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  • Writer's pictureBrit Victoria

A spa day sponsored by United Airlines

My obligatory photo from PDX the day I flew out. In the corner you can see my about-25-pound camera backpack, which I use to travel because I will never check my laptop or camera.

Since I was in the womb, flying hasn't been a big deal. A lot of people I know who haven't flown are weary that they'd have in-flight anxiety, one of those friends being S.

S has assumed that being on a plane would be similar to driving a long trip in traffic. I feel her pain about the driving thing. When I'm in traffic and it's taking too long, I get anxious. When you're driving you're required to be focusing solely on the road and possibly belting out songs from “Mamma Mia.”

You can't do anything else, regardless of how many articles you still have to write before deadline. (Too specific?)

But planes are different. You're not the pilot or even the car DJ/co-pilot. Most flights I've been on I've looked at one way: as a travel-imposed spa day, sponsored by United Airlines.

When you're in flight, you don't have to do anything. You can sleep, write, disconnect from your publisher who had to be reminded 10 times that you wouldn't be in the office for a few days.

This post was actually typed for you via the Google Keep app in flight to Denver, my layover before I got to Cincinnati.

I will admit, it has been a while since I've flown. My last trip was a brief jaunt from Sea-Tac to LAX for a journalism conference in my senior year of college. And I got lucky. The person who was supposed to sit between me and our social media coordinator couldn't make it so we had a spare space to throw our backpacks and ample room to work.

As I was typing this post, I was sandwiched between two sleeping people. And while the people were totally nice, the lack of elbow room was a bit counterproductive for writing. Hence the typing into my phone and not the laptop that was stowed away in my seat pocket for the entire flight.

Feeling ill during takeoff was also a new development for me in my travel experience. I had been trying to just power into writing mode, but for about five undeniable minutes I was actively trying to keep my stomach from lurching with copious sips of water and deep breathing.

The turbulence descending wasn't necessarily tranquil either. I spent another five minutes convincing my stomach it didn't need to see my esophagus that close up. I think they're tight enough buds as it is. They don't need a conjugal visit.

Thankfully that subsided, but I'll be damned if I didn’t consider buying Dramamine for my flight home. Just in case.

By that token, the idea of "remaining comfortably seated" on a plane is a hoax. A joke by pilots.

Never have I really sat comfortably on a plane. So in spa day terms, I imagine the pain in my tailbone by hour two to be akin to a well-intentioned, self-improvement-oriented bikini wax.

So back to my spa day.

As hilarious as I'm sure it would be for my fellow passengers and you, I forwent the idea of wearing a sheet mask aboard the plane for a true spa experience. However, the spirit of disconnecting and focusing my energy on my own writing was maintained. I wrote two blog posts and three newspaper articles in the time it took me to fly from PDX to CVG and back.

When you're the photographer friend (or sister) that usually means being the go-to for family photos at any chance possible. It also means you're usually able to convince people to take a selfie with you because "you know what you're doing."

The real trip began when I landed in Cincinnati, only slightly nauseous and in possible need of a chiropractic adjustment.

My sister and I haven't seen each other in like 12 years and during my brief stint in Ohio I spent at least 36 hours with her, her husband and my two rambunctious nieces in between photographing my childhood friend's wedding and getting minimal sleep.

I honestly flew out super excited for the wedding and seeing my friend but was unsure how my reunion with my sister would go and how my 8- and 10-year-old nieces would react to meeting me. Up until I flew in they were still trying to figure out how their mom had a sister who they hadn't met.

Though I did have fun seeing my friend, and her wedding (and wedding photos) turned out beautifully, I enjoyed the time with my sister and her family the most. It was odd, but we seemed to just settle into being together. We hadn't even left the airport parking garage before we were cracking jokes about "being an Allen" and laughing our asses off. We then proceeded to stay up far too late, meaning I clocked in at 21 hours without sleep on Thursday. But it was well worth it, and the trip was much too short for my liking.

She even let me escape the wedding hubbub the night before my flight home by picking me up, and offering me a bed and a ride to the airport at 4 a.m. #sisterhood.

Just to clarify, I'm not from Cincinnati, and I only flew in there. I'm actually from a city called Hamilton in Butler County.

Spa Day Part II: Wherein I Receive Far Better Treatment, Can Actually Relax and All Thanks to My Mama Bear

I'm a fairly independent woman. I pay my rent and utilities on my own, dress like an adult, cook, and occasionally even clean, but even at 25 there are still moments my mother beats Google as a source for random information and fact checking, and helps me in ways I don't expect, but heartily appreciate.

