Tuesday, May 31, 2005
diary of a Cross-Atlantic flight
10:17 AM. I try to get rid of all leftover British change before boarding the plane by making six consecutive vending machine purchases. I buy a Cadbury Flake bar, a bag of Maynard Wine Gums (never mind that I already have 3 much bigger bags of Maynard Wine Gums in my checked luggage and felt slightly ill after having a makeshift dinner of Wine Gums and white chocolate Flake bar last night in my hotel room), a Cadbury Dream bar, a Cadbury Double Decker bar (which is a mistake, I was really trying to buy the Cadbury Brunch bar but entered 52 instead of 62 by mistake and figure I will just give the Double Decker bar to Kiyash) and a Diet Coke.
10:39 AM. I board the plane and take my aisle seat, G, in row 43. It’s over the wing, in the center section, and on the aisle so I can run around the plane as much as I like. Perfect. I was supposed to be in the same exact seat on the trip over to London two weeks ago, but they stuck me in a middle seat in a side section, which I accepted without complaint because I arrived 59 minutes before the flight was schedule to leave, 1 minute after the check-in counter closed, and had to cry hysterically for 3 people of escalating authority before they decided I could even get on the plane. Perhaps you will not be surprised that I arrived at the airport more than 2 and a half hours early for today’s flight.
10:43 AM. My immediate neighbor for the flight arrives and at first glance appears quite promising company. He is about my age and wearing a bright red vintage Atari tshirt, and I think perhaps we will chat happily about games for a bit. However when I say “nice shirt” as he eases past me to take his seat, he looks at me like I’ve just licked his elbow. I think perhaps he is just not the chatty type, but I am forced to relinquish this self-preserving explanation is when he commences a rather lively conversation with the two other people in our row, two males who are sightseeing to San Francisco. Mr. Atari, a.k.a 43F, is British but has lived in San Francisco for 6 years and is therefore full of travel advice. I try to interject a couple of suggestions but all 3 others in row 43 project a unified disinterest in acknowledging my presence. If this were Airplane Survivor, I’d be the first thrown out the nearest Emergency Exit.
11:01 AM. We are still sitting at the gate. We were supposed to take off at 11, but two people were denied boarding due to “improper documentation”. Their luggage apparently made it on board, however, and so we have to wait for them to find it and fish out it. I pull out the book on British biscuits and tea that fellow puppetmaster Michael gave to me last Friday as a show of support for my cookie rolling project.when we met up in the Clapham section of London for our annual sushi-and-barhopping extravaganza. The books, it turns out, is full of useful information that I make mental notes to including in my cookie rolling blogging, if I ever get around to it. (I am now officially 7 installations behind on my blog!)
11:13 AM. I reset my Ironman watch to local San Francisco time, my takeoff ritual. I suppose I could say something about it helpfully orienting me and easing me into the time of wherever I’ll land, but really it’s just useful to me to have something manual and productive to do right before takeoff so I don’t accidentally get nervous like I used to.
3:14 AM. Through the magic of make-believe time zone change, it is now roughly 3 in the morning instead of nearly noon. Kiyash is sleeping.
3:21 AM I notice the young woman behind me, who coincidentally also has light hair in braids like me, is slumped over holding her head in one hand. with the airsickness bag open and clutched in the other. I am slightly concerned for her.
3:34 AM. Several flight attendants begin to hover around the sick woman behind me. At first they attempt to persuade her to disembark when she complains of severe abdominal pain. They notice she is bone cold to the touch. One attendant runs to tell the captain not to take off—we are next in line—in case the passenger needs to get off the plan and see a doctor. So our flight is further delayed.
3:36 AM. After much discussion, the passenger says weakly that she just wants to go home — and San Francisco is home. They bump her up to first class so she can lie down. I think I overhear them promising her some wicked strong painkillers, but that could have been my imagination.
3:38 AM. We should be taking off any minute. I look through the inflight shopping guide to see if there is anything I can spend my final forty pounds on before we land. I hate converting currency because of the percentage you lose to the exchange agent. I want to buy J.Lo’s Miami Glo perfume — I love how it smells — but honestly, there’s just no way I can buy anything affiliated with Jennifer Lopez. Sigh.
3:47 AM. Take off! Finally! — just 47 minutes behind schedule. We should still arrive on time, which is good because Kiyash is going to meet me at arrivals so we can take the BART home together. I love how for most flights, the flight time listed is longer than the actual flight time. This always comes as a happy surprise when the captain announces the shorter schedule. It’s like setting your alarm clock fast just so you can remind yourself when it goes off that it’s fast, and you have time to snooze a couple of rounds. Same odd psychological disavowal, allowing for a happy “surprise” that doesn’t really catch you off guard at all.
3:52 AM. I put on my pinkish-purplish arm warmers.
3:54 AM. The flight attendants start making announcements, so I pull out my iPod to play over their explanation of the… well, whatever they’re explaining. I don’t actually know because I’ve got my iPod on.
