Travel Nice

By Allison Brennan

It’s been a hectic week in the Brennan household as I prepare (ha! It’s 7:20 Saturday night and I’m not even packed–in fact, my suitcase is not down from the high shelf in the garage) for my trip to Washington DC where I get to tour FBI Headquarters and the FBI Training Academy at Quantico. (Eat your heart out Stephen. And Toni. And Alex–but I know Alex just wants to go because Quantico is also a Marine base, not for research. Or writing-type research, anyway.)

Thinking about the trip reminded me about what I love–and hate–about travel.

I try to live my life by the 11th commandment. You know the one . . . love your neighbor as yourself. Basically, be nice to people. Cut them some slack. Don’t blare your horn because someone is going too slow or ticks you off. (To me, the car horn is reserved for three things. 1- a gentle tap-tap when the car in front of you doesn’t notice the light has turned green. 2- a firm hoooonnnnnkkkkk to avoid a collison, such as when an idiot is backing up and doesn’t see you. And 3- a constant honk-honk-honk-honk until your teen-age daughter–who said she was ready but is not in the car–runs out of the house to avoid being embarrassed by the neighbors. Amazing, it really works to get their ass in gear!)

Everyone has to go through security. Yeah, it’s not always fun, but it’s not like we are giving up major liberties to secure a bit of safety here (though I can’t help but think up all the ways I could get around security at airports–I think it’s an occupational hazard.) I don’t dramatically sigh because the nervous little old lady in front of me is having a difficult time removing her shoes, for example. 

On the plane, we’re all cramped. It’s often hot. There’s sometimes a crying baby. (Get earbuds and an iPod–loud rock-n-roll pretty much drowns out anything.) Be patient getting off the plane–we’re all going to get off. If someone has a tight connection, let them go first–no skin off your nose if you don’t have a tight connection, right? 

I’m a nice traveler 🙂 . . . 

except . . . 

(Yes, you knew there was an exception.)

If you’re traveling during the day, why do you need to recline your seat? For your comfort? For your enjoyment of the flight? What about the person behind you? What if the person behind you is an author with a really tight deadline and they really, really, really need the five hour flight to write the next chapter of their book? Do you realize that there is no way in hell that said author can write if you recline your seat?

Believe me, I have tried. And had major shoulder and neck pain to accomplish a small number of words. 

The seat in front of you tilts back. That puts the tray closer to you. It’s already cramped trying to type on the tray anyway, but when it’s three-four inches closer? Try typing with your elbows pressed against the back of your seat, your screen tilted at a 80-degree angle toward you so you can’t even really see what you’re writing, so you hunch over a bit and your shoulders are now touching the bottom of your ears. Because sometimes, if you aren’t watching you can find yourself typing a whole page that looks something like this:

Bretvsuid dp,eyo,rd upi vsm gomf upitdr;g yu[]pomv s ejp;r [shr yjsy ;ppld ;olr yjod/

Just because your fingers shifted over one letter.

So consider the writer behind you when you travel. You’ll make all of us–well, at least me–a lot happier. And our editors, who really want the book in their inbox when you tell them it’ll be there.

Aside from the inconsiderate book haters who recline their seats, I generally like traveling. Especially alone. I can write for hours, thanks to my newish MacBook Pro with a 7+ hour battery life (it rocks. I LOVE my new laptop.) I have flash drives, a account to archive daily (in case some low-life criminal steals my  laptop) and for this trip, I used my frequent flyer miles to upgrade free to First Class on the leg out east, and got a really cheap Economy Plus seat coming back west. Yeah! No more seat recliners! (In Economy Plus, it’s annoying, but not hugely cramped to write when the person in front of you wants to relax at your expense.)

I hope to have lots of stories for you when I return from Quantico!

Oh, by the way, it’s really not nice to confuse tired moms on deadline. I had to go from soccer game to football game to a birthday party to a volleyball tournament an hour away . . . and when I finally got home I log in to Murderati and . . .  saw Cornelia’s blog. I became extremely confused. Because I ALWAYS follow Alex. But I KNOW it’s my day, so I’m posting anyway. If there’s any complaints, go talk to Alex and Cornelia.

Great blog, BTW, C. My two cents? You have to write what you’re passionate writing, whether genre or something else. You have to love it, with all the pain that comes in penning the damn thing. But the one thing you shouldn’t do is not attempt it because you’re scared. If you don’t do it, it should be because you don’t have the passion for it, not because you don’t think you could do it. If that makes any sense.

So gang, I’m traveling all day. I’ll try to log-in at the airport to check in, but I’ll be on a plane from 11 am Pacific to 9:30 pm Eastern. Have fun while I’m gone!


17 thoughts on “Travel Nice

  1. Karen in Ohio

    In the spirit of trying to be understanding, remember that others on the plane may be traveling a much longer journey than yours. When I was on a flight home from Europe I was chatting with a family who had already been flying from Pakistan, which was another 16 hours, if I remember correctly. They were going to somewhere way west of my home in Ohio, so they were in the middle of their trip, and were all mixed up already. To some it IS the middle of the night, even though it’s daytime where you are.

  2. jim duncan

    Ooo! I’d so love to go on that trip. My novel involves an FBI agent, and so will the two followups. Would love to see you post about what you learned, as it’s always nice to get the facts right when talking about agencies like the FBI.

  3. Allison Brennan

    Karen, believe me, I do take that into consideration. I always make note of who is sitting in front of me. Honestly, it’s youngish 30-50 year old businessmen who put their seat back more often than anyone else. Really, I AM nice!

