Modern Air Travellers

by Chikashi Miyamoto

Instead of heading to Liège on Saturday for the Liège Bastogne Liège sportive, I had to head to the airport for a few days abroad. Don’t you hate it when work gets in the way of a jolly with friends? Well, stuff happens, no? When you are out on a ride, you sometimes see things that make you pause from time to time. You see other sorts of stuff when travelling abroad.

Whilst in the British Airways lounge at Heathrow, I went to the loo. The previous occupant, a man of Middle Eastern descent in his 40′s who spoke French with the thickest of accents, took a wee without lifting the seat with less than perfect precision from an upright position and did not bother to flush. I was accustomed to seeing such a sight regularly in the US when I used to spend a lot of time there, but it took me by surprise this time because my callous for such things disappeared over recent years as my visits to the US became less frequent and shorter, typically 36 hours. It makes you wonder what they do at home, doesn’t it? Luckily, Åsa Stensson was also in the lounge (not in the loo, for the avoidance of doubt) to provide a visual antidote to the sight in the loo. Newton’s Law at work?

I am old enough to remember a time when the first laptops were the size of a cinderblock, weighing as much as my nephew, threatening to dislocate your shoulder with one slightly wrong move, and commanded a 5 figure retail price. The computer ran on something mysterious called DOS and, for most people, it had no practical value other than the fact that lugging it half way around the world made the carrier feel rather important despite having to schlep the weight himself and flying commercial airlines. The people who really mattered travelled with a pen, notebook and a calculator… Today, the important-feeling people seem to travel with a smartphone, iPad and a notebook computer. Despite technological progress, the weight of tech crap people lug around seems not to have changed all that much. I have to assume that people are becoming more important, and technology is unable to keep up with the consumers’ increasing importance. But then, I wouldn’t know, would I?

Air travel has become accessible to the general public over the years, with the cost of travel steadily decreasing except for the rising cost of fuel. At the same time, the sense of occasion amongst most passengers has all but disappeared as air travel became routine. Today a group of giddy women of a certain age boarding a flight for a holiday abroad can look faintly ridiculous because they tend to dress up as though they are out on a hen night celebrating something. This is in stark contrast to those bulbous tourists that look as though they just rolled out of a hot dog eating contest, in their track suit / sweat pants (am I the only one that gets tickled to death by the term ‘sweat pants’? It sounds more like an insult than a garment, no?) I usually wear denim, cut-and-sew, knits and a blouson when flying, so I am not exactly a paragon of loveliness. I realised this weekend that perhaps those middle-aged Sex in the City girls who are busy adjusting their shape-wears mid-flight have got it right. Sometimes one finds inspiration in unexpected places…