Monday, March 21, 2011

Popcorn, Bacon and Shoes

You've just worked a hell day on the road. It's the last day in town with an early wake-up call at the hotel to check-out, cram the luggage in to the trunk and make it to the office at a decent hour for the final round of meetings, seminars and conference calls. The suit isn't as fresh as it was four days ago but it will hold for one more use until you can tame the beast at your favorite cleaners back home. The new Stacy Adams or those high as the moon Louboutins that only needed a little breaking in are taking their good sweet time molding to your feet, especially the one that is a half-size too small and "minor discomfort" has morphed in to out and out pain. They have to serve, however, since they're the only pair you brought with you to save room in the luggage.

Day is done, car is returned, boarding is completed and now, finally, a well deserved chance to - NO, DON'T DO IT - kick your shoes off for a well earned stretch of cramped toes, itchy soles and blistered ankles. In this day and age it is all about you and your individual comfort and convenience and danged if you don't have the right within your space on the plane to get as comfortable as possible. Except the obvious reality is that air of any kind, fresh or foul, does not stay within the confines of Seat 15D. Air moves. And it telegraphs the sounds and smells of everything, from the most savory of cooking smells wafting from kitchens and backyard grills to some of the worst offenders in human society: popcorn in the office or bacon in the morning to a fart in church and bad feet on an airplane.

Airplanes are equipped with extremely powerful air filtration systems for both comfort and good health. There is no rolling down a window for a passing breeze at 550MPH and also no escape from whatever contagions other passengers might be carrying. Stale air in an enclosed environment? Not good. The trouble is, with an air "exchange" often advertised at once every three minutes it simply amplifies the stronger smells wafting through the air on their way from the source to the outflow ducts. That means those bloomin' onions rising from your bunions are blowing right past the noses of everyone within at least a five row zone around you.

On any domestic flight I leave my shoes on no matter if it is the first flight of the day and I'm fresh out of the shower or the last flight of the night and even my shoes are tired of my tootsies. On international flights where I'm going to be on board for the next half of a day the shoes are definitely coming off but I observe a few simple preflight rituals before introducing my Size 14s to the rest of the cabin. The feet are thoroughly washed, dried, then massaged in lotion and cooling powder before a fresh pair of socks finish the ritual. Some airlines still offer cabin socks in all classes which are then worn over my own and, lastly, to guarantee maximum comfort as well as odor prevention, I bring a very thick pair of cotton "cushion" socks to wear on top of the other two. If the airline doesn't offer cabin socks in my cabin then the cushion socks are still worn over the first pair I put on at home.

After eight hours in the air the cabin floor is very hard and often cold, to say nothing of the nitrogen swelling the feet endure at high altitudes. Why add odor to the rest of the discomfort? After being mummified for up to 18 hours of pure flying by the time I get to the house or hotel there is most definitely a sweaty sheen on the piddies when the wrappings finally come off. But the doors are closed, there's no one around but me and after that pre-flight ritual, the bouquet is hardly noticeable.

On top of all that, after nearly 24 hours since I last experienced hot water an extremely welcome hot shower is less than 10 steps away.

Gotta go.

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