    Hi Jim! Check back in two weeks, I will hopefully have great stories and pictures!

  4. Cornelia Read

    Oh God, did I post on the wrong day? I am such a loser on when during the week it is at the moment… or month, I guess. I think it’s all the recent IKEA assembly.

    This is a great post, Allison, and thank you so much for your encouragement on my freakout yesterday.

    Also, when my ex used to fly to Asia all the time on business, he’d make a point of wedging his briefcase in between the front of his seat and the back of the one in front of him so the person couldn’t put their seat back. Not exactly 11th commandment, but he’s 6’5" and did twenty-odd trips in coach from Boston to Tokyo that year.

  5. JD Rhoades

    As cramped as planes are in coach, there’s no way you should even be allowed to put your seat back. there’s no way to do it that doesn’t put you in the lap of the person behind you.

    Have a safe trip!

  6. Fran

    You have our total sympathy with the reclining seat issue! We just took a short flight (NM to WA) and the seat crampage was nasty, with reclining seats and all. It’s a little sad when that garbled sentence looks recognizable.

    Worse, however, was the guy who sneezed on Lillian then just looked at her. No apology, no attempt to avert, just kachoo. She is now very sick. If one of you writer types could kill him off in a book, I’d be most grateful. Bleeding from the ears would be nice.

    Safe journey, Allison, and have grand fun in Quantico. Which, of course, you will.

  7. Alafair

    Have fun at Quantico and headquarters. I went a couple of years ago. Don’t be afraid to ask deposition-like questions.

    And I’m so glad to know my husband and I are not the only people who think someone’s an a-hole for leaning a coach seat all the way back. Enjoy your upgrade!

  8. Leslie

    Bose noise canceling headphones are a wonderful thing. They don’t completely block out the outside world but take the edge off crying babies and muffle the engine noise enough that you don’t have to blast your music to hear… so your hearing is doubly protected.

    I was amazed at how tiring the constant engine noise made me… with my Bose I arrive much less tired! I think they still run a 60 day free trial, pick them up at the airport and try them out, but know you’ll never return them!

  9. toni mcgee causey

    :::::::greeeeeeeeen with envy::::::::::::::::

    But I don’t envy you the travel. Or writing while on a plane. That’s a killer.

    I always ask people who’ve leaned back if they would please move forward again because I cannot stand feeling trapped. Cannot. Stand. It. Most have been very gracious about moving–I think they forget how far back their seat is going. The one or two who didn’t suffered through my fidgeting/trapped/panic attack and sneezing and decided it wasn’t worth the aggravation.

    I have to say, I have been blessed by kind traveling companions on almost all of my trips. Maybe they take one look at my wigged out expression and decide to be vewy vewy quiet. 😉

  10. Karen in Ohio

    I can’t imagine traveling a very long distance in a plane without reclining my seat at least a little. It kills my back to sit upright that way for hours and hours. And geez, what about all of us peons who have to fly coach, including overseas? Twelve hour flights are already not for sissies, but then to be forced to sit upright the whole time? Yeow.

    Instead of not allowing people to recline, the #*%*% airlines should give us four lousy more inches of legroom apiece. Even three would help. I used to travel with a 6’2" tall girlfriend whose knees would have to be crammed in sideways for the entire duration of the flight. Until we discovered the exit row. But it’s so hard to get those seats, and they do not always recline, either. It’s never easy.

  11. Chris Hamilton

    When you put the seat back and you hear a grinding noise, sort of like what it sounds like when your wisdom tooth is broken up when they pull it, that’s my kneecaps being ground into a fine powder. Being tall in coach is not a blessing.

    On to more important thngs, if you’re looking for places to eat in the greater DC area, Potbelly’s has amazing sandwiches. And Hard Times Cafe has the best chili in the entire world.

  12. Allison Brennan

    Karen, I sympathize because my mom is 6 feet tall. I agree–there should be a little more room in coach. Just a little.

    The flights were great– both of them arriving a few minutes early! How about that 🙂 . . .

    I wrote about 3,000 words plus finished writing a short story which I’ll edit tomorrow (I hope) and also finished a book (Toni’s #2 . . . I know, I’m WAY behind . . . I started it when I was in Lake Tahoe, but then had an ARC to read and a book to majorly revise and oh the start of school . . . ) and it was fabulous, so it’s really her fault I didn’t write 4,000 words because I just had to see what was going to happen . . .

    So now, I’m listening to the HOWLING DIABLOS on my iPod — they have a new album, DIVINE TRASH HIGHWAY, which is incredible. I think I like every song but two are just so-so. I’m on California time and with nothing to do tomorrow until 1230 (though shopping is always in order!) I can write for a couple of hours and sleep in 🙂

    BTW, Stephen, I had to rub Quantico in just a little bit because your incredible book tour made me totally jealous. Mass market authors just do NOT get tours like that, or 50 books pre-sold . . . we’re the peons who are barely tolerated by the establishment . . .

  13. Dana King

    I’m a little over six feet tall, with a history of back trouble. If that seat doesn’t recline, I’m likely to have a hard time walking off the plane if the flight is over 30 minutes long. This is why I always try to sit in the exit row, if at all possible.


  14. Travel

    As peanut considering planes are clout coach, there’s no way you should constant produce allowed to father your focal point lead. there’s no accession to get done existent that doesn’t ground you effect the compass of the comrade unpunctual you.


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