The night before my friend's wedding, the event for which I've made this trek across the country, I went to check-in for my flight on Sunday and discovered that there weren't any economy seats left on my flight even though I'd purchased an economy-level ticket. According to United’s website, I'd have to pay $125 to get myself into an economy plus seat and go home.

A panic attack was looming when I messaged my mother.

Me: "So even though I have a ticket, the airline is making me pay to sit economy plus for $125 because they oversold all of the economy seats apparently even though I had a ticket. So I have to pay an extra $125 just to get home."

Mom: "There should be a way around that but I don't know what. They should at least compensate you some way. I can transfer some though."

Me: "You're fine. I didn't pay it so my boarding passes say see agent. I'm so pissed."

*Twenty minutes later*

Mom: "What is your confirmation number?"

Me: [sequence of random letters and numbers] Why?

Mom: "Aisle or window? Preference."

Me: ..."Aisle."

Mom: "Can you talk?"

*She calls*

Me: "Hey, what's up?"

Mom: "So I spoke with [insert name here] and told her about your situation. I told her selling you a ticket then overbooking the plane and requiring you to pay $125 for a seat you already paid for could be considered extortion."

It should be known, my mother isn't a lawyer, but she is a nerd-tastic mama bear, and I am her only child.

I laughed and thanked her since her call got me an upgrade to economy plus (with more leg room) for no additional cost and it kept me out of jail for assault at the United Airlines counter of the Cincinnati Airport.

I also had the hysterical misfortune of my purse getting pulled aside by TSA. When he was still alive and worrying about the safety of his co-workers, my late advertising specialist and work partner John Wilson gave all of us these spiked keychains made for hold between your fingers in case of a potential mugging. It's honestly an event highly possible at the right time of night around our office building.

When I received mine I promptly stowed it away in my purse and forgot about it. Until TSA was searching my bag in Cincinnati.

“Do you have brass knuckles or something in here?” the agent asked.

“Oh, shit,” I thought as an image of the keychain popped into my mind.

“Here's what to look for. It's purple. And I swear I forgot it was in there,” I told her.

I walked away a few moments later sans keychain, but with a hilarious story for our advertising department.

My experience on my flight home was much more like how I remember flying. I guess now economy plus seats are like what economy seats used to be and economy seats are confined, overpriced prisons.

I finally got my spa day though.

(It did require some good headphones and Doublemint gum to address the screaming child one seat ahead of me and the popping ears, but I'm good with just plugging into my Empowered playlist on Spotify when I need/want to. And I'm not one of those douche canoes to yell at a young mom to "control your child!" I have to deal with that child for five hours at most. She has to deal with him for 18+ years. God-fucking-speed.)

The aerial view of my "desk" aboard United flight 357 to San Francisco.

On my five-hour flight to San Francisco, I finally finished the book I've been working on for almost a year — “Okay Fine Whatever: The Year I Went from Being Afraid of Everything to Only Being Afraid of Most Things” by the fabulous Courtenay Hameister. (Look for the resulting review I wrote while in the air on this page next week). I also got at least a few moments to just feel like I'd accomplished something.

  • I have two new blog posts, and they're even mostly typed.

  • I have a good beginning mapped out for my city budget story for the May 1 edition of The Post that I think the average person could even understand.

  • I got to see two childhood friends.

  • I successfully made another trip across the country, solo.

  • I reconnected with my sister, and without incident.

  • I met my brother-in-law and nieces, PLUS made enough of an impact that the girls were upset to see me go.

  • I didn't strangle a United Airlines agent.

A few days after returning home, I'm still a bit jet-lagged and working from home to proof newspaper pages and schedule interviews, but in the past 48 hours I've:

  • Had a successful shopping day with my Estacada counterpart and friend, Emily despite a seven-hour flight and only receiving about 12 hours of sleep over the course of 4 days.

  • Finished writing the newspaper.

  • Attended and was cordial at a Pamplin event.

  • Attended and didn't fall asleep at a city budget committee meeting.

  • Dropped four of the six pounds I gained back from Easter and traveling.

  • And I managed to go grocery shopping so I won't literally become a starving artist.

I think I'll probably try to make more regular trips to Ohio now to visit my sister (and brother). But the one thing I know for sure is when I do I'll be flying economy plus.

xo B

Recommended listening:

(Ironically, this was playing on my Spotify shuffle as I was flying from Cincinnati to San Francisco.)

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