Fly across country without checking your email, and there they all are when you land. It can be overwhelming if you get a lot of emails. And while most of them might be unimportant, there’s always that one you really need not get lost in the thicket. I can tell you, it was a great relief to me when I could do email and research on the Internet while flying.
Recently I finally managed to stay on line all the way across the Atlantic Ocean since Delta is finally catching up with its foreign competitors that have had trans-continental Wi-Fi for a year or longer. I will tell you my GoGo connection worked very well despite a caution from a flight attendant I might encounter a drop once or twice. I did not. In fact, it’s usually when crossing the Rocky Mountains in the US that users experience a blip or two.
One curious thing—I was charged 20% in sales tax. Now, who charges that? Is it English VAT? That’s all I could figure, but it was still worth it to be able to land nine hours later and not have to face a backlog of email.
It’s true—some of Hertz’s newer navigation systems called “NeverLost” have a camera that can view the interior of the car. If this sounds kind of creepy to you, you’re not alone. But there are a few things you should know.
First, the cameras have never been turned on. Hertz installed them in case someday it made sense to do so. And the driver or passengers will have the ability to turn the camera off.
So why were the cameras installed in the first place? Hertz says they might someday he useful to communicate between Hertz and its customer in, for example, the case of an accident.
But my problem is, as far as I know, Hertz never told the world about this. I rent often from Hertz, and maybe, those reams of small print that come with every rental car contract there was some mention of the camera. But I think Hertz could have done a lot better educating the public or at least its customers.
I’m not talking about ill-informed speculation on the part of television, radio, or on-line commentators. In fact, I thought that generally the major media did a great job of holding its collective tongue before concrete details of the crash came out. I heard many aviation experts say, “I don’t know, we’ll have to wait and see.”
That’s admirable. And, of course, we didn’t have to wait long in this instance.
What really got my goat were folks who posted videos and still pictures of past airline crashes on line and tried to pass them off as the Germanwings Airbus that crashed in the mountains of France. One showed a burning plane wobbling and then falling to the ground in a burst of flames. Nearby were are row of vehicles. Everyone knew from the beginning that the crash site of the Germanwings plane was inaccessible, so there would have been no cars and no one with a camera there to videotape the flight’s final seconds.
Another photo on Twitter was actually the wreckage of plane in Turkey. In 2007. I know everyone wants to be first with the news—heck, I’m a former Washington Post reporter–but, please, spare us fake news.
I’ve been talking for a couple of years about the incredible interest in river cruising by American vacationers. In Amsterdam recently I was able to take a measure of the phenomenon.
It was the occasion of the christening of 12 new river-cruising vessels owned by Viking River Cruises. Twelve. Last year they christened 18, and today Viking dominates the river cruise business. And their manufacturer in Germany is busy building more vessels.
What impressed me beyond the numbers is the design and fit and finish of these vessels. Gorgeous woodwork, tasteful seating areas including a bright and airy dining room on one level, a lounge on another, and a sundeck atop the craft that’s perfect for lounging while floating by German castles, French vineyards, or Eastern European villages.
Sure, staterooms are cozy, but they’re also finished beautifully with inviting duvets on queen sized beds, great water pressure in the shower, and expensive fixtures such as Villroy & Bosh sinks, Hansgrohe bathroom fixtures, big, thick towels, and L’Occitane toiletries.
Next week I’ll discuss some of the differences among competing river cruise companies because their products are different. And choosing the right river boat to suit your tastes is as important as choosing the right ocean-going ship.
Immediately following the crash of the Germanwings jet late last month, a friend said to me he thought planes weren’t supposed to fall out of the sky. And, of course, they’re not. A horrendous weather event or the bad luck of pilot error usually accounts for airplane accidents, as few as they are.
When a plane goes down, guys like I am trot out the usual parade of statistics that demonstrate you’re at much more risk of dying driving your car to the grocery store, slipping in a bathtub, or getting hit from a lightning strike.
I once asked the Vanity Fair writer and former pilot William Langewiesche what he tells friends after a commercial air disaster. Langewiesche took the tough-love approach.
“Who among us,” he asked me, “gets to choose when we die?”
He was right. If we could choose when to die, we’d barricade ourselves in our bedrooms, order home delivered meals, and watch cable television until our hearts gave out.
But we accept that just as life is random—at least to us mere mortals–so is death. We risk injury and death going about an ordinary day to a greater degree than anyone sitting in an airplane watching a movie and sipping a glass of wine.
Take comfort in that when you next fly.