Minature New York by Moon Pie
I used to be anti the mini-vaca. A long weekend in Aruba? No thanks. Five days in Athens? Naw, I’d rather stay home. A few days out of a lifetime to be thrown away at a seaside resort wasn’t giving the city or country the respect it deserved. What could one possibly hope to absorb of a country’s culture, history or language in such a short time frame?
But then I started working for an airline and now I have a dilemma. Because in the aviation industry the Mini-vaca is king. In fact, when you can fly anywhere you want for free and only have a limited number of days off, it’s really all you have.
Rome may’ve not been built in a day but if you work for an airline, visiting it for the day isn’t uncommon. I’ve talked to co-workers who’ve taken the red-eye to Paris or Hong Kong, sight-seed during the day, partied all night and then hopped back on a flight home the following morning.
It’s also not unheard of for airline employees to live lives that span multiple states, or even countries, for that matter. A flight attendant might, for example, live in Texas and commute to Los Angeles for work. Her boyfriend may live in Chicago, her hairstylist in New York and her dentist in Seattle. For the average person, this is might be mind-boggling. Because to the average person, a ride in an airplane is a special treat; a once or twice a year event that’s exciting and perhaps a little fear-inducing. To an airline employee though, an airplane is seen as nothing more than an employee shuttle bus or air taxi service.
A few weeks ago, I spoke with a customer service agent in New York who regularly uses the few hours he has in between work shifts to head to the beach to sunbathe…in Puerto Rico. Another one of my co-workers frequently flies to Las Vegas from where we’re stationed in San Francisco for dinner. It sounds crazy but it actually makes sense when you consider that it only takes an hour to fly to Vegas and another ten minutes to take the employee shuttle from the airport to the strip of casinos. And if you factor in California rush hour traffic and the fact that he lives two hours from the airport, it’s actually faster (not to mention cheaper), for him to grab a bite at an all-you-can-eat casino buffet in Vegas than for him to drive to his neighborhood Wendy’s.
What this all amounts to is an industry of workers accustomed to warp-speed, wam-bam travel. It’s ADD, Tasmanian Devil, whirlwind travel and it’s bizarre…and it makes me wonder: What’s the point? It’s like, “Well, I guess I can squeeze in a trip to Barbados in between my orthodontist appointment in Tuscon and my cousin’s bachelorette party in Boston. Might as well cross that one of the list while I’ve got the time.” In fact, some of my co-workers could list you off a list a mile long of cities or country’s they’ve visited over the years. But does 24 hours in Honolulu count as a visit to Hawaii, if you never ventured away from Waikiki beach? And does 30 hours at an airport hotel in Sydney constitute stepping foot in Australia?
Two months ago, I met a grounds crew member who claimed to have visited all 50 states in the United States. An impressive feat for anyone, sure..that is until he revealed that he’d knocked all 50 off his list in a span of a few days. The icing on the cake was that he never as much as stepped foot outside a single one of the airports and only stayed in each state long enough to chat with the gate agents and buy a souvenir magnet from one of airport gift shops.
In traveling this way, yes we see the world, but is it worth it when our only view is a jet-lagged, blurry one from the airport freeway? If we’re not gaining some insight or perspective from the experience or learning something new, then aren’t we missing the point the point of travel entirely?
That said, it’s cold enough in San Francisco right now to make a field trip to Florida look pretty damn appealing….Who knows, maybe I’ll hop down to Miami for a few hours on my day off next week?