SPEW :: around the world in 88 hours

created: Sometime in 1995

This was an idea i had for a contest for the wealthy. each contestant had 88 hours to travel the globe. they had to start from and end at the same airport. and they could not spend more then 20 minutes in any airport – which means they must book & purchase travel for ANY flight going their direction.

they could not ‘plan’ their routes with the assistance of travel agents. they could only book travel a la carte on whatever carrier going to whatever airports along their path around the globe. again, this is a ton of money we’re talking about – you have to purchase airfare AT THE GATE basically. And you have 88 hours to get your ass around the world.

As it stands now, the only problem he could foresee was the effects that fatigue would have on his senses. Here he was travelling along with this bizarre purpose, and would have to keep a straight manor. Sleeping on planes tends to warp the human circadian rhythm section. First: stripping you of ALL concept of home base time, and second: to make you so irritable that you long for such horrific concepts such as airport coffee shops opening up…regardless of what this country calls coffee or aspirin. And those were the times that he was even able to allow himself the luxury of coffee from strange strangers or to piss in a ground-based urinal. For this was a time-constrictive event.

[Picture this man racing thru a strange airport to find some obscure airlines’ gate for flight that leaves in 10 minutes to a destination that just might get him there in time to pick up that non-stop JAL flight to Kobe. In this event, one seeks non-stop, trans-contintental flights as if there were nuggets of gold. For it means that many fewer airports inbetween…that many fewer natives to deal with.]

What he foresaw as the biggest problem actually turned out to be one of the slippery measures of the trip. Since most corners of the world will either accept American Express Gold, or some sort of Visa/MasterCard, the next booking kinda fell into place. Chicago’s O’Hara was hard cause it was an American Friday afternoon. Jakarta was a parking ot due to a religious ceremony celebrating an overtly phallic serpent-God. But en masse, the counters were eager to make the transaction of a one-way counter-purchased fare…especially when First Class could be bought.

[Being always the shortest lines at the ticketing counters, First Class was always a priority, but sometimes a pipe-dream. First Class was such as treat in this thing, the availability of which was to be quite possibly the 2nd or 3rd question asked of at the counter. There were still rare occasions where ducking into the hull & slipping into the wide, beige-y leather seat, you felt ahead or at least as if you were having fun again]

Still, other terminals saw him running out of time and had to just buy “any fucking seat, Hun” and run on board, only seconds shy of 19:59:00. Cause that was all that was needed: to just get off the plane of the airPORT and into the seat on the airPLANE within 20 minutes.

[So it was the initial conditions of an airport that you tested when you got off a flight. Were we crowded? Were the lines going to be long? How is her English going to be? Am I going to be mistaken for a drunk or a theif again? 20 minutes was NOT a long time, even in modern airports. And the last thing he wanted to do was to have to backtrack to Boise cause that’s what was available in the time allotted. Ah to meet with those conditions he had heard mentioned at the Dinner, where one member had landed at 4am in Heathrow, a deserted British Airways clerk, and had him book her clear to Anchorage, complete with connections with nearby gates. Apparently all without devulging the plot.]

The bet was easy as far as rules were concerned: Make it around the world in 88 hours using only passenger-bought commercial airline tickets purchased at the outbound airport using whatever resources available. The rules were a soupy mess about what was allowed, but there was ONE thing that was strictly forbidden under threat of forfeiture: remaining in any one airport for longer than 20 minutes. The intent was to keep the challenger moving when he was not at travel. With the sincere hopes that the outbound airport would be a modern complex in a democratic land with multiple airline companies offering a variety of Eastbond flights with plenty of seats available, this was not always the case. At one point a challengers female companion was assaulted in a late-night abrasion with a pack of drunk Honduran teens at THEIR AIRPORT. The last challenger was forced into forfeiture when, right after reserving and purchasing a 3 continent/ 7 connection route, all flights out of Raleigh/Durham were delayed due to weather. Neither of these two parties even left the North American Continent. Over half of the parties had been forced into forfeiture for there simply were no Eastbound connections to be made. The rest made the circumnavigation, but outside the stated 88 hours.

