“My wireless mouse will imperil the plane??” – what I learned on the road this week

“My wireless mouse will imperil the plane??” – what I learned on the road this week

I travel a fair amount for my job – not as much now as I used to – but enough.  It never ceases to amaze me, the things that I learn when I do travel – things about myself, things about my traveling companions, things about the general public.  It can be quite an educational experience, and this last week was more educational than most.  It was a veritable cornucopia of discovery – so much so that I thought I might share it with you.  Some things were profound, some were annoying, some were just strange – I’ll let you be the judge as to which was which.

I learned that a wireless mouse in not an “approved electronic device” for use on an airplane.

I decided to try and get some work done on my outbound flight, and fired up my laptop.  As I was sitting in my seat, minding my own business, one of the flight attendants stopped and informed me that I was not allowed to use my wireless mouse on the flight.  At first I thought she was joking.  As I pulled off my Bose Headset, paused my iPod, and looked up from my Dell laptop (which was connected to the in-flight WiFi hotspot), I gave her an incredulous look and said – “Huh?”  I have been traveling by airplane on a fairly regular basis, for most of the last 17 years.  This was the first and only time that I have ever been told that using a wireless mouse during flight could seriously imperil the flight. What could happen, I wondered?  Could my mouse override the entire navigational system of the plane and divert us to somewhere dangerous?  (God forbid we ended up in Detroit.)   I asked how long this had been in effect, and she replied – “it’s always been that way”.  For the second time, I looked at her and said – “Huh?”

Sensing that she was on a mission, I removed my mouse from the computer and put it in the seat pocket.  Problem solved right?  Wrong.  Five minutes later, this friendly flight attendant thought it necessary to bring me a copy of the in-flight magazine – conveniently opened to the page outlining approved devices.  In what I can only imagine was a burst of creativity and righteous “I’ll show him” sentiment, she had also helpfully circled the passage that pertained to wireless mice.  As she held the magazine in front of my face, I looked up at her for the third time and, sensing that “huh” wouldn’t work again, responded with a lackluster – “whatever”.  She stormed off and I started Shooter Jennings playing again on my iPod.  As a final cherry on top of this aviation extravaganza, I left the mouse in the seat pocket when I deplaned – thereby ensuring that I would be in full compliance with all American Airlines regulations on my return trip.  The real moral of the story?  Never try to work on an airplane – read a book, watch a movie, or sleep.  Working just gets you in trouble.

I learned yet another reason why I hate hybrid cars.

I was traveling with four coworkers this week, so I reserved a full sized car at our destination.  As you might imagine, with five people out of town for a week, there was a substantial amount of luggage.  (For the record, I had one carry-on suitcase and my backpack.  I’m an “over-packer” by nature, but I am an incredibly efficient “over-packer”.)  When we got to the rental car agency and made our way out to the car, everything seemed in order.  That was, until we open the trunk.  I’ve seen larger spaces deemed unfit by the American Kennel Club to board a miniature Pomeranian for the night.  It was embarrassingly small.  It was like a magician’s cabinet – it looked full sized from the outside, but on the inside, half of the space was masked by a false wall, creating room for the magician’s assistant to hide.  The magician’s assistant in this case?  The hybrid battery.  That’s right – for the perceived pleasure of “saving the planet”, you had to make do with half of the trunk space of a real car.  So – I marched inside and proceeded to swap out the car for something far more appropriate – I gigantic, gas-guzzling SUV.  Now we were traveling in style.  More on that later.

I learned not to eat the Turkey and Mozzarella sandwich at the Au Bon Pain in terminal C of DFW airport.

For starters, it comes with a full shank of mozzarella cheese – not just a healthy slice – a large, scallop sized chunk of cheese that is not an appropriate garnish for a sandwich.  Second – about 92 minutes after you consume this sandwich (even without the cheese), it WILL come back to haunt you.  Trust me on this one.

I learned when a parking structure advises of low clearance – they probably mean it.

