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Dateline: Portland

Dear Kay,
So I’m sitting here in the Portland, Oregon, airport, waiting for you to show up. All around me I can listen to people talking on their cell phones, and I continue to be amazed at how people will carry on–at a level that we can all hear–about stuff I guarantee you nobody wants to be hearing. It’s not eavesdropping that I’m doing; it’s the unavoidable sound of talking that I’m absorbing. Hey everybody! You don’t turn invisible when you use your phone! Lady! I know your daughter screwed up her flight from spring break in Panama City, but you don’t need to have your family therapy session directly behind me–I’m not even a licensed therapist. But come on–she didn’t miss her flight because she is getting back at you; she missed it because, OBVIOUSLY, if she’s in college and she’s in Panama City, she is “hung over.” She “blew it.” She was chasing the Naked Cowboy down the beach; she was not printing out her boarding passes ahead of time.
The one thing I’m sure about is that the cell phoners are all bored out of their minds–just deliriously bored, because they complain about it in baroque language and with conviction. I think we all know what the antidote for that is. I finished a good foot or so of knitting yesterday, and it was 100% soul-savin’ good times all the way. I’ve never knit so fast in all my days.
I sat next to a pilot on the way out, a chatty guy who was going home after flying ten flights in two days. A cross-country flight to him is like me taking a forgotten backpack to school. Just a little adjustment. He could show me on his cocktail napkin map where we were, based on the landscape out the window. He was happy to tell me all the gruesome hydraulic problems that can happen to planes which are not Southwest Boeing airplanes. I hated to tell him that the fact is that sometimes I fly on those other, “Nintendo” airplanes.
On a Southwest flight, the rule of “open seating” is the law, and none of the seats are assigned, which adds a little drama and potential for disappointment if you’re in Boarding Group B. Group A is all smug and “oh I printed out my boarding passes last night”; back in the day, they were all student council presidents and extra-credit suckups. Group C is the Land of the Lost–a more fatalistic and resigned group you’ll never see. They’re all going into the middle seats. One guy said to me, “I just want a seat inside the plane.” But Group B, my group, are the Strivers, the ones looking at Group A and kicking themselves for not printing out their boarding passes twelve minutes earlier yesterday. The Strivers hope against hope that they don’t get stuck in the middle. The Strivers want only to be Not in the Middle. They want to be Group A, yet they are not.
So my suggestion for fellow Group B Strivers: sit down in that aisle seat, that coveted aisle seat which you miraculously scored, and start winding yarn. That middle seat beside you will be taken only when the other 174 seats are filled, after the Crying Baby seat is taken, after the Guy With Many Tattoos seat is taken. It is apparently deeply alarming to think that the woman next to you is going to be swinging yarn around for four hours.
More later. I’m already loving Portland: they pour coffee in the ventilation systems. Everything smells like coffee! You can drink coffee by breathing!
Love,
Ann
PS We had a hard landing in Portland, and my ball of yarn launched like a cannonball, shooting under the seats ahead of me. Four rows up, a burly guy holds up the ball and says, “Yarn?” which launched an admirable effort to return the ball to me. It was like lassoing a renegade guinea pig.

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65 Comments

65 Comments

  1. Thanks so much for coming to Portland! What a wonderful evening. I hope you enjoyed it at least half as much as I did. Not only was there the wonderful chance to learn more about the makings of the book (btw I have always loved the pictures in your book, it was so neat to hear about the staging realities) but I also met some really nice knitters. Hello Janna and Kathy! Ok now I’m just rambling so thanks again and come back any time!
    -Meghan

  2. That is so funny about the yarn and the aisle seat! My commute to work is a one hour bus ride, and when I am knitting the seat beside me is always the last one taken!

  3. We have lots of coffee in Seattle too.

  4. So did you get to knit on the flight, or just wind your yarn?

  5. I don’t think I’ve ever flown Southwest, but you’d better believe that if I do I’ll be working hard to make Group A. Nobody wants to see the panic attack that will result if I don’t get an aisle seat. Claustrophobia is not a pretty thing.
    What I want to know is when are you going to come to the other Portland? My Portland?

