Ed Sheeran’s Travel Math

On the radio this morning, the song “Don’t” by Ed Sheeran started to play. It’s been a while since I’ve heard that song, but something has always bothered me about it – this lyrical excerpt:

And never wants to sleep, I guess that I don’t want to either
But me and her we make money the same way
Four cities, two planes the same day
And those shows have never been what it’s about


Alright, let’s try to make that schedule work. The context of the song leads me to believe it to be two musicians, something that my research for this post confirmed. So, we’ll assume that these people start their day with a 6AM red eye flight out of Raleigh, NC to Washington, DC. Raleigh technically counts as a city they are in, even though they’re probably not performing in Raleigh in order to make the math work, so it only counts on a technicality. So, Ed gets up at 4AM to head to the airport and hop on his 6AM flight; two hours to get through airport security and traffic from the hotel seems reasonable.

It’s a 1hr, 10min flight from Raleigh to DC, getting him there at 7:10AM. We’ll presume he’s singing at a ritzy breakfast for some senators there, so we’ll assume that he’s grabbed his bags, and headed right to the venue where he’s singing. He gets on stage at 9AM and puts on a one hour show. This gets him done at 10AM, and we’ll assume that nobody wants to talk to him after to get a selfie or autograph.

Why did I pick D.C.? Because if there are four cities but only two plane trips, you need at least one non-flying method of transit. So, we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and say that Baltimore is the third city, since the two of them are close enough to be within driving distance, yet still be distinct cities with their own separate airports. However, we’re dealing with traffic. Google Maps puts the distance between the White House and the Rotunda at about 90 minutes, but I’ve never heard a story of travel between Baltimore and DC that didn’t involve groaning and otherwise terrifying descriptions of cars that weren’t moving, so we’re factoring in two hours of traffic for Ed’s tour bus (which doesn’t get in an accident, or pulled over, or a flat tire….). That gets him into Baltimore at noon, and we’ll assume a negligible stop at McDonald’s for lunch. What’s he doing in Baltimore? Well, he’s in the studio for an interview on Z104.3, the local Clearchannel Top 40 radio station. That interview is at 1:00, and also lasts for an hour.

Ed gets onto the tour bus to head to the airport again for the second time today. It’s a half hour trip from the Z104.3 studio to BWI, so we’ll assume that he’s hopping a 4PM flight. Where’s he going? To perform at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, of course! It’s another 1:10 flight, which naturally departs and arrives perfectly on time. Ed arrives at Kennedy at 5:10. He hops the AirTrain to Jamaica, and takes the LIRR to Atlantic Terminal. The timing is, once again, perfect…so Ed gets to Barclay’s Center in an hour.

It’s 6:10PM. Ed has been up for nearly fourteen hours now; that’s usually when most of us have “had it” and pull out our bag of popcorn and start resuming whatever we paused last night on Netflix. Not Ed! Tonight’s his night to perform at the Billboard 100 Music Festival! He goes on stage at 7:00, but he needs to be there at the end of the show because he’s getting an award for…something. So, he heads to his hotel at 11PM, and calls it a night.

What’s the takeaway here? Well, when I actually did the math, it seems that it’s technically plausible to do “four cities, two planes the same day”, Assuming…

  1. One takes an extremely early flight out in the morning…and counts their location of departure as one of the cities, without any actual performance happening there.
  2. Each of the other appearances over the course of the day are approximately an hour long.
  3. The cities are close enough for the flights and driving distances to be within two hours each.
  4. The appearances themselves are timed in perfect sequence to follow a linear travel path.
  5. The planes are all precisely on time, and their arrival and departure times are all correctly timed with the appearance schedules.
  6. Similarly, everyone is “in place” when the flights land – all the bus/limo drivers are in place, on time, and easily found.
  7. “Life” doesn’t happen – no encores, no autographs, no questions, no traffic, no getting bumped from a flight….

And, after that perfectly synchronized day, Ed can NOT then state that you don’t want to sleep, like Ed does two lines up in the song. Ed also can’t have a day like that and then say that the shows are not what it’s about, because no sane person would adhere to that schedule for any other reason.

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