This time I get to write about Kulula while sitting in my seat (27F), high above the karoo in ZS-OAM, Kulula's 'Camo plane'. I won't be repeating my amateur traveller mistake of forgetting the tablets pin after dutifully switching off 'all electronic devices' for the take-off. Unfortunately, this time it is a far cry from the newer 737-800 airplane that I flew on in the opposite direction less than a week ago. Not that I am uncomfortable - it's just that you can see the progress that has been made in the 23 years between the manufacture of these two planes. Maybe it is just a paranoid sense that newer planes should be safer ways of doing what man was never designed to do?
Having said that, the end result is much the same for the passenger. A fairly large piece of steel that hurtles through the air at around 800km/hr that you get to call your chariot for around 2 hours. So is the progress all it is cracked up to be... well let's go back to the concept of the good old padstal (Farm stall).
Yes, you can still buy some enterprising farmers wares directly from him and enjoy a tranquil shopping experience, but the experience has changed for good and for the good. Everything about popping into these wonderful gems in the Western Cape (I'm sure the other provinces have their own eye-popping, mouth-watering versions that I have yet to experience) is about making you want to come back and visit them all over again. Great rustic designs, comfortable and quiet spots to drink a quick coffee, super clean toilets to keep the ladies happy and a good piece of green grass for the short people to expel all the pent up energy that was gathered during the last 5 hours on the road.
So back to the plane .. and the point. The legroom today is slightly less. It may be a few inches, but we all know how much difference that can make? The seats are slightly less comfortable. I'm not sure if I am imagining it, but the aircon (or do these babies have climate control) just seems a notch less effective. Oh yes, and they don't have those cool curvy things at the end of the wing tips - that makes absolutely zero difference to me, but it shows I am observant...
Now, taking these lessons back to our business that tomorrow will officially be one month old, what can be learnt. Firstly, things need to improve, even if it happens slowly and over a number of years. That's what makes us human I suppose - we always want to improve our lot in life. Not to be confused with not being happy with what you have, but just imagine where humanity would be if Orville had said to Wilbur, "No boet, lets rather walk to Sally's place". I for one would be just outside JHB with a 10 hour road trip ahead of me.
Secondly, no matter how we improve things, more often than not, the underlying principles still stay the same and if any change compromises that underlying principle, you are going to sit with a problem. Take as an example the phone. No longer the humble tool that Alex invented a couple of years ago. Now it is a tool that can entertain even a monkey for days on end ... You have all owned a phone that has made you want to visit Steve or Kim Jung the 55th (Samsung?) and tell them exactly what you think of them. Well, that's just it - when the battery dies after 1.24 hours, the underlying principle of having a phone not longer exists, and the tool in your hand becomes a useless but expensive piece of plastic. Get it?
That's it for now ... time to turn off 'all electronic devices' for the landing, before this plane ends up in a similar state to those that fly for a certain airline whose flight numbers all start with MH ...