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The Amusing Skies…

Nov 7

In Rambling at 10:53am

Onboard a Delta jet, bound for Partnercon in San Diego on behalf of my buds at Adorama. Should be a lot of fun, though I am usually responsible for bringing bad weather to that perennially balmy city. I think they had five overcast days last year, and I was there for all of them.

I fly a lot. And there’s been some doozies this year, for sure. I was recently on a flight that was really, pretty much, Darwin’s waiting room with wings. We were in a plane stuffed to the rafters, all of us, including me, feeling a day late and a dollar short.

It’s always entertaining (if you have a  broad definition of entertainment) to be right next to the bathrooms on long flights. I try to use the loo right away, before it’s gets to looking and smelling like a recently flooded basement. Then, being an inveterate people watcher, I just settle in and regard the traffic.

On a recent flight, a lady came up and stood in front of me—right in front of me—waiting her turn. Now she had a posterior that should have been ticketed all on its’ own, in my opinion. Lordie, this was a work of art, years in the making. Broad, expansive and undulating, it was a bit like the Great Plains (which we were at that moment flying over) stuffed into a pair of sturdy jeans.

The way this particular plane was configured, I was in the emergency exit aisle seat, with no seats in front of me, just the wall to the bathroom. In deference to aisle traffic, she understandably kind of squeezed in towards my seat, to let people pass by. I all of a sudden found myself in close orbit with a very large moon. My eyes grew wide. My beloved wife Annie, sitting across the aisle, looked at me with concern, knowing I have tendency to be improvisational, being a photographer.

Then—she started to exercise. Yep. Right there in front of me. One legged knee bends, stretches, waist bends, all done in a fairly slow rhythmic fashion. It was hypnotic, really, sort of like watching a very large pendulum. Up, down, right, left. My face started to follow it. Up, down, right, left.

At this point, Annie’s left eyebrow, which I have described in the past as being attached to a steam driven catapult, is fairly dancing off the bottoms of the overhead bins, and her expression has gone from mild consternation to outright alarm. Her eyes were alive with messages, the unspoken language of marriage, and she reached across with an US magazine featuring Kim somebody or other in an effort to divert her nut job of a mate from doing something irretrievably stupid, just for the sheer giggle of it.

Thankfully, the bathroom vacated and the lady in question disappeared within. I was thankful at that moment I don’t have x-ray vision.

It was great theater, though, and it wasn’t over. A bit later, a lady with enormous, spiked high heels went to use the facilities, and she came out with, oh, about 15 or so inches of toilet paper attached to one of those heels. Oblivious, she trooped up the aisle, with this totem of her recent activities trailing behind her, a bit like the string of cans attached to the rear bumper of the newlywed’s car.

Seems all of my seatmates of late have been sort of large and grumpy as well, which hasn’t been fun. One gentleman, who should have purchased about 30% of my seat, pulled out his Ipad and began to play high speed poker right away when we hit 10,000 feet. He held it in his left hand, and furiously punched and pulled cards with his right index finger. Unfortunately, his right elbow was also connected to that index finger.

Now, I enjoy a massage as much as the next person, but having my ribs tattooed by somebody’s poker playing elbow doesn’t classify as pleasurable. I shifted as far as I could to the right of my seat, but after a couple hours of this I finally took my laptop, put it on my knees and raised my tray table upright in the defensive position, forming a wall between his seat and mine.

Being both male, it got real mature, real fast. We kept eyeballing each other over my impromptu castle battlement like a pair of five year olds having a turf war in the playground. I swear if I had some of my old plastic soldiers I would have lined them up on the armrest and started making machine gun noises.

It’s been a little nutty up there lately. More tk…

Penny says:

on November 7, 2011 at 10:58 am

Hilarious!! Thanks for the morning smile!! Your pain is our amusement….should be wrong, but it’s not! Love the tales so keep them coming!!

MaryT says:

on November 7, 2011 at 11:14 am

ROFLOL!!! *nodding with understanding* Bless Annie …

Mike M says:

on November 7, 2011 at 11:33 am

I can see the next book now:
The Delta Airline Diaries By: Joe McNally
Coming soon to Amazon!
Good Stuff!

Bill Bogle, Jr. says:

on November 7, 2011 at 11:33 am


We played with the lead soldiers when we were young. Perhaps that explains alot.

You always keep it entertaining. I am sure that Annie agrees. You did marry up.


Mia says:

on November 7, 2011 at 11:38 am

Oh my God, I am in stitches. Mostly because I have experienced very similar situations, but never the aerobic workout – if it would qualify as aerobic. Have a great day and thanks for the laughs and as always the beautiful work.

