Periodically I need to travel for work – either in visiting head office in Auckland, or – more recently – to other cities for customer work. As time goes on and I push toward our goal of moving to Melbourne, travel is probably going to re-enter my work life as a more regular event.
Yet, as the old cliché goes, the more things change, the more they stay they same. So that means there’s a few ‘little’ things that are common for travel that I really notice – well, on top of the actual missing of loved ones.
Taken individually, you might think that any of these little things are completely trivial, and so it may seem like I’m griping, but what I’m trying to point out is that with a few creature comforts, travel could be much less of a hassle.
Start with flights. There’s four things in particular I find wrong with flying.
Switching off electronic equipment prior to take off and landing
Having to switch off electronic equipment (that has been set to flight mode) for take off and landing is damn annoying. These days I tend not to travel with books or magazines – just my iPad. The damn thing has WiFi turned off, has no 3G, and there’s no way you can tell me that a plane can’t be engineered to be robust enough to sustain passengers using non-transmitting radio devices for take off and landing if they can handle them for actual travel. If it can’t be, I don’t want to fly any more. It’s like offices that have dinky little signs saying “please switch off your mobile phone before entering, your signal will interfere with our computers”. No, the real answer is that your IT staff are dickheads and should be fired for spreading that shit – or your procurement department are tightwads and deserve to be fired for choosing economy over functionality. A mobile phone – a bunch of mobile phones – should not affect a bunch of monitors, PCs or thin clients and keyboards. Similarly, a bunch of devices with “flight mode” enabled should not impact a plane’s functioning during take-off and landing.
So I usually spend the first 10 and last 20 minutes of a flight bored shitless. No Qantas, Air New Zealand, etc., I’m not interested in reading your shitty inflight magazine that’s little more than a collection of ads. I want to keep reading the book on my iPad, or playing the game on my iPad, or listening to my music.
This isn’t rocket science. Start boarding from the back of the bloody plane, in groups of 10 rows, and if anyone tries to board out of order, make them stand to the side and wait their turn.
Leave your seat in the upright position
Don’t be a jerk. There’s someone travelling behind you in economy. Do you think they want the tray table jammed into their face mid-way through a meal just because you can snooze on a plane? You know what I do in those rare instances where I want to try to sleep on a plane? I actually turn around and warn the person behind me I’d like to put my seat back and give them the option to say no.
Cabin crew and on-board luggage
It’s bullshit that cabin crew and paying customers have to share on-board luggage space. It’s bullshit for the paying customers, and it’s equally bullshit for the cabin crew. Give them a separate area to stash their junk so that they feel they’re working in a good environment, and so that we, the paying customers, get what we’re paying for.
Once you’ve arrived at your destination – and I mean your hotel, not just at the end airport – you have the next round of inconveniences.
I thought I’d been really smart this time. I booked a room with a kitchenette, and was going to take my Briki and my Greek coffee, and I’d have been able to make myself decent coffee at the drop of a hat. Sadly, I booked the wrong sort of kitchenette, and didn’t end up with a hotplate – just a microwave.
Thankfully I worked this out in advance of arriving (I just couldn’t change the booking), so bought some “coffee bags” – they’re by Robert Timms; hardly stellar, but better than granulated faeces packaged as “instant coffee”.
Yes, I’m a coffee snob. Between an espresso machine and Greek coffee at home, I love my coffee. In fact, more than love it, I need my coffee of a morning.
Honestly, how hard could it be for hotels to provide better coffee facilities in guest rooms these days? Plunger coffee at least should be provided free and replenished daily. Even better, have an option to pay an extra $5 a day for one of those nasty little Nespresso machines for the room. Yeah, I know the espressos from those pods are at best “drinkable”, but they are for the most part real coffee.
Putting instant coffee in a guest room is like saying, “Hi there. We hate you. We hope you have a shit stay. Here, drink some swill.”
Or it’d be like giving someone a free Starbucks voucher. Either way it still shows a remarkable lack of respect to the person and the notion of coffee.
At home I have an iron that I paid $120 for, 10 years ago. The average person scoffed at me when I spent that much on an iron, but then again, the average person has since gone through 5 or more $30 irons, so I think I’m doing pretty good, investment wise.
Hotels could learn from this. Honestly, I could get more wrinkles out of clothes using a warm coffee cup than I could with most hotel irons I’ve used. They’re cheap, they’re light, they’re nasty, and they leave you with more wrinkles than an octogenarian. And lately I’ve been striking a run of irons that just don’t even work. That’s just plain annoying.
Similarly, what is it with hotel ironing boards? I know they get used a lot, but goodness, buying decent ones or at least regularly replacing ones that will fall apart if a budgie sneezes on it won’t break the budget.
And don’t get me started on those half-size boards that you’re meant to sit on a table or a desk. I challenge anyone in a hotel amenities procurement job to iron a half dozen business shirts using one of those boards, then go out and buy real ironing boards for all the rooms.
Don’t bullshit me. You can’t offer Fox Sports 1, Fox Sports 2, Fox Sports 3 and Fox News and tell me that you provide Foxtel/Pay TV. That’s not Pay TV, that’s a little piece of torture rolled up into 4 channels. That’s why I travel with my own media these days.
You know, a really good hotel would offer loan monitors for business users. Nothing big – maybe just 1440×900, or even a bit smaller; that way, people who usually have their laptops plugged into another screen for additional screen real estate could sit and work of an evening and not feel like their being squeezed into a really tiny little box…