Hundreds of years ago during my mid-teens in the 1980s, I began reading the 1968 Herbert D. Kastle novel The Movie Maker. I didn’t get very far into it because it wasn’t really my sort of story, but there was one early scene that fired my imagination and stayed with me ever after.
It’s a scene where movie mogul Nat Markal flies to Hollywood on a jet airliner, and Kastle describes how Markal booked himself two seats so no one else would sit beside him and disturb him.
At that time, I’d never flown on an airliner and couldn’t imagine if or when I ever would. As well, back then air travel was still expensive in Australia – so Nat Markal being able to buy himself two seats seemed like not only a great idea, but also an unimaginable luxury.
As the years passed and I did more and more long-distance traveling, I often recalled Nat Markal and his two seats – especially as air travel, although it became more affordable, became an increasingly uncomfortable and unpleasant experience.
For a long time, however, I still regarded booking two seats for travel as a fantasy. After all, from time to time I got lucky and wound up with an empty seat beside me, and although flying sucked I was only spending an hour or so in the air each way, so I told myself to just deal with it.
Funnily enough, a few months after I went bankrupt in 2011 I did a Nat Markal not once, not twice but three times.
It was for this holiday that involved three trips by road coach.
Because each leg involved several hours of travel, and seats were cheap, I decided to splurge and buy myself two seats each time.
And it was great.
Not only did I have extra space to sprawl in comfort, but my second seat became my side-table that held everything I needed within easy reach – food, drink, iPod, Kindle, tissues, moist-wipes and small garbage bag.
In early 2012 I had to travel to Canberra for work.
I could have flown there and back on work’s dime, but for several reasons I preferred to travel by road coach – and because it was much cheaper, work certainly had no objection (in fact, back in early 2009 for other work in Canberra when I had first requested to travel by road coach instead, the approving manager had even thanked me in writing for saving the company money).
Once again I decided to do a Nat Markal, although I paid for my second seats out of my own pocket.
And once again, it was great.
A few weeks ago, I got an unexpected but very welcome invitation to spend time with some old friends down in Albury down on the NSW-Victoria border.
After some thought I decided to travel to and from Albury by CountryLink train.
That meant 7-8 hours of travel each way, but that didn’t bother me for several reasons.
First, although flying would be much quicker, it wasn’t something to look forward to.
Second, traveling by train was less expensive.
Finally, I’ve always loved train travel; I hadn’t done a long-distance trip for about 10 years; and 7-8 hours on a train meant 7-8 hours of reading and relaxing.
So I decided to make the traveling an enjoyable part of the overall experience, and to add to that I decided to go first-class each way – which was only $30 more than economy, anyway.
And I also thought about doing a Nat Markal, but in the end I didn’t.
First, although I had the money to do so each way, I thought that perhaps it was being too indulgent and I could use my second-seats money for something else.
Second, a train carriage is much less cramped than a jet-airliner cabin; I remembered train seats being larger and more comfortable; and I could get up and walk around whenever I needed to.
Finally, I gambled, on a train there could perhaps be more of a chance of winding up with an empty seat beside me for all or most of the trip.
So I booked myself one first-class seat each way.
Finally, the big day of the trip to Albury arrived.
I packed a suitcase, my backpack with my iPad and iPod and Kindle, and a bag full of food-and-drink goodies.
I got to Central Station with plenty of time to spare, checked in my suitcase and had breakfast.
Half an hour before departure, we were allowed to board and get settled in.
I stepped into my carriage, looking forward to the long leisurely trip ahead and hoping that I would be lucky to have an empty seat beside me for most of or the entire journey…
…but that part of the story will have to wait until next time.
Until then, stay well and take care 🙂