David says:

on November 7, 2011 at 11:42 am

What was a rarity is now “normal”. Really? Really? Really? Really!

Lorri E says:

on November 7, 2011 at 11:53 am

Joe, if this photographer thing doesn’t work out for you I think you could have a career as a stand-up comedian. You had me laughing so hard my eyes were tearing up. Thanks for sharing. Next time I fly maybe I will put some little toy soldiers in my bag, just in case.

Gregg Mack says:

on November 7, 2011 at 11:57 am

That is incredibly funny storytelling! You’ll definitely increase the traffic to your blog tremendously if you keep this up. Thanks!

Karen B says:

on November 7, 2011 at 12:05 pm

Your colorful humor in sharing your stories is fantastic. Thanks for adding a good laugh to a Monday morning. I can recall a few similar flights …. certainly an adventure each and every time. Thanks for the tales!

Marci Johnson says:

on November 7, 2011 at 12:05 pm

LMAO I’m crying over here!! I’ve always wondered what the frequent flyer has to deal with on an airplane and this certainly gives me some interesting insight. Thanks for the laugh Joe, enjoy SD! The Broken Yolk is a great breakfast place. :)

Joe McNally says:

on November 7, 2011 at 12:09 pm

oh boy did i marry up! and i had those lead guys too. my mom used to call them my Britishers….and would give a couple to me for Christmas. I might have chewed on those occasionally. do you think that’s what happened to me??? :-)

CW says:

on November 7, 2011 at 12:11 pm

Monday Morning Smile :) Thanks for that :)

Joe Howe says:

on November 7, 2011 at 12:41 pm

I always tell people I love to travel, I just hate travelling.
Hopefully your stay in SD will be worth the hassle of getting there.

Alicia says:

on November 7, 2011 at 12:44 pm

The term married up has always puzzled me. When I hear men saying that I believe they think they are giving their wife a compliment…but if you think about it… It is really a back handed compliment. they are implying that their wife either has low self esteem or isn’t very bright as they married down. Hmmmm

Art Meripol says:

on November 7, 2011 at 12:46 pm

I’m not LOL here. Nothing funny if you do it week after week, year after year. Boy can we compare flights from hell. I was on a commuter jet recently with a woman across the isle from me. The seat back in front of her was pushed forward by her belly. Three seat belt extensions! Jeez! I say nothing, there is no winning in whining. But keep poking that same spot and the bruise never heals. Have you tried putting a closed laptop between you and the armrest? Makes a nice steel wall between you and the massage therapist.

Ravi Ganapathy says:

on November 7, 2011 at 12:53 pm

Joe, you just an amazing way with writing. Not only did you endure that “Great Plains” but made us experience the expansive derriere. Thanks to you, it’s right in front of my eyes.

Thank you for the entertainment. And, should I wish, “May you have many more of those episodes” or not? 😎

Dana says:

on November 7, 2011 at 1:10 pm

Joe pretty much already is a comedian if you were fortunate enough to see the Flash Bus tour :). I was at the Boston one and I think we laughed for about 6 hours between Joe and Dave. I’ll still never forget when Joe asked the crowd “Ok, TTL doesn’t seem to be working, what do we do now?” and someone in the audience pipes up with “Ask Dave Hobby”.

Joe McNally says:

on November 7, 2011 at 1:17 pm

Hmmmm….no. to me, it means i’m incredibly lucky this talented, vivacious, intelligent beautiful lady married me.

John says:

on November 7, 2011 at 1:26 pm

Thank you Joe for making my day better. Here I thought what a terrible day to be in the office, then you remind me of the other side of the fence. That grass isn’t greener. It’s just flattened, brown and full of nuts…….

Sebastian Wilson says:

on November 7, 2011 at 1:28 pm

HAHAHAHA, excellent post!
Airplanes are a real bizarre and hilarious world, that you captured so well. I could see the whole scene in my head!

Karen B says:

on November 7, 2011 at 1:31 pm

Joe… what a perfect sentiment. I’d say you two are both incredibly “lucky” to have found each other!

shelby says:

on November 7, 2011 at 1:50 pm

We should always remember that things could be worse. Joe, in your case she could have been wearing spandex and not a pair of sturdy jeans, resembling 10 pounds of sausage in a 5 pound casing.

Carrie says:

on November 7, 2011 at 1:56 pm

OMG….I just spit my lunch out laughing. I am having the sh$&@!? Monday and you made my day so much better. Thank you for sharing but sorry about your flight!

Dylan says:

on November 7, 2011 at 2:07 pm

I have done my time in coach as well. Being a photographer, have found the people watching very entertaining over the years. I always seem greet my wife at arrivals with the stories from my airline safaris and have come to think a compilation would make a great book. I certainly have a lot of them, having flown over 400 times in the last 5 years.