  6. Welcome to Portland! And yep, we live on the scent of caffiene. It’s better than smog anyday!

  7. i also am a commuter knitter, as is my coworker…we both notice that the seats next to us on the bus are the last to be taken….what gives?….its just knitting, for crying out loud…..maybe in this day and age knitting needles are considered to be a WMD, being pointy sticks and all…….but thanks for the heads up notice about printing out boarding passes early…..thats news to me…i am learning so much from this blog!

  8. dear god ROTFLMAO… A seat Inside the plane. It may happen someday that Group C people will be seated outside the plane. Wings etc, no carry on allowed. Knitting might be a bit difficult but you could always Icord yourself and your seatmates down
    When I flew to Toronto the guy next to me was very interested in my knitting. At least I thought he was, until my daughter told me after we landed that 2 of my buttons were undone :-}
    xoxo

  9. Hmmm…which would be more effective at scaring off potential seatmates- double points, circulars, straights, or extra long straights?
    NIntendo airplanes- I like that.
    I’m a group A. I like my aisle seat- oh, and head to the back of the plane. Most A types start filling up the front rows.

  10. best P.S. ever. (and i’m guessing you’ve had experience in rounding up the rodents.) hoping to soon make the transition from ‘crying baby seat-er” to “wool winder” on my flights. xoxo K

  11. I cannot believe I didn’t make it. It didn’t even occur to me to take time off work and I totally lost track of the date! I’m going to go cry in my coffee now. I hope and pray you guys get to come through for your next book tour. [bangs head on breakfast table]

  12. Oh, Ann, so sorry you are a B class. I am so A. Can’t handle being stuck in the middle. NOt only am I A, but I will be the first in line for the A’s. I will sit hours ahead of time to make sure I get that exit row that has reclining seats. Now you have met me and cannot understand how this can be. I am so laid back, surely I am not the lady that shoves everyone aside to get the best seats…. not the lady that goes running down the aisle launching her knitting bag into the air so it will land on the aisle exit row seat. Yes, I am. It is because I am married to the biggest (6’11′) princess ever. He will moan and whine and shift in his seat to make everyone within 15′ feet of him miserable if he doesn’t get an exit row. That is why I am waiting to hit the enter key at exactly 24 hours before my flight take off so that I can be an A person. Whew! Confessions are hard on the soul.

  13. I’m cracking up at your assessment of Southwest’s boarding system. I always like to call it the cow herding airline. My little brother always stands there when the collective mass of people begins pushing forward to get that coveted aisle or window seat and makes loud mooing noises. It’s about the funniest thing ever to watch people get all upset over it when they realize they are acting like cattle.
    Oh and my way to make sure the seats next to me are filled last is simply to knit. People pass you by with a look that they might get some weird germs from the guy who is knitting. One guy ended up next to me one time and looked at me the entire flight like I was going to give him cooties or something.

  14. I am glad to know I am not the only knitter the rolling ball of yarn has happened to. I was trying to start a sock. And you know, the needles are small, and there are several of them, and it just got all out of hand. The yarn went out of my lap and across the aisle just as the flight attendant was heading towards my seat. A lady WITH A BABY IN HER LAP was able wrangle the yarn and return it to me. I put all my knitting away after that. I can’t be trusted in public sometimes.

  15. It was so great meeting you guys last night. I’m exhausted but it was worth it. :)

  16. Sounds like a good time was had by all in Portland… and I’ll be the one winding yarn with two babies screaming like tornado sirens because they want me to put the yarn down. That should be good for a whole row of seats to myself. hehe
    I just love places that infuse you with good foodish smells.

  17. That Southwest description is hilarious! And yes, I’m usually a group A, and I was one of those extra-credit suckups. Love your (and Kay’s) blog.

  18. I’m an A also, I’ll wake up in the middle of the night to print out my boarding pass. I flew two weeks ago and had my knitting with me and you know what no one sat next to me. I’m doing that forever from now on. I also got a lot done, it was great.

  19. I lost my yarn in an auditorium last summer. Yep, sloped floors. Good thing everyone knew me and has known me since i was little and cute. I can still pull it off sometimes.

  20. I love LUV. And I’m Group A all the way. I remember the dark days before Al invented the internet and we had to Stand In Line in order to get boarding passes and then move to our respective corrals. Baaa!
    Travelling with small children and knitting mean that no one even wants to sit across the aisle from you because obviously there is something extremely wrong.

