Monday, January 30, 2006

And now, from the "Was this a factor when the Wright Brothers invented the airplane?" files, and Yahoo! News...

Sudiegirl sez: Part of me thinks this is OK. Another part thinks that with my luck, I’ll sit next to the guy who wants to discuss his rock collection from here to Las Vegas, or the woman who wants to relive the adventure of her multiple foot surgeries. Either way, I’ll be havin’ that special feeling not unlike William Shatner in the “Terror at 20,000 Feet” episode of “The Twilight Zone”. Pass the puke bag…

Hello there...You come here often?
By Ellen Wulfhorst
2 hours, 7 minutes ago

Hoping to ease the nightmare of flying next to a crashing bore, (I’m sure there was no malicious intent in that pun, BTW) a company in New York will match like-minded passengers to help make the time fly. (Two puns in the first paragraph. Boy-oh-boy, this writer’s on a roll…)

Inspired by a flight where he found himself happily seated next to Miss Texas, company founder Peter Shankman says he set up AirTroductions to give travelers a chance to choose their seatmates. (OK…”happily seated next to Miss Texas” kind of frightens me. I mean, how did he KNOW she was Miss Texas? Was she wearing a tiara and sash? Did she introduce herself like this: ‘Howdy there! I’m Miss Texas!” And if he was “happily seated”, what exactly did THAT entail? What part of him was, in fact, happy? Was it all of him, or just various parts?)

"It is for anyone who travels who does not want to have to deal with the psychological hell of sitting 2 inches from someone you don't know for eight hours," he said. (What’s psychologically hellish about it? Apparently “ignoring” is out of the question? I can ignore someone for eight straight hours…just ask some of my former high school teachers.)

To use AirTroductions, travelers register online, listing personal details in a profile. When they post their traveling itineraries, the registry provides information on other people taking the same flights. (Well, that’s all well and good, but it’s just like online dating. What’s stopping someone from lying their ass off? I mean, it’s not monitored…you could board a flight after engaging in a shooting spree at your local Dunkin’ Donuts or something! Or someone could say they’re single when, in fact, they’re married with kids and have debt up to their eyeballs. You just never know!)

The registry is free until a user opts to contact a fellow traveler for a $5 fee. Typically, they meet in an airport, where they can arrange to sit together, Shankman said. Nearly 4,500 people have enrolled, although only about 60 have made matches since the registry kicked off last fall, he said. (I’d be inquiring long and hard about refund policies in case the “match” didn’t work. REAL LONG and REAL HARD. I don’t care if it’s $5.00. If I’m sitting next to a moron, or a male chauvinist pig, or Tom Cruise, I want my money back.)

Julia Filz said she signed up because she's a nervous flyer who wants a seatmate to distract her. "If I'm sitting next to somebody and I'm talking to them, I don't even know if we're taking off or landing," said Filz, who works in Baltimore. (Well, it sounds like she’s easily distracted…you could also take her cell phone, her IPod, and all her money too. Now THAT’D be worth the $5.00!)

Besides, she added, the system might help avoid a repeat of her worst seatmate experience -- seated beside a woman who was very drunk first thing in the morning. (Or not. They may have shot up heroin pre-flight, or taken lots of Vicodin. And again, the potential for lying is there…you can’t deny it.)

Randy Petersen, editor of InsideFlyer magazine, said he was not sure the idea would fly. Having a good seat trumps chatting with a stranger, he bets. (Now SEE!? There is someone with logic that’s quoted in this article.)

"A frequent flyer would never give up an upgrade to first class to go back and sit in coach next to someone you may want to throw out of the plane in the first hour," he said. (I know I wouldn’t. I know the one and only time I sat first class, I would have killed my own flesh and blood if they tried to take it away from me. Sorry, but true. Once you have chicken pasta salad, you can’t go back to party mix.)

And there's the question of who gets the middle seat. "I'm not sure any conversation is interesting enough to have two elbows with me," Petersen said. (Well, now, I don’t know…elbows are interesting, and easily broken too.)

While it's designed for networking, a fair share of the people registered with AirTroductions admit they're looking for dates. Some appear more promising than others. (I have a question…how does one appear promising? I mean, usually you don’t know what they’re promising unless they say it. Am I being obtuse? I hope so…it’s my job.)

One man provided his photo, with half his hair shocking pink and the other bright blue. One woman promised she "always smells nice," while another insisted that any seatmate wear full body deodorant spray. (So far, no multicolored hair or stinky people. Good start…)

A photographer said he was looking for investors, an executive said he was seeking "engaging conversations" about globalization and technology and a rabbi said he would like to "schmooze about Judaism." (You know who I’d look for? Someone who’s a narcoleptic mute. That way, they're sleeping and wouldn't be able to talk if they're awake.)

One woman from Seattle gave a description that could render her either the best -- or worst -- seatmate ever. "I'm that person whose laugh you'll hear over everyone else's: some call it infectious, others just loud," she wrote. (So she’s Arnold Horshack’s sister?)

In Petersen's view, most passengers prefer traveling alone, playing video games on laptops while tuning into music on headphones. But even the most misanthropic traveler can find happiness in AirTroductions, Shankman said. (Well, I guess it’s a paradox, isn’t it? Misanthropes going to the Internet to sign up for a service to say they hate everyone and don’t want to talk to anyone. But will they want to spend the $5.00? If not, they’re a cheap-ass misanthrope.)

The system allows passengers to note if what they really desire is a seatmate who will leave them alone, he said. (Although, in a pinch, multiple tattoos and a copy of The Satanic Bible will work nicely.)

Sudiegirl’s final opinion?

Why do human beings make things more complicated than they are? I mean, I’m not fond of being on a plane for eight hours, but do we really have to shape life to fit what we want? Most of us have experienced silence for an extended period of time either when we take tests or go to the library. What is so friggin’ hard about keeping quiet? Your head will not fall off if you do not talk to someone for an extended period of time. I guarantee this. Listen to the pretty music on the headphones, eat the stale pretzels, and just shut the hell up.

Crankily yours,

Postscript: Yet another article about HERE to read all about it. And give me your thoughts...who would your ideal seatmate be on a long flight? Mine would be...well, someone that couldn't speak any language, or else was heavily doped up and sleeping the entire time. That way the conversation factor wouldn't be present. Either that, or my precious D, who knows not to mess with me when the stewardess brings around the snacks and drinks.