Taiwan 2010 – This is the Sh*ts

I’m about five hours into the 11 hour flight across the Pacific and this has been a real mixed bag of a flight. Typically, there’s not much that can make being crammed in a tin can for 11 hours “fun” but the quality of the experience can certainly vary greatly.

I’m plunked down in row 35, which means I’m in about the 7th row of steerage passengers. I’ve got an aisle seat, which is better than not, but (once again) there’s some sort of box built into the plane beneath the seat in front of me, which means there’s no leg room at all in front of me.

On the flight over I had the same arrangement (it’s not true of all seats, just about every fourth row on the aisle) and it somehow caused me to bruise my ankle something fierce. I couldn’t take long walks for the first 10 days because of it.

The flight is also jammed-packed full. There is, as best I can tell, only one empty seat on the entire plane. It’s so full that many people traveling together are not seated together. This is the case with the seat next to me. It’s assigned to a 10-year old Taiwanese boy who speaks a little English. His father is back behind the toilets in the second section of steerage.

He was one of the last to board and for awhile until he arrived I thought I was going to have an empty seat next to me. Still, a small child, provided he’s reasonably well behaved means, basically, I’m not as crammed in. A ha! Just as they closed the doors, they relocated dad and the boy together – yes, leaving the one empty seat next to me!

I may have mentioned that the stewardesses on the outbound flight didn’t speak very clear English (in marked contrast to Singapore Air and Eva Air) but on this flight, they speak excellent English, the two working my side of the plane in my section of steerage are real hotties and they play Plants Vs Zombies. You gotta love nerdy Asian chicks! (Well, at least I do; that’s why I married the best of them.)

Food on the outbound flight was nothing particularly good or filling, and I’m not particularly good at eating all the “side” dishes anyway. Our first meal out today was chicken pasta, which was pretty darned good. It came with a “salad” made mostly from potatoes (ugh) but with two good tasting pieces of ham. A bowl of fruit that must have been made just for me (pineapple and peaches, my favorites) and a chocolate brownie (no peanuts) for dessert. It really was like someone picked out most of the menu with my picky taste in mind. If it had been green salad instead of potato it would have been perfect.

As I’m in front steerage, there are fewer toilets than rear steerage, just two for our section and it’s nearly impossible to get to either side without walking the length of the plane and back, so there’s just one available – or unavailable as the case may be. That’s the bad part. The good part is that the single toilet is larger and you can actually sit down in it. (Well, you could except, every time I’ve gone to use it, we hit turbulence and they send us back to our seats.)

Basically, apart from them telling me I’d won a contest and upgrading me to first class, things have gone about as well as I could have hoped, so why do I say this is the sh*ts? Well, let me digress for a moment.

Two trips ago, in 2005 I believe, I was working on a project for work and I was having regular team meetings with our staff and outside vendors. One of those meetings came up during trip when we were up in the mountains near Alishan. I needed to be able to dial into a local phone number to establish the audio conference and use the Internet to connect to the data portion. The hotel we chose had free Internet for the guests. What they didn’t have was wireless Internet and I didn’t have an Ethernet cable.

Since that day, I never carry my computer without having a cable in my case.

Staying in Taiwan this trip I took my Airport Express to provide wireless access in my in-laws house. In fact, I did so last trip and one of the wonderful things about Apple wireless routers is that they have the ability to store multiple configurations. My in-laws’ Internet uses PPoE and passwords, unlike typical cable modems in the US. I had all of that stored and ready to go – until those bastards broke into my house in January and stole my Airport Express. (I can only imagine they had no clue what they’d stolen and assumed it was a charger for the iPod they got,)

Now, the Airport Express is just a small brick, much like the power brick for Apple laptops. It plugs right into the electrical socket and you plug an Ethernet cable into it. This was, of course, all planned for. Remember? I always have an Ethernet cable with me, so we’ve been enjoying wireless mobility for our MacBooks, iPhones and iPad for the last three weeks.

In fact, I left the Airport Express with my wife so that she can continue to enjoy the benefits while she and the kids are still there.

And that’s what makes this Ethernet jack built into the arm rest under my left arm the total shi*ts! Because I left the frickin’ Ethernet cable I always carry with me in Taiwan. According to the diagram, there’s even an AC power tap, but I haven’t found, or needed, that yet. Five years I’ve been carrying that cable for this very moment!

The iPad is doing well, still well over 60% charged. I’ve played a lot of Plants vs Zombies and I’ve watched some Man From Atlantis, Doctor Who Confidential, Horrible Histories and re-watched the Pandorica Opens in anticipation of the thrilling conclusion, which will have finished airing by the time I land and get this posted.

It’s a pity I can’t post this on the plane.