  21. I SO wanted to make it over to Abundant Yarn & Dyeworks last night, but alas it was not to be. I had to work until 4:00 in Hillsboro and anyone who knows Portland traffic at rush hour knows there’s no way I could have made it across town in an hour — especially with the slide on Highway 26 that caused so much problems (even though it was in the other direction, the looky-loos cause slowdowns no matter what). Maybe next time. :)

  22. You are a riot. I haven’t flown in ages and this A,B, C thing is new to me. Will make a mental note.
    Thank you once again for coming to Portland. I had a great time at Abundant Yarn and Dye works. Such a friendly store! It was fun to get my book signed and meet you and Kay. Both of you bring a fun and inspirational dimension to knitting.
    Amy

  23. I am one of those anal retentive group A passengers who is not satisfied merely being in group A. As soon as I get to the gate I begin the group A line. I was never student council president, but I was a huge EC suckup.

  24. Thank you for your cell phone commentary, I wish all those bored phoners would read it!
    My Dad was just like your seat neighbor on my first flight ever. It was oddly reassuring.
    (I was a lot younger, and a lot less aware.)
    Thank you!
    Janet

  25. we are always group A, because my husband is 6’8″, and legs clear up to here. i won’t rub it in any further than that, lol

  26. I had a ball of yarn (connected to my current knitting) fall out of my bag as I was getting off the bus. That was entertaining, since I was OUT of the bus before anyone bothered to call it to my attention. The driver did, I don’t think he wanted to pull my bag off my shoulder, by driving away.
    And, as for a scary sight, when I rode the bus, there was another knitter that rode the bus. Two knitters sitting together, both with red hair. I think we scared more than a few people on the bus. On the morning bus, however, there were a couple of older gentlemen that were not afraid to sit next to me. They liked to watch the knitting progress, to them, it was very soothing.

  27. “It was like lassoing a renegade guinea pig.” Thank you for that! I just drew considerable attention to myself (unwanted, i assure you) for shrieking with laughter at this post. I’m a little envious about your coffee contact high: i could use some caffeinated air. Safe travels to you both!

  28. I think Boston is starting to get used to the subway knitter(s), because the seat next to me is usually taken within two stops and often by people who consider it their job to take up extra room (usually with newspapers), because my dpns obviously don’t take enough space.

  29. Your comment on the girl in Panama City is a hoot! Our family of four flew out of there a couple of years ago and we were the only people (other than the flight attendent and I think the pilot) that were over 25! The whole plane smelled of last night’s bar! The entire ride the girl behind me slept with her head on her tray table and all I could think of was “please don’t throw up!” Needless to say our airport of choice when flying to our Florida destination is Fort Walton Beach!

  30. Cellphones are quickly becoming the thorn in my side. On one hand, I like talking to my sister for a quick little chat now and then. On the other hand, I don’t need to hear some frat boy’s version of his all-night-bong-along (not unless he wants to hear about the pains of labor in a descriptive manor). Seriously, there should be a little closet where all the cell phone conversations should occur. Wait a minute . . . that would be a phone booth.
    If you think that A, B, C seating if awkward, try a flight on Ryan Air when in Europe. They don’t even do the A, B, C stuff . . . just a mad rush. It looks like a rugby scrum until one person breaks through and then it collapses. Even their pre-boarding for people with children is restricted to those with children in car seats. Fun for the whole family!

  31. You Are Killing Me.
    I can smell that freaking airport from here. PDX is the best.

  32. It was great meeting you two. I posted a few pictures on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ame/tags/masondixonknitting/

  33. I read on the Knitters’ Review site that the GoKnit pouches are fantastic for knitting on planes because they can attach to your tray table or the armrest! No more bouncing yarn balls! Here’s the review of the GoKnit Pouches:
    http://www.knittersreview.com/article_tool.asp?article=/review/product/070308_a.asp
    Hope your trip goes well and that you return safely and soon to Nashvegas!

  34. People also look at you funny for winding yarn in an airport… I’ve never tried it on a plane, though.
    I hope you had a good time and that you have a safe trip back.

  35. I think my favorite part of flying is being a knitter! Southwest is my most convenient airline and I always plop myself down on the aisle seat and take out my pointy sharp sticks. A few people will be curious (“they let you take those on the plane??”) but most avoid eye contact and keep on walking!

