SXSW day 0 – travel day

I was picked up at 8:30am this morning by something not quite fancy enough to be called a limo, but in a different league than a regular taxi. We could perhaps ignore my non executive status and call it an executive chauffeur service. Hursley Cars offer a great, reliable door-to-door service. Enjoyably lazy on the outbound portion, particularly useful on the return leg, when the last thing you want to do after a transatlantic flight is drive home. Especially because there’s a good chance that really would be last thing you do.

I checked in (checkind?) at the business class hut at Heathrow terminal 3. Despite traveling economy class, I can check in at the business class desk by saying the magic words “I work for IBM”. I was given an emergency exit row too. The nice lady doing check-in must have taken pity on my lanky tall 6’4″ frame. Would I be prepared to assist in the event of an emergency? For some extra legroom, I’d be prepared to do pretty much anything.

I bumped into both Jemima Kiss and Jo Twist during boarding. I’ve also seen a girl I don’t recognise wearing an Upcoming t-shirt, so I get the feeling she’s One Of Us. It seems that at least some of the British contingent of the tech invasion of Austin are beginning their journey together.

I love filling in the visa waiver form when I sit down in the plane. It allows me momentary glimpses into parallel universes in which I have to answer ‘yes’ to any of the scary questions on the back. It asks, do I have a “communicable disease, physical or mental disorder”? It asks whether I am a drug abuser or addict. Have I been convicted for an offense or crime involving “moral turpitude”? Am I involved in espionage or sabotage, or terrorist activities? Best of all, whether or not, between 1933 and 1945, I was involved in persecution associated with Nazi Germany or its allies. Fortunately, the answer to all of these questions is ‘no’, otherwise I’d have had to contact the American embassy before traveling.

The food is the predictable choice between chicken with vegetables, beef with the same vegetables, or a vegetarian option. I’m increasingly tempted to ask for the vegetarian option, despite not being one, just to have something different. Ah well. Maybe next time. Portions are meagre. I’ve always assumed that’s so we don’t put undue strain on the (frankly already smelly) toilet system. I weighed myself for the first time in ages this morning, purely out of interest, in order to see whether I gain or lose weight during the next 10 days. The small portion of sensible food isn’t going to make much of a difference either way. I noticed that the can of coke was an imperial 12 fluid ounces (355ml) rather than European 333ml (1/3 litre) size, so a gradual Americanizing of my diet has already begun.

As ever, American Airways in-flight entertainment system is sadly lacking, with a terrible choice of content let down even further by poor picture quality. They degrade this even further in the in-flight movies by printing “American Airlines” at the bottom of the screen after the film starts. Either because they’re proud of their trimmed down no-swearing and very-little-violence-indeed edits of the films, or perhaps to deter would-be copyright theft. As if even the most piratical pirate would stoop to attempting a screen-cap on a 777.

After exhausting both my eyes and my supply of podcast listening material by reading and listening at the same time, I watched, get this, ‘No Country For Old Men’. Yes, there is an American Airlines family-friendly in-flight-movie version. While I enjoyed the film, this was my first viewing of it, and I’m not making any judgments based on this version. I’ve been stung by the in-flight-movie edit before; for several months I didn’t realise Tim-from-the-Office was even in ‘Love Actually’. All of his scenes were cut. Who knows, perhaps in the cinema release of ‘No Country For Old Men’ there is some, you know, violence or something. Perhaps blood was spilled. The clumsy audio edits were easy to spot, but there are, I have no doubt, whole scenes which I have missed. How very disappointing. Another reason I love Virgin Atlantic, and would always use them if I had any choice in the matter over American Airlines. Virgin’s in-flight entertainment system is actually very good. Lots of choice, better picture quality, Video On Demand rather than Video On A Loop, and best of all, full uncut grown-up versions of the films.

Update: I met up with Dan Taylor, Deirdre Molloy, Jemima Kiss and Jo Twist in O’Hare, where we hung out and waited for the connecting flight to Austin together.

Jemima Fully seesmicd up Brits Delayed! Alcat on Seesmic

Jo’s stuffed cat, Alcat, is making Seesmic videos of the trip. Here was the update from the airport. Look out for the tall geek grinning in the background.

5 replies on “SXSW day 0 – travel day”

  1. I obviously don’t try and debate this at the kiosk, but I don’t think Mental Disorder should be a binary choice. I think they should introduce a little sliding scale where you could indicate your mental order more accurately.

  2. I’d recommend choosing the ‘Asian’ or ‘Asian Vegetarian’ dietary options (on BA at least) – not as spicy as I’d like, but more interesting than the usual air-fare

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