I recently got fed up about sharing my seat with people who couldn’t be contained by their own. Perhaps this bothers me more, because I often shoot all night (interiors) then fly during the day then repeat and therefore need to sleep on the flights. I complained by explaining that it is the same thing as having part of the meal you ordered and paid for being served to the table next to you. I got a partial refund for the airfare. It’s the first time an airline has acknowledged this to me and I was very impressed to have gotten that response.

Alan MacRae says:

on November 7, 2011 at 2:35 pm

I’m not sure which left me laughing harder, Joe, the story or the picture of you! You definitely made my Monday. I’m looking at the image of you and all I can think of is Jack Nicholson in “The Shining”… “H E R E ‘ S J O E !”

Paul Glover says:

on November 7, 2011 at 2:48 pm

As a recovering frequent flier (many, many commuter flights back and forth between Belfast N.I. and whichever of London, Stockholm or Dusseldorf I happened to be passing through that time) I feel your pain.

Two of my regular traveling companions were keen amateur rugby players, and built to match. Great guys, but getting the center seat between them on a small commuter jet was never a good start to a Monday morning.

Then there was the incredibly drunk, passed out guy with severe leg twitches I got to spend a 2 hour flight stuck next to. At one point I’m pretty sure he’d rolled most of the way over in his seat and was nearly face-down. At the time I was no lightweight where alcohol was concerned (hit me with another double, I’m Irish!) but I was starting to get tipsy just from the smell of booze.

I don’t miss those days!

Matt says:

on November 7, 2011 at 3:04 pm

Hey Joe,

You give yourself too much credit, most of last year seemed like we were in the pacific north west =P

It should be a nice week out here, I hope you get a chance to venture out and shoot some I’d be interested to see what you find.

Have fun…

Jim White says:

on November 7, 2011 at 3:19 pm

You’re “too” funny Joe . . LOL. Thanks for sharing this :)

John says:

on November 7, 2011 at 3:27 pm

Ok, Joe you owe me a new wireless keyboard!!! I don’t think I’ll be able to clean it again, yes again, I spit sweet tea all over it by the 5th paragraph, 10 minutes to clean that up, and then with your description of Annie’s reaction to and fear of what might happen I wasn’t able to turn away quick enough, and well the keyboard caught the brunt of me choking on my chocolate fudge brownie and ice cream.

So if your intent was to get me to spend another $69 on a new wireless keyboard you have succeeded, now to whom do I send the bill??

Thanks for the much needed laugh….

Bill Bogle, Jr. says:

on November 7, 2011 at 3:32 pm

ditto, no offense ever intended. Especially after 28 years of marriage to the best person to share a life with. Maybe instead of MU, blessed might be a better term. My wordsmithing could use some work.

Bill Bogle, Jr.

Frank Burch says:

on November 7, 2011 at 4:58 pm

Hysterical in every regard! I can’t believe I never thought of the tray table ploy; absolute genius!

Bob DeChiara says:

on November 7, 2011 at 5:48 pm

Holy Crap… I can’t stop laughing! Just made my night! Have fun in SD.

Todd says:

on November 7, 2011 at 5:52 pm

LOL! You mean Joe don’t go First Class? j/k

No matter how bad your experience on an airplane may get, never forget:

Gerry Johnson says:

on November 7, 2011 at 6:52 pm

Time to take the train!! Although thinking about it, I think you could wreak more havoc on the train – but it would be fun!

John says:

on November 7, 2011 at 6:52 pm

Joe, that is one reason I travel Conus in my motorhome. The other is is can carry along gear and if it is an early morning shoot I spend the night there and roll out of bed shower and start work.

Ivan says:

on November 7, 2011 at 9:45 pm

Flying is so glamorous. I think you were lucky. It could’ve been worse, you could have been stuck with a sleep apnia’d mouth breather who just ate a loaf of garlic bread. :-)

Tim Skipper says:

on November 7, 2011 at 10:59 pm

LOL very funny

Chris Nemes says:

on November 8, 2011 at 2:24 am

Joe, where did you learn to write so well? :)

Speed says:

on November 8, 2011 at 7:51 am

Removes small camera from pocket. Records video. Posts on Youtube.


Tom McKean says:

on November 8, 2011 at 8:00 am

Hey Joe,

As I said when I met you in the elevator at Boston’s PSW: “You’re a funny man!

Andor says:

on November 8, 2011 at 8:44 am

‘…a bit like the string of cans attached to the rear bumper of the newlywed’s car.’

