Travelling by plane

kids on the plane

There is not much to say about most aeroplane journeys. Anything remarkable must be disastrous, so you define a good flight by negatives: you didn't get hijacked, you didn't crash, you didn't throw up, you weren't late, you weren't nauseated by the food. So you are grateful.
The gratitude brings such relief your mind goes blank, which is appropriate, for the aeroplane passenger is a time-traveller. He crawls into a carpeted tube that is reeking of disinfectant; he strapped in to go home, or away. Time is truncated, or in any case warped. (..) And from the moment he departs, his mind is focused on arrival.

Paul Theroux
in "The old Patagonian Express"

I thought of that quote yesterday. After spending five hours in transit at Madrid's airport before boarding. A group of 150 seven-graders from Portugal boarded just in front of me, all excited about their one week trip to Rome. I loved their excitement and aggitation. Kids should have fun, so I put on my headset, and fell asleep the moment I got in my seat.
Only to wake up half an hour later, in the midst of a school play ground. The boys and girls were running up and down, even though the "fasten seat belts" sign was on, calling the flight attendants for yet another coke or Mars bar.

I thought we were already in the air, half way to Rome, but we had not moved an inch. And we did not move an inch for three hours, unable to take off due to traffic congestion, it seemed later. Not that the captain was eager to announce anything. We just sat there. Except for the kids. They were not sleepy as I was. True, I had just flown through the night, and had been awake for 36 hours, but then again, I thought they'd been settling down after a few hours. But they did not.

It was strange to see how the other passengers reacted. The noise was that of a kids' birthday party, and so was the agitation and the running around. Kids love kids parties. Adults not. So, most other people switched off. At best, some would get up to stretch their legs, still with a blank stare focused on the horizon. One guy started to play cards with them. Only two passengers got excited. "Che casino, questi ragazzi! Calma, per favore, calma!" shouted an Italian passenger. And it was "piu calma" for five minutes straight.

I was glad to arrive in Rome, where we got stuck for another hour waiting for the transit buses to arrive. And for the luggage to arrive. When I finally opened the door of my apartment, I sighed with relief. I can't wait until time and space travel finally becomes reality. We just step into a tube, and "zwoop", we arrive where we need to be. From the hotel lobby in Santo Domingo to my apartment in Rome. "Zwoop". Hopefully by the time we can warp into time and space, it will be immune to volcanic dust.

But probably the kids would not enjoy warping that much. They enjoy the travel. I envied them.


A Lady's Life 05 June, 2010 21:47  

Oh I had a few horrible experiences on Cathay Pacific and really feel for these airline hostesses.
One flight had a group from what looks like India. On guy smoked, drank till he puked on the floor of the aisle. He did it on purpose trying to be tricky and manipulative. The Indian ladies had a major fist fight and I had a little obnoxious 12 year old girl from Holland
who stuck long stemmed flowers all the way from her chair to under my chair leaving me no room for my feet. She continued to jump in her chair spilling all my food and coffee and other drinks over my clothes and when I asked her politely to stop and take away her flowers she was so rude and called the stewardess and complained about me lol. I showed the stewardess my clothes and my feet and told her maybe the childs Mother would be interested in a dry cleaning bill. The stewardess smiled. She did not know what to do. Poor woman.
Otherwise I thought Cathay Pacific was wonderful in terms of staff politeness and service. Oh well.

Peter 05 June, 2010 21:51  

@A Lady's Life:

Luckily my experience was not that horrible! Fun was different, but at least, the kids sitting next to me were great!
Indeed, I don't think I would have the patience to be a flight attendent.. Phew!!


David Lee,  06 June, 2010 02:24  

Welcome Rome (not yet home), Peter.

In fact, I envy your sufferings. After living through Jakarta super-terrible traffic almost every day for the past 8 months, I could easily spend 1.5 hours for 8-12 km city trip in a much smaller tube ;)

Best wishes from humid and cloudy Jakarta.

Peter 06 June, 2010 02:28  

Hi DL!

It is all relative, isn't it? In the end, the flight was worth it... It seems it is finally spring here!


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