  36. What a treat to meet you two last night. The evening was great, hearing about your book. Can’t wait to get the next one!
    I’ve never tried to discourage someone from sitting by me on an airplane but will keep that in mind for the next ‘cattle call’.
    Have fun in Oregon and come back soon.

  37. “…student council presidents and extra credit suckups…..” I love it! Very funny.

  38. Love your post!
    I’m Group A all the way. When you’re Group A, you can hang out in a chair knitting until the last Group A person has boarded and then pop right up and on before Group B. Because, frankly, air travel is all about the enormous amounts of free knitting time.

  39. I so wish I had taken up knitting when I had a corporate job and traveled all over the place (on Nintendo planes, no less, though please don’t disparage Boeing when you’re in the Northwest because, like 90% of our tax revenue comes from that company, the other 10% being from coffee stands) because being an English teacher doesn’t provide the solo airplane time.
    Sorry to have missed you and hope the Northwest treated you well enough that you’ll come back soon!

  40. Renegade guinea pig – oh I love it. I once dropped a double point on a trip to Singapore and watched it roll and roll. After reading the Yarn Harlot’s post about knitting and flying, I guess yarn winding doesn’t fall into the category of dangerous-activity-while-take-off-or-landing. Sounds like it brings people together. Natch.

  41. “Like lassoing a renegade guinea pig.” Thank you Ann! This is an excellent gauge of difficulty — I will now be describing all challenges in comparison to the difficulty of lassoing a renegade guinea pig, because I think that may be the best simile I’ve ever heard. (And I’m in a graduate writing program, so believe me, I’ve heard a lot!)

  42. I love Southwest, and am always an A! Unfortunately, I’m about to move to a place where Southwest doesn’t fly. I’ve already begun my email campaign to try to get them to add my new home town, or at least an airport within 100 miles.
    Oh — and the hard landing. They used to be the norm on Southwest, because the original Southwest airports tended to have shorter runways (or that’s what I’ve been told).

  43. I own a small retail business and I heard too many details about someone’s fathers colonoscopy.
    The doctor told him he needed more fiber!!

  44. You know, I’ve been flying a lot lately and my knitting has neither scared away enough people nor instigated a group rescue of guinea pig-like objects. Some people have ALL the fun. Great travel post!

  45. As a veteran of many rabbit & cavy (guinea pig) shows, there really are such things as renegade guinea pigs! The GoKnit pouch sounds good. I have a yarn holder from Schoolhouse Press that I like to use. It hangs on my wrist or many other places and keeps the runaway yarn nearby!

  46. Gppd grief!! I have laughed so hard at this. I am the QUEEN of getting into Group A. Trust me, in the year I spent flying back and forth from Raleigh to Nashville before I moved here, I would wait patiently – or set the alarm – for 12:01 am so I could get my boarding pass. More often than not, I was NUMBER 1. On those computer printed boarding passes, there is a number. How proud I would be for being the first – although that didn’t guarantee I would be first on the plane. Now we can get those precious passes 24 hours earlier and trust me -I still strive to be that NUMBER 1.
    I’ll be flying to Denver Thursday on Southwest – won’t be back until late afternoon on Monday, so I’ll miss Knitting at the Library – maybe I can convince the pilot to fly a little faster!!!

  47. Thank you for making me laugh for the first time since Tuesday (it’s not been the best of weeks).
    ~x~

  48. As the owner of two guinea pigs, I can well imagine how difficult it was to corral that yarn!

  49. Wow, I should have thought ahead, went to Mexico City and back this week and didn’t bring knitting because the Moderne Blanket is too big for flying now and my next project needed to be wound, and I thought it would be hard on a plane!

  50. I can’t be in group B. The stress would kill me. Hell I have to be near the head of the line in group A. I just want an aisle seat and no one to sit near me. Is that too much to ask?
    Coughing works just as well as the yarn. I wasn’t doing it on purpose. Just had a cold. It was a nice peaceful flight for me though.
    I wish I had air coffee right now. Any coffee really. *L*

  51. Ann, I love the comment about the baroque language and the visual imagery that is the Naked Cowboy. Portland sounds sweet. I heard the other day that there are 14 yarn shops in Greater Downtown Portland. Fourteen yarn shops, people! Re the yarn tumbling under the seats of the plane: Get a KnowKnits GoKnit pouch. The perfect accessory for the flying knitter. I have mine in yellow, and it is my must-have fashion accessory for spring. Enjoy Portland! Wish I could shop-hop with you!