3:55 AM. Like pretty much all other 13 flights I’ve taken this month, I start by listening to Nickelback’s “How You Remind Me” and imagine it’s Constantine from American Idol. Seriously, I have no idea who Nickelback is or what he/it/they look(s) like. So it’s all Constantine in my mind.
3:56 AM. I notice that I can see my reflection in the backseat video screen…which means I can watch myself rock out with my iPod. Fun!
3:59 AM. I listen to K-os’ “Crabbuckitt”.
4:03 AM. I listen to M.I.A.’s “Galang”.
4:07 AM. I listen to Gavin DeGraw’s “I Don’t Wanna Be” and imagine it’s Bo from American Idol. I don’t know what Gavin looks like either. I spend a minute thinking about how Carrie Underwood winning A.I. demonstrates exactly how Bush managed to win the presidential re-election in 2004. Seriously.
4:12 AM. I listen to LL Cool J’s “Headsprung.”
4:13 AM. I decide to keep an in-flight diary.
4:14 AM. I accept Virgin headphones and their long-haul amenities kit. I decide not to open it yet… I’ll save it as a present for when I’m bored.
4:16 AM. I start creating backentries for what I did prior to 4:13 AM, when I decided to keep this diary. I think this particular entry right here represents the twist in the mobius loop of first-person reflection.
[…missing time, I made notes for this time period but never typed them up…]
4:53 AM. Laptop is open. I begin typing up my diary notes.
4:57 AM. I notice I am developing my sparse notes into actual prose. This may take a long time. Maybe I will never catch up to my actual experience. There is a mathematical metaphor here somewhere. I am having a hyperbolic experience of flying. I have airplane asymptopia. Wouldn’t it be awful if when planes landed, instead of making contact with the runway, they forever grew exponentially marginally closer to it, never intersecting. I hope Mrs. Mosser, my 9th grade geometry and 12th grade calculus teacher, appreciates my adult use of the asymptope.
5:34 AM. Eat vegetarian lunch while watching Mean Creek — not because I particularly want to watch Mean Creek, but rather because entertainment aimed at the teen demographic seems to be the perfect fit for my mental state while fly. (Witness the 14 episodes of Degrassi: The Next Generation I burned through on the way over, and the many Radio Free Roscoe shows I watched while traveling between Swedish and Dutch cities.) Mean Creek is distinctly not horrible.
7:13AM. Resume typing up notes while staring at Sky Map—we are over Greenland. In parentheses below Greenland, the Sky Map reads “Denmark.” I am highly confused. Is Denmark really Greenland? Are those just two different names for the same country? I try to recall where Denmark is. What goes with Sweden and Finland? Damn! I am really hopeless when it comes to Scandinavian countries. Norway! Norway?? (I didn’t figure that out, the sky map showed me.) Oh my God. Are Denmark and Greenland the same place?
7:39 AM. According to the SkyMap we are now leaving the air space over the country that may or may to be Denmark, but which is certainly at the very least Greenland.
7:40 AM. I need to take a break from typing up my now lamentably verbose diary notes. I take out wine gums to eat while watching the season finale of The O.C., an episode I downloaded via Bittorrent from my London hotel room. A battery check reveals I have 5 hours and 38 minutes left on this one — awesome. Extended life battery for my laptop was such a smart move! Go Jane!
8:34 AM. A quick walk around the cabin to stretch my legs, and I reread a few emails.
8:37 AM. I overhear a flight attendant mention ice cream to someone. What! Ice cream! Yay! Here comes the snack cart… drinks only, or secret goodies? Ah yes, I see secret goodies…
8:40 AM. Time to finish out the Radio Free Roscoe archive on my laptop. I could SO be Canadian. In Utrecht last week, someone asked if I was from Canada… he “Recognized” my accent. I said, “I’m not from Canada, but I have watched a lot of Canadian TV.” From You Can’t Do That On Television and Degrassi to Fifteen and Kids in the Hall… yah, I’m all about the Canada, eh?
8:41 AM. I am eating strawberry yogurt ice cream bar something. Yum.
8:46 AM. I cuddle Wowie Zowie the wombat, who has been on 3 continents… and to Utrecht, the Netherlands TWICE! That is more than most people, let alone wombats.
8:49 AM. Speaking of Canada… we are now over it! Officially across the Atlantic. 5:13 to go ‘til San Francisco!
9:11 AM. Whoops. I’m eating the Double Decker candy bar I was going to give to Kiyash. Sigh. That always seems to happen!
9:13 AM. I give up keeping a diary and watch 6 episodes of the O.C., season 1.
1:50 PM. I land.
Sneakily, I am posting this photo from an earlier flight written about on this blog, rather than a photo from my Virgin flight described in this post. I will give a British candy bar to whoever posts the correct flight reference in the comments first! And yes, I still owe Sean his prize from the Andre the Giant has a Posse comments contest. Thanks for the reminder.