The View From Seat 54D

Aug. 07, 2008, 11:38 a.m. (ET)

United Flight 897 was not going to be long enough at 13hours+ so a faulty oil gauge added two more hours sitting on the ground before we left. We’re now approaching the half way point, I think. Two full-length movies have been played and we’re now on short subjects.

The flight is completely full and there was no “Economy Plus” for me. I’m in the back-back, but with an aisle seat surrounded by the Canadian synchronized swim team. They are young, hopeful, beautiful and lithe—much better prepared than I for the contortions of Economy Minus.

There are assorted other Olympic athletes on board—US and others. Lots of friends and families and many Chinese headed back home. There are many journalists. Brian Williams and a bunch of NBC bigwigs are on this flight, but they’re about 50 rows in front to me. It’s a more upbeat, joyful entourage than usual for these long hauls.

I just joined my fellow travelers in peering through the small windows to view the North Pole. All I saw was a lot of ice. The Captain said the pole was about 200 miles north (duh!).

One of the many benefits of having a teenage daughter is an i-Pod full of amazing music. I just took a break from Tristan Prettyman (a cover of Britney Spears’ Toxic—who knew?) to flash back to the original, pre-acoustic Layla: 7 minutes and 5 seconds of bliss.

One of the many benefits of having a wife who is an English teacher is an endless supply of great books. I’m half way through the one I started back at Dulles so I’m destined to be rushing to finish it as we’re taxiing to Beijing’s new largest in the world terminal 3.

This is about my 30th trip across the Pacific (double that over the Atlantic!). It’s still torture. But if these snoozing synch swimmers can endure it (along with most of the nearly 10,000 athletes who will compete in these Games), then I can too. I’d better shutdown the laptop, crank up the tunes and burn away those remaining hours.