I went back to the hotel and sat in the bar on my own watching tv. I’m going to drive to Aspen tomorrow.

wake up dammit

19 hours of travelling and I’m sat in front a tv that’s 5 feet off the ground trying to focus on re-runs of CSI or something that’s got loads of earnest looking americans picking up suspicious objects from the floor of smoky warehouses in slowmotion and then cross fading to a train that goes over your head like what it does in the French Connection until some words or other slide into the frame and then just as I get it the adverts cut in and there’s a massive Nissan Globalwarmer driving across a desert with a boat in the back of it and a caption comes up at the bottom saying ‘professional driver in a simulated desert thats not real so dont do this at home in wisconsin because itll be all your fault when the chassis falls to bits and a flying camshaft takes out Mrs. Pantiles at number 47’. I must be dead in Colorado.

7 years ago all this was fields, well, probably a golf course, but now it’s full of hotels that you can see from 17 miles away but apparently I can’t find the entrance to without driving the wrong way up highway 36 and then taking a turning onto Interlocken and then realizing every turning here is called Interlocken so I’m no closer to my bed than I was 18 hours ago when I got out of it at 7 in the morning and said goodbye to my family like it was a trip across antartica but they actually were still asleep and just kind of said ‘yeah, er, bye’. in between then and now, which seems like about 5 fat tires and 2 bar meals in the tap room talking to Brad about cutting your thumb and listening to Tom going on about wine which is just a bit warm, but definitely not corked, I managed to squeeze in a bus a plane and a chevy cheapskate. oh, and a taxi to the bus station, where Ron dropped me off as we saw a couple kissing each other goodbye and he said ‘youre not getting one of those mate!’ and he was right, even if I offered him double the fare. I usually stay in a rubbish hotel in the heathrow flight path the night before flying out, well its practically on the runway, just at the point where they dump 10 hours worth waste over berkshire, but the flight to denver leaves at 15:50, so rather than taking 2 weekends out I decided to take the bus in the morning to the airport, because the bus isn’t that bad really. unless it’s sunday morning at 7 oclock and the driver has obviously just had a row about eggs with his wife and will happily call the IT specialist an ‘arsehole’ who just put his bag in the luggage compartment marked in his head as ‘gatwick’ instead of the secret one called ‘heathrow’. that was the longest 4 hour bus journey ever. so I get to heathrow about 4 hours before I need to and because I’ve checked in online, I can’t check in yet and so I have to sit in the pre-departures ‘seating area’ which is like finding a dry piece of newspaper to sit on at glastonbury – funny for 2 seconds. 2 hours later I can check in, but that’s alright, because my online check-in means I ‘beat the queues’. apart from the queue that is everybody who has checked in online for British Airways, which is the longest queue of all queues in this collection of queues that is a check in area at heathrow airport.

anyway, as Patricia says, BA’s service onboard is impeccable, even thought the 777 I’m sat in is pants compared to a 747-400 and I’m damned if I can work out when Hotel Rwanda is going to start, so I end up watching Hide and Seek instead which has that 6th sense twist that you kick yourself for not seeing an hour before and then de niro goes all cape fear/tribble, which just isn’t so good at 60, especially when you can see him in Meet the Fockers on channel 16 on the screen on the seat next door. kind of takes the tension out of it when he’s simultaneously wielding a blood-spattered spade and rescuing a toy dog from a toilet . still, dakota fanning was a great dark-haired miseryguts. I managed to squeeze in another film I’ve already completely forgotten about before we landed and no sooner had I stepped off the Avis shuttle bus than I realized I probably couldn’t find my way out of airport in the chevy preferredaccount without at least breathing some real air. I stopped for a while in the car lot and remembered that last time I came here with Chris, Air Force 1 was just landing and we watched it taxi up to the gate where will smith and tommy lee jones appeared from a range rover and we got whisked away to the marriot in Boulder.

having eventually negotiated InterlockenEverywhere I was checked into the Omni and there I sat on the end of the the bed, after a couple of swift ones in the tap room talking with a nice woman from StorageTek about Malcolm Glazer and bikes, flicking through the interactive services menu to see if the bar bill was already on my online statement which it wasn’t which I though was interesting but actually soon realized that just meant I should go to bed and stop being so sad. for some reason I woke up on the hour, every hour, until it was time to get up again. I can’t explain that, but I’ll probably not try and program the radio alarm clock and the p800 and the tv and wake up service all at the same time tonight.

hola you

somebody rang the cheese alarm so here i am waiting with bait on my breath. just got back from the Costa del Sol and i’m overjoyed that i’ve stumbled back into a pressure silo full of spring flowers and songs. sharks and hitler, that’s what Andy says. mind you, it’s sharks, hitler, ghosts and balls these days. know what I mean?

£545 for a family of five on our favorite creaky budget older-than-average cabin crew airline, EasyJet to get us to the south of Spain where we’re met off the plane by 17 handlebar-sporting, Ducados sucking Mercedes drivers holding up white cardboard with other people’s name on. “snr. Armstrong? snr. Armstrong?”, “excuse me”, “snr. Garibaldi? snr Garibaldi?”, “excuse me. mind the cases, kids”, “snr. Dermatitis? snr. Dermatitis?”, “excuse me. mind the cases, kids. I think that’s it, no hang on. excuse me. WHERE’S THE BLOODY INFO DESK IN THIS BLOODY AIRPORT?”

and relax. pick up key for Seat Cordoba SDi (S for sloooow). drive like tourist down wrong side of autovaía. throw cases into house. up to roof terrace and find it’s 75° and sunny at 6pm and laugh like imbecile to self. 2 and a half weeks without phone, email or office.

lucky me. free town house in Nerja, 40 minutes from Malaga. day trips to Frigiliana, Competa, Malaga, days on the beach at Burriana, quick stroll into town to the Balcón de Europa to watch hugely unentertaining street theatre. Apparently, standing still for a very long time dressed as a pirate is very lucrative these days. you only move when some hapless fool drops 1 Euro in your tin and then you move v e e e r r y s l o o o w w w l y like you’re really made out of wood or something. I tried it myself. I sat on the beach with una cerveca and didn’t move for a week. only very slowly, when I had to slap a wooden bat around like an idiot trying a swat a plastic ball my son had launched about 15 metres to my left directly towards the enormous paella fire in Ayo’s bar.

still, it’s good to be back. ha. hahahaha. hahahahahahahahaha. “you could work out here couldn’t you? it doesn’t matter where you work does it? you’re remote working. could be England, could be Spain. what do you think?” er, I guess. actually…