Our lesson begins long before lift-off. For us, it was the night before when we traded our rental condos and hopes of memories (“intimate moment” anyone?) that will endure a lifetime… for a predictable evening at an airport hotel (that’s not a knock).
Much to Brian’s horror he discovered that some people fly all the way to BCN only to use an airport hotel located in an anonymous industrial park as the basecamp for their vacation. But hey, Audrey met a boy at the pool from Turkey who asked if they could be FaceBook friends. They can’t. But connections can happen anywhere. Even airport industrial parks.
We were up early, with the traveler’s belief that extra time will ameliorate any cosmic challenges. This begins the first ironic phase of modern travel: the wait.
The wait for the shuttle in the lobby. The wait for the shuttle to depart the hotel. The wait for the shuttle to arrive at the right terminal. The wait for someone whose job it is to put a sticker on your carry-on luggage declaring that it is indeed carry-on luggage to put on that sticker. So you can wait for your baggage to be judged morbidly obese. To wait for x-rays to penetrate your tissues and declare you most-likely-safe for travel. To wait for a croissant manufactured by soulless machines. To wait for a stamp in your little blue book. To wait for the chance to herd up and into an aluminum tube that shall transport you away. To wait while a door on the tube refuses to “arm itself” and must be “recycled” by a mechanic.
To pushback and wait for other people – who have been waiting just like you – to get out of your way so you can hurry up and fucking fly already.
The landlocked waiting over, we enter our ascent:
Like all beginnings, I love the rush of takeoff. The adrenaline. The hope. The promise of a destination finally in reach. The statistical reality that you are in the second most dangerous phase of your flight.
That time when all that will soon fluster you is endearing. Look – the tray tables are so compact. Look – a tiny TV at every seat. Look – a bathroom so preciously cute they can fit at least eight of them on the plane. Look at all the new faces, accents, in-flight shopping magazines and fashion mishaps.
Take, for example, the middle-aged homosexual (Fuck! I’m probably being judged like that as I write this) that sashayed down the aisle (we left the runway behind, honey) wearing a form-fitting white ribbed tank top with five faux military medals (one hopes that for the dignity of the armed forces they are faux) proudly displayed across the chest area. And not subtly either. Think red ribbon, purple ribbon, yellow and green ribbon attached to bronze, silver, and gold medals. Who the fuck wears a shirt like that through airport security? There ain’t a thang you can do about being homosexual, but by middle-age you should have at least figured out that shirts like that are the reason security lines end up 400 travelers deep. And those 400 travelers should legally have the right to smack you for being so stupid.
Cruising altitude reached, the next phase of our flight is inaugurated by the stewards and stewardesses who have bitchsmacked enough businessmen on domestic travel to earn the privilege of rolling carts down tiny aisles on really long flights to really faraway places. Let’s roll, carts!
Today’s carts offered a choice of chicken (with what was alleged to be risotto), a chicken salad, or pasta. I ingested the chicken accompanied by alleged risotto. Somehow I doubt that stock was slowly added to the arborio rice slowly, allowing the rice to expand at the right speed to create a heavenly texture and harmony of flavors. But it was totally ingestible and so far seems to be digestible. It was accompanied by an obscene amount of plastic wrap, which held within their individual airtight seals: oil based product with butter flavoring, “cheese”, lettuce (crisp!) with olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette, “chocolate” “cookies” and a plastic knife, spoon, and fork. I’m sure I forgot something. It was that kind of meal.
The kiddo wanted a game that was only on my iPad or iPhone (as opposed to hers, but let’s not stray from our dissection lesson, m’kay?), and since I was unwilling to surrender my phone (must. have. music.) I spent the first two hours reading on my iPhone screen (and jamming to tunes) while kiddo played her game. On my iPad.
Once I recovered rightful possession of my big screen (again, let’s not stray from the point, m’kay) I kept on chugging through “Imagine: How Creativity Works” by Jonah Lehrer. I highly recommend it. For serious.
But a brain can only absorb so much non-fiction before the eyes start to dry. At which point I found myself flipping through the in-flight-duty-free shopping magazine.
Being a guy that doesn’t wear cologne, who is married to a guy that also doesn’t wear cologne (although once, long ago, we both at least owned some. And I’ll admit to being a fragrance hoarder in my adolescence.) I must admit to a particular fascination with the fragrance section.
First of all, I had no idea that they still made the stuff. I’m so out of the fragrance world I couldn’t tell you what the scent of the moment is if my life depended on it – although that reminds me that about an hour after ingestion-time the Mommers remarked to my husband that the plane smelled like farts.
I was fascinated by the fragrance ads. One ad, for a fragrance named something-or-other (I relocated all the in-flight magazines to stowage in the aisle because I was annoyed by the way they were elbowing my electronics around) featured an ad with a mostly naked woman straddling a white horse while holding a square vase of flowers that appears to have sprung from her vagina. I swear upon my life that such an ad really exists – I’m just not wired to think such thoughts – and if the woman next to me ever removes the obstacle to the aisle (namely, her) I might just go take a photo of the ad. But perhaps you already own or know of this equine-floral-vaginal perfume?
I do not lie:
(picture coming, I took one but uploading it is another story…)
To help losers like me decide which scents they should spring for without actually smelling them, the magazine helpfully contained one word descriptions for every fragrance, such as floral, woodsy, spicy, fresh… For a moment I too wanted to smelly woodsy. Then I mentally added “whore” to each one-word description, thus avoiding any fragrant impulse purchases.
At which point I realized that because both her Dadders don’t wear cologne, my daughter has been deprived of ( protected from?) perfume. At what age is perfume appropriate? I was able to answer that question during a trip to the lavatory (where I may have been multitasking). Although my answer was in a hypothetical perfect world – which no shiny tube shall ever be capable of delivering us to…
In case you are still reading this, I feel compelled to mention that we have (obviously) reached the next phase of our flight: boredom. That you can be bored while simultaneously being hurled through the sky at a speed of 840km/h and a height of 10,361 meters is a testament of some sort to something or other. I haven’t quite decided on it all yet, and it isn’t like I didn’t have time to think about it…
The transition from cruising to our descent is almost impossible to pin-point (unless you are the pilot) until you realize after the fact that the altitude is finally starting to get lower.
Landings are the riskiest phase of a flight, which I suppose is what makes them the most interesting. That, or delirium from boredom.
I will save the humdrum but annoying tale of what happened after we docked at JFK for another blog post since I’m already clocking in at over 1,300 words (you might not count, but wordpress does, and a blog post for work usually clocks in at about 300 words)… but let’s just say it involved waiting and, well, TSA.