Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Monday, June 20, 2011
When Thomas Friedman stated that “‘First Class’ is more than just a better seat, it’s a better life,” he was quite right. I have always been curious about his claim, because I have never had the chance to ride first class... Today broke that mold for me. When I was about to sit in my seat at the back of the aircraft, my flight attendant approached me and asked me to switch seats with a woman who had a young child in the seat next to mine. I was reluctant to give up my window seat and take the seat juxtapose to mine in the isle, but I agreed. The flight attendant thanked me for making the switch and told one of her colleagues to be sure to give me an extra drink or two for my trouble. I was seated beside a large man whose arms kept brushing against mine. Thoughts about how I wished this wasn’t appropriate in our culture kept rushing through my head, but I was patient and squeezed myself further toward the isle to escape his clumsy reach.
When the window passenger arrived, I was preparing to let her pass when she asked me if I would move to first class so that her boyfriend could sit with her in the dingy corner at the back of the plane. I looked at her puzzled for a moment and asked the large gentleman next to me if he would prefer to take the seat since he was in the middle seat, but he assured me that I could have the seat in first class if I wanted it. After being reassured that it was in fact alright for me to take the boyfriend’s seat, I took down my luggage and walked past almost every passenger on the plane in order to get to my seat at the front of the plane. I got some interesting glances from others as I passed by them while the plane was almost ready to start the orientation video. The boyfriend thanked me for my sacrifice and I thanked him and we switched spots. I sat at a window and looked scanned the new landscape. I was seated next to a dumpy little man in his late 40s or 50s. He was fast asleep with half a glass of bloody Mary. The seat was very comfortable and I fell asleep very quickly and my neck didn’t ache at all because it leaned back just enough and had supporting cushions for my neck.
The flight attendants were vigilant and doted over each person in first class, especially my dear Irish travel companion who ordered drink after drink. I am not sure if he slept so well because he was drunk or because he was tired, but nonetheless, he slept and awoke long enough to call a flight attendant, consume another drink and ask for a small meal.
For the meal, we were given a roast beef sandwich, an organic caramel brownie with walnuts, fresh fruit and a full drink. Instead of using the cheap plastic silverware and plates, each passenger was given a tray with unpackaged food neatly displayed on glass plates and bowls along with real silverware. Most of the others in first class peeled their sandwiches apart and poked around with their forks trying to make sense of the beef touching the bread. I found it delicious and satisfying. I was reluctant to leave the first class with the beautiful legroom and reclining capabilities, because I knew that my 10-hour flight would not be nearly as comfortable or welcoming.
Sunday, June 19, 2011
Saturday, June 18, 2011
Right now I am in transit once again from Jordan to Colorado. Each time that I travel, I inadvertently examine the bathroom facilities of each airport. As a frequent occupant, I scan the tile walls, the sinks and countertops, and trace the door of the bathroom stall. I am a firm believer that the condition of an airport bathroom portrays a glimpse into the importance of and pride in workmanship, resource awareness and environmentalism, as well as the strength of the country’s economy.
While in the Queen Alia Airport in Amman, Jordan, I noticed that the doors were made out of compressed wood that were neatly painted with grey, giving the boards a finished look, however, pieces of unfinished wood were wedged between the latchets on the bathroom stall doors and used to stabilize weak sections within the board. The bathroom was clean for a Jordanian toilet and was equipped with a toilet paper roll that was placed discretely on the ground next to the toilet. An empty dispenser was fastened to the wall, but employees probably did not feel that it was necessary to actually install the toilet paper in the dispenser.
To flush the toilet, there are two options, a light flush that conserves more water and a strong flush that thoroughly cleans the toilet. Due to the water shortage in Jordan, a two flush option is a fantastic way to conserve a prized and limited resource: water. Out of the stall, occupants have access to wash their hands and Kleenex tissues are placed in the paper towel dispenser to dry one’s hands. Using Kleenexes reveals that Queen Alia Airport and its facilities are on a tight budget and cannot splurge on cheap paper towels, much less the firm, almost fabric-like paper towels found at Detroit's airport.
Seated overtly in the bathroom is a cleaning lady that supervises the bathroom and ensures that the bathroom is kept clean. She also assists occupants by directing them, providing them with toilet paper or hand tissues in some cases. By monitoring the amount of toilet paper or hand towels that occupants receive, the airports are able to conserve more tissues and prevent wasteful use. These bathroom assistants almost always expect a tip for providing occupants with tissues or toilet paper and keeping the area clean. By expecting a tip and having an individual posted specifically in the bathroom, it is obvious that the national economy offers low wages and that the economy is weak with limited job opportunities.
In countries such as the United States, Germany, or France, staffing bathrooms would be exorbitantly expensive for airports because employees are offered much higher wages for more specialized jobs. Furthermore, technology has replaced many simple jobs that also restrict the overconsumption of goods such as water, tissues and toilet paper. Water, soap dispensers, toilet paper and hand towels are all monitored by machines that distribute ample amounts of their respective products.
While in Frankfurt, Germany, I noticed that the toilet paper was a light grey color, which leads me to believe that it is recycled paper. In Paris, France, instead of paper towels, one could air-dry her hands or use a dispenser that reused a white clothe. It looked as though there was a large roll of clothe within the machine that provided me with a place to wash my hands and then tucked the used clothe in a separate container to prevent the spread of bacteria and disease. I assume that this clothe is removed once the roll runs out and is washed before reuse. This is a very environmentally innovative method that reduces the amount of garbage that is produced from the airport. Almost every dispenser within these two facilities was electronically based with sensors. The colors within the bathrooms are bold, like bright orange. The color screams “we are trendy and value fashion, even in our restrooms.” Upon exiting the bathroom in Paris, one is overwhelmed with high-end perfume, liquor, fashion, technology, and all-natural foods.
While being swept away by the opulence of the Paris airport, I perused the prices while looking for a small beverage. The prices astonished me with waters ranging from 2.40 to 4.50 Euro. My friend and I gawked at the prices for about 5 minutes when an Englishman stumbled upon us and reminded us that although water is a normal good in Jordan that is necessary for basic health, bottled water is definitely a luxury good in Paris. As he said it, “water for your waist-line” or “bottled water because it’s sexy.” Neatly placed next to the water were small containers of all natural juices with no preservatives, a smart label, and another ominous price tag – 4.90 Euro. My friend and I decided to stick with the cheapest water and the second to cheapest croissant with chocolate drops inside. We enjoyed our little snack and watched a Palestinian youth folklore group from Ramallah order the rest of the shop. One tiny girl ordered about 20 Euros worth of snacks and a drink. The two of us were absolutely intrigued.
After our snack, a very interesting and shady gentleman kept meeting up with us and tried to spark yet another conversation with us. We were not intrigued at all and left to look at high end chocolates, perfumes and handbags. We found four small pieces of chocolate for 5.50 Euros – Why?! I recognize that chocolate in Europe is delectable and worth a bounty, but 30 Euros for four bars of chocolate was too much for my taste. We found a small minimart within the airport that had more manageable prices and I was quite content purchasing a “low-end,” yet quite large Milka chocolate bar for 4.80 Euro. I couldn’t help by try a piece while on my plane ride from Paris to Salt Lake City. The chocolate was absolutely incredible. I put a single square in my mouth and crumbled as the chocolate melted and serenaded my tongue. It was definitely love!