Remember the SUV we discussed earlier.  It was a great vehicle – a little too technologically advanced for my traveling companions and I – but a great vehicle.  (Here’s a tip – when you get one of those cars that doesn’t have an actual key, only a fob that needs to be near the car in order to start it – make sure you don’t put the fob in your pocket when you leave the car with a valet.  It makes it VERY difficult for them to bring the car BACK to you at some point in the future.  But I digress…).  As we made our way to a new hotel on our final night, we needed to leave the vehicle in the bottom level of the hotel’s parking structure for the rental car agency to pick up.  Ignoring the signs warning us of low ceilings, we barreled down into the garage.  Sure the ceiling looked close – but we had plenty of room – until we didn’t.  On the third level, it just looked too close for comfort.  We were halfway down the ramp when one of my co-workers jumped out, took a look, and said – “Yeah…that’s not going to fit”.  Ouch.  We had to carefully back up; head back up the ramp, and pull around to the front.  Once we got there, guess what?  The valet had no more room in his rental car return area.  He told me that I could go ahead and take the car back to the agency, and they would shuttle me back to the hotel.  It was already after 11:00PM, and we had a 7:00AM flight.  No thanks.  After much discussion he agreed to go ahead and take the car, with the hope that space would come open later in the night.  My thought was – if he didn’t find space that night, maybe he would the next morning.  As long as it was after 5:30AM, I wouldn’t care – I would be on a shuttle to the airport.  He had the key fob – so he had the car.  I made sure to give him a good tip.

I learned that Skippy (or whatever his real name was) at American Airlines, REALLY takes the size of carry-on luggage seriously.

As I said before, I’ve been traveling for a while.  I know how to pack a suitcase, I know what will fit in an overhead bin, and I know the suggested sized of a roll-on bag.  I’m not one of those people that you see, trying to shoehorn a bag the size of a small Volkswagen into the overhead bin, saying – “Maybe if I take my magazine out, it will fit”.  I’m also not the guy who puts his suitcase, camera bag, and plastic bag filled with dirty shirts, oranges, and origami flamingos in the bin.  I put my roll-on bag overhead and my backpack under my seat.  I actually do follow the rules once and a while.  Well – evidently that was not good enough for my pal Skippy last week.  (For the record, the guy’s name wasn’t Skippy.  I don’t know what it was.  I’m choosing to call him Skippy, because what I chose to call him at the time was probably a little harsh).

As I was boarding my flight home, Skippy looked at my bag and told me that I probably needed to check it.  I politely told him that he was wrong – I fly with that bag all of the time, and it fits on every plane that I have every traveled on.  He told me that I would have to put it in the “size-wise luggage checker” to see if it would fit.  Fine, I walked over, pushed it down in to the small metal contraption and said – “There, happy?”

“Sir, you can’t just shove it down in there, it has to slide in smoothly”.

I looked at him in disbelief.  Slide it in smoothly?  Had this man never been on an airplane?  Had he never seen the haggard husband trying in vain to shove his wife’s luggage in to the overhead bin, like your cousin Martha trying to shove herself into her 1987 prom dress – the one that she was so proud of 57 pounds, and two husbands ago?  I proceeded to take the bag out, and push it back in to the size checker.

“Sir, it needs to slide in smoothly, you can’t just jam it in there”.

I was little less gentle about pulling the bag out this time – but I did, and proceeded to put it back in the metal rack.  No change.  At this point, I was really starting to lose my cool.  Skippy had evidently decided to appoint himself the luggage czar for the day, and I was to be his first victim.  I tried again – still no dice.  I was getting frustrated.  It was at this point that Skippy decided to turn the proverbial customer service corner and offer me some advice.  He looked at me with a straight face and said:

“Maybe if you just took a few things out, it would fit”.

In that moment, I imagined calling my wife and explaining to her how I had been removed from my flight and detained at the airport for ripping the lid off of my luggage, throwing it at the ticket counter, and laughing uncontrollably at Skippy, all the while dancing around and singing “will it fit now, Skippy, will it fit?”.  (Again, for the record – at this point the song in my head did not involve calling this helpful airline employee “Skippy”).  It was not a pretty picture, so I took a deep breath, looked back at him, and calmly said:

“And where exactly should I put the things that I take out of the bag.  Perhaps in the overhead bin?”

He looked at the floor, looked back up at me and said:

“Have a nice flight sir.”

Skippy – I hope you where able to bust someone that day for having too large of a bag.  I enjoyed out time together and would hate to think that your life had no meaning.

© 2010, The Word Zombie. All rights reserved.

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