The Flight Home


view from aircraftWe left the hotel at 5:30 to catch a 7:00 AM flight. Overall, it was an uneventful flight. At the airport most of those in my group bought something from the “fast food” services. I chose to wait and purchase some culinary delight offered onboard. I was not disappointed. For 9$CAD I was able to acquire a Harvey’s egg-bacon-muffin, a chicken fajita (I pronounce the ‘j’ as I am uncultured in these matters) and a coffee. The coffee was excellent as was the fajita (remember with a ‘j’). The muffin met expectations.

With the fajita came a surprise. Included in the packaging was some salsa sauce (but in retrospect its inclusion should not have been a surprise otherwise I would have had no clue it was not some ordinary submarine sandwich.) The instructions on the package said “pour it on” or was that a slogan. I’m not quite sure. Regardless what was intriguing was printed in large letters–larger than the word salsa itself–“Naturally Fresh”

This caught my attention. Why naturally? I found qualifying fresh some what confusing mostly because my immediate reaction was it was superfluous. But I pondered more. Ending in ‘ly’ caused me to interpret naturally as an adverb thus suggesting naturally referred to the process in which the salsa achieved its freshness: naturally. I then wondered what an unnatural process would be. No doubt it would involve a chemical cocktail. Without the ‘ly’ I would interpret ‘natural’ as an adjective. In this form it carried no real meaning to me so I concluded naturally must related to the process. However reading the ingredients I saw they include Benzoate and Potassium, which are used as preservatives. Ok that doesn’t seem to fit in with the natural process.

I looked closer and saw that Naturally Fresh was registered and thus represented a name and thus in fact had no meaning at all (as was ‘pour it on’ which I had interpreted verbatim: sucked in again). Another line of thought results on how to legally express what you can’t claim legally.

My attention turned to the occupants of the plane. I noted that the plane was full. 120 passengers in hospitality. And 2 washrooms for a 4.5 hour flight. That turns out to allow each person 4.5 minutes of washroom time. I recalled that the US Army expects a well-hydrated soldier to urinate about every hour. If that were the case that would mean about 1 minute per visit. I think there a lot of people that manage to another schedule.

The movie starts. In the first 5 minutes the two male protagonists meet playing tennis. The one invites the other to his family’s booth at the opera. There the other meets the sister of the first. The next weekend the other is invited to the parent’s place where he meets the girlfriend of the first. At this point I estimate there are three likely plot scenarios: an affair with the sister causes a rift; a love triangle with the girl friend; the two guys are really gay. Being an English film I expected the third. None are appealing to me so I decide to read.

Fortunately I have an isle seat. While I don’t mind if the people inside want to get out, I’m always uncomfortable asking people to get up so I can get out. In any case that moment came when I decided I would claim my 4.5 minutes. I waited longer than that in line but I guess it makes sense. It gave me the opportunity to chat with the others in line. Apparently well-hydrated people don’t like to stand in line to claim their 4.5 minutes. When I finally got in I was so fixated on having a miserly 4.5 minutes I tensed up. Although brief (I expect less than a few seconds ) it seemed interminable. During those anxious seconds I started to wonder if others had made the calculation. Did the crew secretly monitor usage? No, I thought, they’re too busy. My thoughts drifted to the aircraft manufacturer. They must calculate usage, probably using some model based on queuing theory. It should be ok. I had faith in the due diligence that should have been undertaken was undertaken. I imagined there was a team of engineers that worked on the problem, likely all dressed in white lab coats. It would have to be a full cross-functional team, including experts in hydraulics, ergonomics, statistics (to provide the averages of human sizes and frequencies) and more. 20 people would not surprise me. Probably because people from manufacturing need to be involved and they generally come in multiples. However, in the end it would be the modeller that would determine the number of booths required. I’m sure they would have had a meeting to confirm the simulation results. To validate whether the results made sense given the statistical input. May be military planes have more washrooms. I guess these mental wonderings removed the fixation allowing the initiation of my purpose.

We’ve started our decent. It seems to start just over Lake Michigan or there abouts. Apparently its cloudy in Toronto it’s sunny up here.


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