Near Yellow Mountain

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Seen on the Way

In twenty plus years of traveling around the world, the odds are that sooner or later you will come across a famous person or two. Over the years, I have been seatmates or first class lounge mates with a number of luminaries or former luminaries.
The list includes: multiple US presidential candidates (early in campaigns before they had their own planes or, in one case, afterwards when nobody cared), a few football greats such as #39 from the Dolphins and a former QB and current broadcaster that can be seen on cable hawking “super beta prostate” at all hours of the day and night, the recently named NFC "coach of the year", several actors and actresses - “JR’s wife”, “Roseanne’s husband”, musicians of every genre, a martial arts star who is clearly afraid to fly, a princess, half of the IOC members on their way to the winter games, and the list goes on.
This is NOT one of the famous people I have seen "In the Air"

The interesting thing is despite being high profile people, I have never seen one of them act like a diva either in the air or on the ground. I am sure it happens but I have never seen it. I see a lot of bad behavior by average businessmen when they bully gate agents over upgrades they didn’t get or whine to flight attendants about their meal choice not being available. Perhaps there is a mea culpa or two in that last sentence…

Once after coming off a long flight I was “roughly handled” but not hurt by a crew of large necked security people waiting for their charge (and my seat mate on the flight) to clear customs. I guess they thought I was walking too close to her as we came out of the secure area still chatting. She immediately called them down and then explained how security made her feel vulnerable. Actually it made me feel vulnerable too. I said “goodbye” but she insisted I ride with her in a private railcar to Tokyo Station – that was very cool.  

My wife had one of my favorite interactions at a lounge in Osaka Japan. She was reaching for a drink at the same time another hand was going for the same beverage. Turns out she beat the “man with the long tongue from KISS” to a Diet Coke. We talked to several members of the band and they seemed like average guys ending a long business trip.

Another favorite was on a long flight to Singapore. I got up in the middle of the night to use the rest room. As I walked down the aisle, I saw one of the world’s leading motivational speakers (can you say “personal power”?) stretched out in his first class cubicle with his mouth wide open at an odd angle. I resisted the brief bout of voyeurism along with the urge to use my cell phone camera and went about my business.

Fortunately I have no tendency towards identity theft. A few years ago I was reading my email in a lounge cubicle waiting to fly to Japan when a very famous actor sat down in the next cubicle. He reached for the phone and made a call. Blessed with good ears, I heard every word including the hotel where he was making a reservation and his credit card details. No, I didn’t try to memorize them. I didn’t know whether to be more impressed by the fact that: 1) this “A” lister flew commercially  2) he made his own hotel reservation 3) he had no entourage or 4) he gave out his credit card info over the phone in a voice loud enough for several people to hear. One more thing – the guy is a lot shorter than he looks on the big screen.

From my less than 15 minutes of fame on NHK
 For me flying is generally a solitary experience where time is taken up reading, watching movies or sleeping. As a diversion, I have enjoyed spotting and observing the behavior of famous people over the years. At least as far as travel is concerned, they seem a pretty average bunch.