Preflight breakfast

I arrive at LAX for my flight to Shanghai fresh from the campout with the troop. I am drained and starving, and I am not on my normal flight, so my rhythm is off even before I step out into the airport.

The big downside of United 32 versus ANA 5 is that the former takes off several hours earlier, meaning that breakfast is in the lounge, or nowhere. Despite the very nice spread United lays out in their new LAX lounge, there was nothing there that matched my nutrition program and my Kosher-style sensibilities apart from some lovely ice water. So I tossed in a Quest bar and called it a meal.

I spent the first half of my adult life becoming more open minded about food. Alas, my physical and spiritual health have made me rather more high-maintenance that I would prefer. I find myself making an alarming number of special requests in restaurants and apologizing to friends, colleagues, travel agents, and servers.

It’s all andropausal OCD.

But I’ll own it.

Calming the Sky-Chicken

I have flown well over a million miles in my life, but I am still an incurable white-knuckle flyer. When you combine that with the challenges posed by my two-meter height, air travel for me is a battle: first to get myself into a seat that isn’t excruciatingly painful to sit in, and then to cope with a constant state of incipient terror.

I cure the first by shelling out something like 10% of my take-home income for upgrades. The second condition, the fear, is like any other chronic ailment: it can be managed but never cured.

One way I manage the fear is through knowledge. I have studied aviation, weather, and spoken to countless pilots and flight crew members. I have learned enough about airlines to choose those with the best operational safety, and watch for the subtle signals that things may be on the decline. Before every flight I consult a half-dozen apps and websites that tell me what to expect. And during the flight I switch my inflight entertainment system to the “flight information” screen, and leave it there for the duration.

So you can imagine why I was so delighted, when I boarded an ANA 787-900 for a flight from Singapore to Tokyo, to discover a screen that was essentially a simplified version of the pilot’s heads-up display. Altitude, airspeed, position, direction, winds, and other flight information are portrayed against a forward -looking moving map that offers everything but air traffic and weather.

Genius.

It will not surprise you to hear that this hop was probably one of my most calm and comfortable flights ever.

Some people will never worry in an airplane: my father was one. But I have friends and colleagues that need to be chemically calmed before getting on a plane. I have no immediate remedies to offer. For me, the medicine lies in the effort to make ever more believable the comforting illusion of control.