Plane delayed due to technical difficulties; not the most comforting of thoughts while preparing for a fifteen-hour transatlantic flight.
Sitting at the gate; an hour past the call for boarding; watching the plane sit on the runway with workers and hazard-lights surrounding it. The men outside peer into the engines and shine flashlights on obscure parts of the fuselage; thank God I stopped for whisky.
I strike conversation with an American woman and her baby. The baby wasn’t much of a talker.
As is customary with single-serving friends that you meet en-route; we discussed our lives and how we got there. We talked of where we were from; the journey that led us here; and of our families.
She smiled when I told her I was on my way home from Afghanistan.
Her brother was a member of the US military and had served tours in the Middle East. She told me a wonderful story about how he found a puppy in Iraq. His squad carried the puppy around with them on patrol; in their backpacks. He would sit quietly during firefights beside his adopted squad. After his deployment; her brother loaded his new best-friend in his backpack and took him to freedom in America.
We laughed and cried; and I talked to her child in a drunken-immature-uncle baby-like voice.
Emirates Airlines planes are the most lavish and beautiful in all the world; as much of the world as I’ve seen anyway. Sitting in coach; you even feel like you’re travelling in style. There are two types of flight experiences when flying transatlantic with Emirates Airlines – a full plane and an empty plane.
We’re either packed as sardines or have an entire row to ourselves.
When I first embarked on this journey; three months previous; we were packed like sardines. I was sitting in the middle of three rows; each row having five seats. A full plane from Toronto to Dubai. A man beside me lifted the armrests and laid down with his bare feet kicking me during his night-terrors. I pushed; shoved and slapped this mans leg every time – to no avail.
Going back home though, Dubai to New York and then onward; there was hardly a soul. Granted that while sitting at the gate waiting for the plane to be ready; it seemed like a lot of people. But, when we actually boarded I had not only an entire row to myself; but what seemed like almost an entire section of the plane.
I lifted all of the armrests up and turned my series of airplane seats into a grand, luxurious, turbulence-driven rest-receptacle (aka a makeshift bed). At one point, a flight attendant wakes me and asks if I need anything. In her hand she is holding a large wicker bowl full of Mars, Twix, Oh Henry!, salted peanuts and sandwiches.
“Yes, absolutely; how much?” I ask.
“No charge, sir. Anything you like.” she says.
I take some peanuts, a king-sized Mars bar, a sandwich and some Coca Cola. I also order two beer.
She brings me Coors Light. No charge.
A large chunk of this flight was a nap. I watched some in-flight movies and television – but my regular channel to check-up on was the map channel. It showed us where we were in the world; what we were flying over. It moved so slowly; but every time I’d switch back we had inched closer to the North American continent.
How fortunate I was to catch a red-eye.
In the hands of the pilots, I was. At this point they were glorified and specially skilled airborne taxi-drivers that I couldn’t converse with.
I bet a rickshaw would be fun.