Win Ben Stein’s seat

Recently I saw Ben Stein in the airport. He looked like any other business traveller, harried, laden with luggage. Except that he was at a pay phone, which I thought was odd. Who except a philandering spouse, a scrooge, a luddite, or someone who just left their cell at security would use a pay phone? Certainly no seasoned traveller. Imagine my perplexity, then, to see that Ben Stein has written an article full of tips for business travel in the NYT. And I disagree with nearly all of them. I’ll summarize.

  • Pay for or upgrade to first class if you can. Well, no disagreement there, except that I would say that often times the exit rows and bulkheads have just as much legroom as first class so if you’re not in it for the free champagne there is often an alternative to upgrading.
  • Get the aisle seat. I hate the aisle seat. Your elbows get clocked, you have to get up to let your seatmates out (stow laptop, etc.), and worst of all there’s no good way to sleep since you run the risk of laterally dumping into the aisle or the stranger next to you. Better to take the window where you will be undisturbed and can nuzzle against the wall.
  • Use a travel agent. I have no great experiences with travel agents to convey. Unless you are in a complete bind with no access to a computer or direct access to the airline why would you go with an intermediary? Like real estate agents, the era of travel agents having information that their customers do not is coming to an end.
  • Make friends with your fellow passengers. Stein advises this so that it is less awkward when you have to ask them to stop kicking you. I disagree. The last thing I want on a plane is smalltalk. Who knows what hell you’re in for on an international trip if you drill a bit too deeply and hit a motherlode of incessant chitchat? And if you have to ask someone to stop kicking you, just ask. Must you have befriended them?

His hotel tips are a bit more in line with my thinking, but it still leaves me wondering: do you trust someone who travels this much and uses a pay phone?

See also: Stuff in my backpack, international edition | Travel tip

One response to “Win Ben Stein’s seat”

  1. donturn says :

    I can think of a reason to use a pay phone. Calling 800 numbers (presumably an airline or car rental place, considering the context) and being on hold for who knows how long without wearing down your mobile’s battery or ever-precious daytime minutes while keeping your own phone free for another call. (It’s all about the multi-tasking.)
    It’s also easier to stab out those incessant one-number phone mail navigation cues while looking at a POTS keypad than going back and forth from ear to facing view when punching those digits on your mobile.