Another day, another flight to Paris

blast
I’m writing this while flying from San Francisco to Paris on Air France. I’ve flown this route several times in the past year, but never with such “flavor”. This trip is only half way over, yet the memorable events just keep piling up.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like this flight has been bad. There are no singing nuns, deadly snakes, or poisonous entrees. No, this flight has been filled with those little experiences that make me say to the little gremlin on the wing: “Did that just happen?”

Setting the stage

The flight started off fairly normal. I’ve got a great seat, 32G – a bulkhead aisle seat. The seat next to me is empty and a lady with her toddler sits on the other side of the vacancy. On the other side of the aisle are a couple of elderly women. One of them is frail, the other is quite sprite. Directly behind me is a French couple taking self portraits while strapped into the seats.

The rest of the plane seems to be comprised of inbred American teenagers on at school trip to Paris. No, seriously, they all have this common pie shaped, dough colored look. There is a really ugly set of patriarchs somewhere in California.

Oh, my seat is also a mere 4 feet from the restrooms/self-service area. I’ve got a steady stream of traffic to the right of me.

Hello Mr. open fly

I was treated to several visits from Mr. open fly. We’re not talking simply unzipped. I think this guy thought he was in an adult bookstore and was letting people sample the wares. He paraded up and down the aisles with the fly well open.

It reminded me of a little kid I went to  elementary school with. One day he wore overalls to school with no drawers. He delighted in letting the other kids check the contents of his pockets, hint hint, nudge nudge.

Naturally, I didn’t tell Mr. open fly that the corral was open and the horse was ready to escape. Why spoil such pregnant expectations?

The community television screen

I don’t know how we survived without individual television screens on airplanes. God bless jet blue for introducing the masses to such luxuries. Now we can fly blissfully around the world without having to share the joys of Everyone Loves Raymond with a planeful of idiots that actually think its funny.

No, we now have the ability to watch our own selection of movies, tv shows, and other special visual treats. It’s even possible to spend 9 hours watching movies without seeing Owen Wilson’s stupid nose, a “cutting” sitcom with laugh tracks galore, or the standard educational documentary featuring animals tearing each other to pieces.

No, that’s what the community screens are for. Scattered around the plane are little televisions displaying safety messages, animated stewardesses serving scalding hot coffee, maps of the world with the progress of our plane, and a disturbing collection of entertainment. I hadn’t really noticed these television’s content until this flight.

If it bleeds, it leads

I haven’t been watching the screens consistently. I’ve been trying to watch movies on my little personal slice of video heaven. Once in a while, my eye will be distracted by something twittering on the community screen, which sits about 4 feet away, next to the toddler’s suspended bassinet.

piglets photo on flickr
Piglets photo by ynskjen on Flickr

The first scene that grabbed my attention was a group of playful piglets trying to jump out of their pen. The pens looked like an farm from an old vampire film: dark shadows, low angle, carefully placed detritus, and a sanitary suspense. Ah look at the cute piggies.

Bam, cut to a butcher’s knife chopping through some anonymous chunk of animal corpse. One second cute piglet, next second a farmers market and dinner for some family.

This documentary then cuts to a pleasant Asian women talking to to the camera. There’s no sound, so she could be discussing the future of world peace in Africa, the art of Owen Wilson films, or the joy of slaughtering piglets. Frankly, I am assuming it is the latter. We continue to watch more scenes from Chinese markets as mysterious chunks of creatures are pulled out of woks, women plucking birds, and dogs running around scavenging for snacks and litter mates, sometimes both at the same time.

Keep in mind this is displayed on banks of televisions scattered around the plane. It’s also on some kind of demented loop. I’ve caught this documentary several times.

The broadcast hits keep on rolling

crazyfamily
There was one particular stretch of joyous images that occurred during our meal time. Which reminds me of a particular Thanksgiving memory at the Drake house. We were gathered around the table waiting to dive into the feast.

Naturally the television was  on and for some reason it was tuned to a surgery channel instead of the normal Three’s Company marathon. Just as the food was starting to be dished out, a doctor cut open a tumorous organ and a gallon of black bile poured onto the surgical table. Yum, pass the gravy.

So, while I’m diving into my vegetarian in fight meal, the community televisions start displaying a series of bloody images. Tibetans were getting slaughtered, cartoon detectives were shooting bad guys, piglets turned into meat chunks, and the toddler next to me is making his toy ambulance crash into his toy cement mixer. “Would you like some bread with your meal?” You betcha!

The long trip to powder the nose

The frail older lady next to me needed to powder her nose a couple hours ago. This procedure involved several people as we jockeyed positions to make sure she had a clear shot to the bulkhead. Her companion assisted her. Just as she finally gets out of her seat and is heading towards the powder room, passengers from the forward section jump into the toilets and she’s forced to wait for an opening. One of the stewardesses assisted her to the premium lounges. She made it back in good shape and is now sleeping soundly.

And then Little Betty died

Little Betty is the name of my new laptop; a tiny toy of a thing made by Asus. Unfortunately, the battery died mid flight and I wasn’t able to finish documenting this flight. There were several inbred teenagers that liked to hangout at the free sodas in front of my seat. I could describe them for hours. Alas, my post-flight haze is kicking in and they’ll have to escape the brutal knife of my razor sharp wit.

Jerry Springer in Paris

I have a cold right now. It’s nothing major, just annoying. Yesterday I took two antihistamines and fell asleep on the couch. I woke up to something oddly familiar… Jerry Springer on the TV! I have never heard such sweet poetry to my ears.

Jerry SpringerI’ve been in Paris for 6 weeks now and starting to miss the truly tasteless entertainment I called my life in California. I love Jerry Springer and now I’ve got him talking to me about women sleeping with their boyfriend’s brother. Pinch, me I think I’m dreaming.

New vocabulary

This veritable Louvre of Television culture is showing 3 hours of commercial free Jerry Springer, punctuated by an episode of Urkel?! I have learned so many new words. I can now say “You fat cow”, “you inbred son of a bitch”, and “only when I’m drunk.” But the best word I learned was Salope!, french for the chant “Whore!” that you hear so often on his show.

Yes, everytime a woman disclosed her affair with the guys 3 brothers, you’d hear the audience chanting “whore! whore! whore!” and the screen shows “Salope! Salope! Salope!” in the captioning.

However, salope doesn’t have the same gutteral power. It sounds more like a woman in the old testament that squeezed a rock and produced cheese.

Micropatronage for accessibility

Patronage: It ain�t just for the Medicis anymore

Joe Clark has an ambitious project on the docket. The Open & Closed Project hopes to create a new standard for video captioning. It also includes plans to develop better training and certification for those creating captioning. Joe even has plans for developing and implementing new fonts that would make it easier to view the online and over-the-air captions.

However, Joe needs some help.

This project won’t run itself and needs funding. He’s asking us to help him raise the funding. Joe needs $7,777 to support 4 months of intensive fund-raising and project co-ordination. Can you help him raise this sum? If you have a friend, family member, or acquaintance that is deaf, this project will significantly help their lives.

If you go to the gym and watch the telly while sweating on a treadmill, desperately trying to figure out what the talking head is saying…. this project may or may not significantly help your life. Sometimes, you just don’t want to know what the idiot on Fox News is saying when some jerk on another treadmill is controlling the remote control… but I digress.

Visit Joe’s site and donate a few bucks. That’s all it takes. You don’t have to be a superstar to make captioning real.