Saturday, March 21, 2009

Dispatches from Doha: Day 1.5

It's Day 1.5 of Destination: Doha! I say 1.5 because I won't be experiencing much of a Saturday today. I left from O'Hare on Friday afternoon and won't reach my final destination until late Saturday night.

The first leg of the journey to New York was rather uneventful, which is a feat in itself when you're traveling in a party of 22. An even larger contingent flew into Dulles, for a total of nearly 80 NU folks on a Qatar Foundation-funded trip to Doha, Qatar.

After disembarking in the Big Apple, our group spent a few hours in The Oasis Lounge for business and first class travelers at JFK airport. All you need to know about that experience can be summed up in three delicious words: unlimited Milano cookies. The lounge looked out on the international gates and we eventually watched our plane pull up around 10:30 p.m.

I breezed through security despite the copious amounts of technology in my backpack (a bottle of water briefly held me up) and approached the gate, where I was strangely being paged to the counter. Apparently my assigned seat's entertainment system was not working and they wondered if I would be OK with switching to another seat that was fully operational. Um, yes, that would be fine.

But I didn't know just how fine it would be.

There's a great video that made the viral rounds a couple months ago in which comedian Lewis CK talks to Conan O'Brian about how technology has spoiled the current generation of young people. He has a great line about how ungrateful we are for the simple gift that is modern air travel. "You're sitting in a chair in the sky!" he says.

As I type this, I'm crusing at 37,000 miles and approaching the end of a 12-hour ride in the most luxurious chair in the sky that I have ever experienced. I've already had a four-course salmon dinner and a continental breakfast. Using the personal entertainment center at my seat, I've watched an episode of Scrubs, You've Got Mail and Casino Royale. Near the middle of the flight, I reclined into "bed mode" and slept comfortably for four hours--in the sky. Now I'm listening to the 100 Greatest Singles of All Time, as selected by Billboard Magazine. Most telling of all, I haven't touched any of the distractions that I brought along to get me through this "grueling" journey to the Middle East. This isn't just a good flight...It's actually a pleasure.

Of course, I suppose I should expect a certain level of luxury from this point forward. We will soon be landing in Doha, Qatar and it will be off to the Ritz Carlton. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to wipe my face with another warm, lemon-scented towel in preparation for landing.

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