I’m not good at long haul flights. I usually reach a point 10 hours in where I start to question how on earth we’re staying in the air. It just doesn’t make sense that what is essentially a giant piece of iron ore can fly. Or that the most combustible part, the fuel, has to be kept in the only thing that is supposed to be keeping us aloft, the wings.
As you can guess, I don’t trust planes.
Or ferris wheels.
Or viewing decks on buildings that are so tall that they sway in the wind.
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An interesting thing happened though on the first leg of my flight from Melbourne to Hong Kong that made me forget all about this. I found myself surrounded by strangely familiar characters.
Next to me was a crotchety old Russian woman who insisted on clutching her handbag in her lap the entire flight. It took several visits from the cabin crew and saint-like persistence from her granddaughter to convince her to stow it for take off. But when ever they weren’t looking she would snatch it back into her lap.
She bitched and moaned about the air-conditioning, the food, the service, the fact she couldn’t stretch her leg out into the aisle when the food trolley was coming past. She didn’t speak any English but it was easy to tell what was going on by her granddaughter’s constant appeasement and frustration.
Behind me was a kid who kicked my seat most of the flight. His parents had no control over him. And just when the kid stopped and it looked like all was quiet he proceeded to throw a tantrum. Not just a “I don’t wanna” spat but a full coughing, wheezing tantrum … just as everyone was ready to sleep. And again the parents were no help. Thank God they finally got the kid up and walked him around because I think they were close to be lynched.
To top it all off, in front of me I had an old Jewish guy who reclined his seat into my head every chance he got.
In the end I just had to laugh. What a gift – some of the great cliches of air travel right there for me to experience first hand.
Don’t get me wrong, as soon as I re-boarded for the second leg I switched seats and was able to lie down across three seats and get some sleep. There was no way I was going to ride out the rest of my journey surrounded by that nightmare trio.
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As we approached England I did something I never do – I looked out the window.
And caught my first glimpse of my new home.
I never realised just how many rivers and canals snake through England.
Or just how many soccer (football) fields and stadiums populate the landscape.
It made sense later but at the time it just didn’t occur to me.
And that’s when it struck me. My entire flight was so familiar yet completely new. Experiences that I had for so long read about, watched or dreamt where now my own.
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Moving forward I’m looking forward to embracing what is to come, be it good, bad or indifferent. I may not like it all but it will be mine and that alone makes it worth something.