flying alone, boredom, and other musings from the tarmac
I have never been a nervous flyer. Perhaps, because the very first time I flew alone, I was seven years old. Being nervous simply did not occur to me. It was just exciting.
I flew from Moscow to Novosibirsk. A four hour flight. All by myself.
Well. Sort of.
My mother found a sane-looking woman who was about to board the same plane, and handed me over. It went well.
Although I did lock myself in the bathroom, and couldn’t get out. Or maybe this was on another flight. I do remember feeling scared, and panicky. The flight attendant eventually saved me, and accompanied me to my seat.
Air Canada offers this as a service. For a fee, of course. Minor accompaniment, not bathroom rescue (although, there’s an idea) – $100 one way. I bet they even give you free crayons. They might as well for hundred bucks.
I love flying alone. If I get through check-in and security, and make it to my gate with plenty of time to spare, there is a special kind of quiet in my head. The kind that allows thoughts to meander and flow, rather than bounce off my skull and bump into each other.
I will never understand women who wear high heels to the airport.
Getting on an airplane, and then getting off an airplane is a multi-staged event with dozens of steps. You are constantly required to juggle twelve objects, and present different pieces of paper to different people. All the while, trying not to step on babies and little dogs in your proximity. High heels sound like a nightmare. The rule – the more steps the operation requires, the flatter the shoe.
Another thing I do not understand is standing in line, while boarding.
As I board my plane to Edmonton, I am one of the last ones. As usual. Whether or not they are seating my row, I sit in the corner and read a book, until the line dissipates, and there are only three to four people left. Then I get up and leisurely walk over. This habit of mine drives Italian (and possibly, airline staff too) up the wall. So when we travel together, I try to play by the rules.
A man sitting behind me is having an animated conversation with the woman sitting next to him. They met minutes ago – the ultimate stranger on an airplane phenomenon. He is sharing way too much and way too soon. I overhear a misdiagnosed aneurysm in his family, and a suicide attempt. We did not even take off yet. The woman nods. I cannot see her nod, but I imagine her shaking her head in agreement, as she punctuates the man’s sentences with and occasional and rhetorical “Is that right?” or a more appropriate “That’s right!”.
The woman to my right is flying alone also. Headphones on, she is engrossed in a movie playing on a tiny screen in front of her. She laughs audibly and often. Once in a while, she loudly exclaims and covers her mouth with her palm.
I am contemplating a soundtrack. What can I use to drown out the laughing on my right, and the oversharing that is taking place behind me?
The truth is I am bored.
Alain de Botton’s book on travel really spoke to me, as he discussed just that. Travel is not all it is made out to be. Travel includes thousands of moments, and only some of those moments are incredible. Many other moments are ordinary, many are annoying, and most are unremarkable in any way.
I spend two hours standing in line. I check my phone. I start reading a book. None of those moments are particularly memorable or special. I catch myself already looking forward to flying home – sleeping in my own bed, Italian bringing me coffee in the morning.
When we are bored, the easiest thing to do is leave the present as it is, and go off wandering in the past or the future. Yet, between all the boring moments are the moments that change you. And every trip changes you. As long as you can stay present enough to pay attention.
And, yes, the next set of tickets has been purchased.
I am looking forward to changing once again. But, while anticipation is delicious, I want to pay attention to the moments that pass between now and then. Those can change us too.