April 29, 2014: Hell is Other Passengers
When I agreed to this trip 18 months ago, I thought, Travel! Great! I love exploring places. I failed to realize that, to get to the exploring, you have to fly. Not that I don’t like flying. I get an adrenaline rush every time the plane takes off and lands, and whenever we hit un-announced turbulence. I’m a thrill-seeker at heart. But I didn’t take into account the intense nature of the overall experience. It's just plain exhausting. I may have been carted around the globe as a child, but I was too small to remember or care about anything for longer than 30 seconds. As an adult, three flights with a minimum two hour wait between each can be trying.
I was managing well until our second flight, despite being up since 3 am. At that point, we’d been at it for eight hours. Pretty impressive on my half, as I usually don’t stay awake for longer than six without getting a little homicidal (CFS, with a sprinkling of narcolepsy, has made life interesting).
But I lost the dregs of my travel excitement after boarding our second flight. I had a middle seat between two elderly ladies who were travelling together. As soon as I realized this I made what I thought was the polite gesture and offered to switch seats with one of them, so they might sit together and chat. Apparently, that was not the right thing to do. Aisle lady (as she will hence be referred to) spat that she’d been travelling for ten hours and that she didn’t want to sit in the middle, as though I were trying to scam her out of her golden aisle seat.
Fair enough. I didn’t know why she wouldn’t want to sit near her friend (or have her friend switch to the middle), but I can dig it. Not a big deal. Until they started chatting over me. About everything. What they could eat on the plane and how expensive it was and was Bob going to make it on even though he was on stand-by and wasn’t it nice that so-and-so’s daughter was picking them up and didn’t Millicent look silly in her hat in Italy. It didn’t help that they had both freshly applied Eau de Blue Hair before boarding. At least they weren’t too deaf.
So I sat in silence and tried to read a book on my phone, only to realize that it hadn’t finished downloading before we boarded. I cursed my fortune and regretted letting Adam carry our shared tablet for this flight. If I had it, I could’ve spent my time drawing artful penises and watching my travel companions turn all sorts of shades of disapproval.
The highlight of my flight was when Adam tousled my hair on his way to the washroom. Both blue-hairs gave him the stink eye for that. I’m not sure if they thought he was just some dude, rudely assaulting a poor young lady or if they were just appalled at the public display of affection. I’m surprised aisle lady didn’t trip him on the way back.
An hour and forty minutes later we disembarked. Adam dawdled so he could walk off the plane with me.
“How was your flight?” he asked.
“Later.” I said quietly.
“What hap-” he said.
“I said LATER.” I hissed. The ladies I sat with were just a few steps ahead of us and, while I’d had a miserable flight wedged between them, I wasn’t prepared to start badmouthing strangers while still in earshot. I’m not some sort of savage, after all.
We sat in the airport restaurant and took turns describing our flight experience. While I was getting an earful of unwanted old lady gossip, Adam had a very pleasant time with a lovely newfie couple.
That was about the time we discovered our next and final flight of the day was delayed. By three hours. Meaning it was now five hours till our last flight of the day arrived. I know I’m new and naive when it comes to travelling, but in that moment I was certain that if hell existed, purgatory must be an airport, where all flights are delayed, though not enough to give up and go find a hotel (the flight was now due at nearly one in the morning).