  52. Hilarious! I read the whole post out loud to my mom in my attempt to convert her to the world of blogland…she thinks you’re a great writer and we both shared a laugh! Thank you!

  53. There is nothing on this planet more terrifying than a woman with yarn and pointy sticks. You may have to get off the plane wearing an elaborate, intarsia, Christmas sweater gifted by said knitter, desperate to foist off unwanted handmade stuff. That or she just may want to talk your ears off about knitting the whole way. That’s way worse that hearing about how much getting a tattoo hurt and how the guy had to go back for six two hour sessions to get his full backpiece outlined and coloured.

  54. I heart Southwest. I grew up in Texas, so the cattle car was all we really knew. But damn their flight attendants and such are usually so much fun! Remember the hot pants?? I vaguely do. :)
    As for the cell phone thing..what IS it with that? I mean, I don’t want to hear their conversation, yet heaven forbid you ask someone to pipe down. People seem oblivious about their volume when on a cell.

  55. I am a Group A person! Print out my boarding pass, get to the airport early, try to be 1st in line in Group A. On a recent trip both going and comming and thru no fault caused by me I was put on other flights and got in Group C, then B. Sat in the same seats I always try to sit in when I’m in Group A! That will show me not to be so Group A like!!!!! Love to read the blog!

  56. Sorry I missed you guys in PDX.
    Interestingly, I had the EXACT SAME conversation with a US Airways pilot, only it was about the bad things that happened on anything that wasn’t a US Air Boeing. WHodathunk?

  57. This was hysterical. May I add your blog to my blogroll?

  58. I had the experience of the ball of yarn rolling under the seats all the way to the back of the plane. Yes, we were climbing to altitude at the time. It was crochet cotton, too, so it was a very firm, rollingawaylikethewind kind of ball. But a very nice Asian granny sitting next to me proved to be a genius at tugging on it Just Right and got it back for me.

  59. HA! I too, heart Southwest, and also I grew up in Texas. Their flight attendants even have what so few have… a sense of humor! Dare I admit that I remember the hot pants?? I do. :) As for knitting on the flight to keep others away…too bad I did not knit on the 5 hour flight (aisle seat) next to the super-sized evangelical (middle seat) who manuevered to touch me no matter how far into the aisle I moved.

  60. I’m glad you enjoyed our airport. You can imagine the shock for me when I fly into other airports and have to go search for the coffee shop.
    I’m so glad I made it to Abundant Yarn. I wish I could have stayed for the knitting afterparty. YOu two must have serious writers cramp after all that signing.
    Hope you enjoyed the rest of your time in Oregon.

  61. The only thing better than reading your hilarious blog are the hilarious comments from your blog-readers! Thanks again for a good read!
    BTW-I aspire to A-ness all the way!

  62. Cell phones, the bane of my existance! Coincidentally, I posted a rant the day after yours. My part of the post is just blather, but I think you’ll enjoy the piece I put in by Mark Twain and his take on phone use circa 1903.

  63. I love the Portland airport! Flying in around the mountain! Coffee! I am seriously planning my retirement around the Pacific Northwest.
    Still snorting coffee out my nose at the description of the college girl stuck in Florida. I think I’m in her group in plane-boarding.
    My airplane strategy is to head directly for the back of the plane, as far back as I can go. I still cling desperately to the myth that it’s the safest part of the plane.
    It will be very, very funny to be in an airport within cell-phone earshot range for Stranded Student Part Two, in which College Girl’s Daddy discovers her presence in a Girls Gone Wild video, and has to explain to his wife how he made the discovery. ;-}

  64. Just returned from a Southwest Flight from Orlando to Philadelphia. Ooooweee…that’s a lotta kids and crying. Yeah, I know their parents just spent eleventy million $$$ for a dream-come-true trip to Mickeyland, but ya gotta know that 4 days without a nap will backfire once you step on a plane. Glad my kids are way too old to cry on a plane! I got out my “A” boarding pass, my knitting and voila…no middle seat mate. Must have been the pointy sticks.

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