At this part I almost burst out in laughter – but being in office I rather held it :-)
Being kind of frequent flier myself too (though probably not _that frequent_ and shorter routes for sure) I can completely understand the story.
Actually I think at some point (after a certain amount of travelling by the practice) you start to really ‘enjoy’ this kind of ‘entertainment’ – its a bit like watching a ZOO, isn’t it? 😀

Debra says:

on November 8, 2011 at 9:51 am

Thank you, again Joe, your words create images, the way your images tell stories. Sadly, these images are a bit frightening. Have a nice visit in beautiful San Diego.

Cindy Dyer says:

on November 8, 2011 at 10:00 am

Hilarious story…and that expression on your face says it all. Priceless! (Did you take the photo of yourself?)

Christine says:

on November 8, 2011 at 10:10 am

Ok. That one got me! Really got me..laughed till I cried…I’ve traveled a bit and could so relate. One of my worst experiences involved sitting behind someone on a return flight from India who obviously ate poor food combinations with too much curry or something before boarding. Me strapped to the seat, Full plane. Babies crying…Me crying in my heart and mind for mercy! Thanks for the belly laugh this morning. You are a great writer as well as photographer.

Sam says:

on November 8, 2011 at 10:17 am

Hey Joe, I think you better copyright this and other blogs, because the material is so good that it could be used by comedian. BTW, you could be a stand-up (or in rocking chair) comedian when you can no longer carry a camera…. :) TFS.

Christopher Campbell says:

on November 8, 2011 at 10:23 am

That does it! I am bringing my toy soldiers next time. *And* my iPad!

Ann Raine says:

on November 8, 2011 at 11:18 am

I think Adorama should fly you two business class, you deserve it. What a story and what good nature on your part! Very funny story, but so sad that everyone’s probably got a story or two like that.

ashok says:

on November 8, 2011 at 11:53 pm

i can only imagine the scene with yr description of the posterior and its activities. you should hav got yr camera, stuck on a super wide and shot of a couple of frames. result hasty evacuation of the offending object and some entertainment (read smiles) for paying takes all kinds to make a flight..

Jay Mann says:

on November 9, 2011 at 1:30 am

Hi from Indonesia,

Being a regular traveller on local carriers I can appreciate your comments, actually I almost fell out of my chair laughing. It is not unusual to have first time flyers from small villages on the plane……


Werner says:

on November 9, 2011 at 5:29 am

… actually the name given to the area by the Native Tribes was Great Pains … Great story, Joe!

Billie Muller says:

on November 9, 2011 at 11:43 am

I sense another book coming on!:) great piece!

Linnea says:

on November 9, 2011 at 5:52 pm


Derryl says:

on November 9, 2011 at 9:19 pm

How did you light that self portrait? lol.
Great read!

Bob says:

on November 10, 2011 at 10:07 am

Joe – great post…now makes me wonder if it is the journey, rather than the destination.

Chris says:

on November 11, 2011 at 6:30 am

So funny. I invariably seem to get “the recliner” in front of me, who has to fully recline the seat for the entire duration of the flight, even if it’s a day flight

Woody says:

on November 11, 2011 at 1:33 pm

You know those spikes they use to keep pigeons from landing? Attach them to a velcro strip and…well, I’m sure you get the picture. The competitive edge!
As far as the ladies go…where’s the pics to prove it??

Mark says:

on November 12, 2011 at 10:35 am

I nominate Joe to take Andy Rooney’s spot on 60 minutes!

Doru Oprisan says:

on November 13, 2011 at 10:34 am

Hi, Joe!
Just a quick, unrelated question, if you could spare a minute:
Do you use the D-lighting feature on your Nikon cameras when shooting RAW ?

Right now I am a bit frustrated because I have a few thousand NEF files which are only seen correctly in CaptureNX. Lightroom or Adobe will give me an underexposed image to start with, because they cannot read the D-lighting information in the file, and that makes it hard to select and edit thousands of photos, as nothing looks like it did on camera.

I’ve tried to use Capture NX2 to convert the files into TIFFs, and then use them in Lightroom (I really cannot get used to CaptureNX), but the uncompressed file is 72Mb in size and the compressed (!) is 90Mb. Yes, the compressed one is larger :) Even more bizarre is that doing the same conversion with ViewNx2 gives you a compressed file of about 40Mb. But the program stops responding a few minutes into the batch conversion. Any friends from Nikon care to explain this rather strange behaviour ?

Many thanks!
Doru, long time reader of the blog and your two flash-related books. :)

Doru Oprisan says:

on November 13, 2011 at 10:43 am

Lightroom or *Aperture. Sorry.

Patrik Lindgren says:

on November 13, 2011 at 1:32 pm

I always enjoy your stories and the way you put them together. You should do more books. 😉

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