SFO to LAX 1.5 Tom Bradly Intl Term. Untited CONNECTION to JFK.ny.
9:50am – 11:20 Connection set to leave 11:50

He sat down First Class on this second flight Eastbound to New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport. From there, he was told, a connection can be made from just about any company. He was given some excellent contact advice for the airline: PenseAvion. The airline would offer charter from Paris’ Orly International to the Suez no questions asked…if he was to connect to Orly. He tried not to think about that which he simply could not prepare for. There WERE the in-flight phones however. Perhaps some lonley pudgy Customer Service Rep at United Airline Head Quarters could wax Machiavellian and book him a few points in advance. Something to try once in the air. Right now, he was in First Class and that meant a Crown and Coke before take-off. United had the gall to call their First Class “Premium Class” for added sterling.

[“A bunch of shite,” he would always murmur under his breath when he read the United ticket jacket. Outside of the Trans-Atlantic flights on American Airlines, there simply were no outfits that could hold a candle to the Brits. If Virgin could be relied upon for the concept of world-wide connections, then he’d do whatever possible to fly Branson’s It was actually a joke amongst the Challengers that the in-flight massage would make you loose enough kill you when it came time for sprinting a strange airport at 6 am. To be sure, Virgin was unrealistic. Yet, every airline had its own brass ring. Hawaiian Airlines had its massive track record for beating its own schedule for in-bound into LAX (No doubt due to the strong jet-stream tail-winds that blew their asses faster). Singapore had the up-to-the-minute technology to ease the pain. And United? “Well,” he posed, “United does have the good Dinners served by older career Attendants.”

“I wonder how United Airlines First Class Lunch-Meals are”, he thought. All things considered thought, American was SO much better for the overall comfort of the traveler. But United would do well more than fine here and now. Hell, any airlines First Class was a chore to be abused.

As proud as we was to have been able to book a transcontinental flight upon arrival at his first counter – and JF friggin K at that, he suppressed all unnecessary emotions. He was given full instructions at San Francisco International, but it was mostly a blur to him now. He had to strain to remember the importance of the most important rule. This may be really fucking tough. He was going to have to tax his body and his psyche in ways that we was in no shape for. Staying awake for 88 hours was just not to be attempted. The trick was to book the longest Eastbound flight possible, regardless of where it was bound. As long as the bird was in the air, there was progress being made, and a hell of a fighting chance. The time in the air, it was to be far more valuable resting than to be focusing on the layout of the next terminal or other companies booking flights nearby. Some of the challengers found that they could make the circumnavigation and “keep it in the family,” by never having to go to another carrier in search for an earlier flight. Any airline can book you on a round-trip booking around the globe, but there’s usually some waiting to be done in between flights.

[And this is where it always got tricky. How frustrating is was to keep turning down flights that were so damn close to the 20 minutes envelope. “No…that wont do either!” “Are there ANY OTHER Eastbound flights leaving ANY earlier?” And when it got too tricky, you closed your eyes for a moment and saw the national-geographic hemisphere of the next airport and imagined where to go and what to say. “No flights due-East out of Orly?” he practiced, “How about to Cairo?” And when it got too tricky, you just booked a flight to the nearest majour airport. For if there was a name to the game, it was certainly something to do with keeping moving. As long as you prevented any significant Westerly travel, you were ok. As long as you avoided a scenario where you were on the ground for too long, you were ok. Apparently, there were to be some real-time rule-booking going on. It turns out that one year, a Challenger had booked a ticket and was taxiing to take-off when the plane got grounded due to faulty something or other. She claimed that should be an automatic 20 minutes or more. Council ruled it a disqualification and were the subject of some scrutiny.]

Again something to be dealt with in the air. Again, there was the in-flight phone thing. Again, there was the First Class to remember. Right now, it’s right close to Noon. Its where’s the damn stewardess with my Crown and Coke and my damn smile? I need to let this soak in.