BY Christopher Rice
September 15 2009 9:00 AM ET
I ’ve stopped confessing that I’m an airplane nerd at dinner parties because another guest usually tries to engage me in conversation about how the forthcoming 787 Dreamliner will utilize more composite fibers than any aircraft in history, and I drift off. “Well, actually,” I manage to interject at the first appropriate moment, “I’m more into the cabins.”
Strange look. “The cabins?”
“You know. The seats.”
My fellow geek usually gives me a slight, condescending smile. To him, the tufted fabrics and burnished woods inside the first- and business-class cabins of wide-body jets are inconsequential; I might as well be obsessed with lavatory design. But I can’t bring myself to care about engine thrust and the fuel efficiency of winglets, even though both topics dominate the discussion boards of the aviation websites I visit with compulsive regularity. (I once made the mistake of referring to these sites as “airplane porn,” only to have a table full of gay men perk up at the prospect of a site devoted entirely to gay porn shot inside of passenger airplanes.)
In my defense, it’s not like I didn’t try to go the traditional geek route with this one. I’ve got several pieces of a 10-by-10-foot scale model airport sitting in the upstairs closet (right next to that electric griddle from Mom I still haven’t taken out of the box and some gifts from exes I can’t bring myself to trash), but the thing takes up too much space, has too many moving pieces, and it’s all gray.
At times, social disapproval of my interest has bordered on all-out class warfare. After I made a guy I was seeing sit through a slide show of first-class cabins on major international carriers, he tartly replied, “I see. So it’s all about privilege and wealth!” No, I insisted. The hours I spend on Airliners.net is not equivalent to time spent drooling over those shows on the Travel Channel that count down the top 10 hotel rooms so expensive most people would have to sell their car to be able to afford them for one night. It is not a mere yearning for opulence that holds me in thrall when I spend an afternoon studying the muted tones and impeccable lines of the new Cathay Pacific first-class “suite.”