You know those points in your life where you aren’t sure if you’re dreaming or it’s real life? A 9-hour plane ride is sorta like that. See when you’re in a dream you don’t have any memory of how you got there and if it’ll ever end. I’ve reached that point. Have I always been on this plane flying over Canada, the Baltic Sea, and the icy Atlantic? Am I actually a real human who’s got a real life outside of this plane? Or have I been in some sick time loop where stewardesses go up and down the aisle passing out crappy food my entire life? Maybe I’m actually a mental patient sitting in some padded room with a bunch of other crazies and this is all our shared hallucination.
If that is the case, at least the stewardesses/nurses are nice to me. While my in-flight meal of chicken and mashed potatoes was perhaps the worst thing I’ve ever consumed– scratch that, I’ve eaten partially developed duck egg– I was sneakily given two half cans of cranberry-apple juice by a stewardess. I cheerfully drank it down in many swallows.
There’s a screen in front of me and so far I’ve watched two movies: Daddy’s Home and Absolutely Anything. I tried watching the Revenant but I got two minutes in before I had the grim realization that my inner movie lover wouldn’t let me watch something I’ve heard so many good things about on a screen the size of a tablet. But something that screen does have is Solitaire. I’ve played like 5 games and lost 4 of them. The one I did win I got the third high score and proudly entered my name where everyone else had simply written guest– guess they weren’t as proud of it as I was.
The coolest part of the screen is that I can track the plane’s progress over a map of Earth. Our ground speed at this minute is 574 mph and that might seem fast, but that little plane icon over the map creeps along almost imperceptibly. We’ve just barely passed over the southern tip of Greenland and still have a ton of Atlantic before I ever see land again. But all things considered, airplanes are pretty cool. The alternative is that I cross the United States by train, then board a ship that may or may not hit an iceberg on it’s way to Europe. If that did happen, chances are I would’ve had a fling with one of the wealthier female passengers who was in an unhappy engagement with some tool. Because of my infatuation with her, I would’ve inevitably handed over the giant floating door to her as we watched our ship sink to the frigid depths of the sea floor only to follow it moments later after our heart-wrenching goodbyes. After all, we only knew each other for a few days. This is a long way of saying, “I’ll take a plane any day and be just a little bit chilly and cramped all 9 hours.”
One longfriggin’ day. I didn’t see the sunset and then I saw the sunrise without a full night. If I was a migratory bird, my feathers would be falling out. Luckily though I’ve been able to sleep a touch on the Amsterdam-Kigali leg. And when I say sleep a touch, I mean awkwardly face down in a blanket listening to soothing piano tunes to attempt drowning out the ever-present roar of the plane. I am running on fumes.
On this last flight, I’m sitting next to Elizabeth Daniels, the 8 turning 9-year-old daughter of one of my Professors, Brigham. Me and her have become fast friends as I’ve gone back to the galley a few times to beg for the dinner and dessert that passed us up while we were both sleeping. She’s a cute kid and will be refreshing to have around when people my own age weigh me down.
The oddest part about flying over Africa is that the continent is basically half desert. We’ve been flying over the Sahara for about 3 hours with no end in sight. Occasionally I’ll peek over Elizabeth’s head and look out the window to see the red sand below, and even seldomly, a Nile tributary. And because Elizabeth happens to be rather small compared to everyone on board, the rest of the group who has no window will come over to take a gander.
By the end of the day(s), I will have been on a plane for over 20 hours and that’s not to mention the hours spent in airports hunting down boarding passes. Something I’m just now remembering, but also kinda aware of the whole time, is that flying makes you gassy and makes the finger joints hurt. I don’t enjoy going a full day without sleep and I try not to make a habit of it. But this will be some kind of record for me. From waking up this morning(not sure if it’s yesterday or this morning because I’m having a hard time doing the math and dealing with the fact that I haven’t seen darkness since I last went to sleep in my own bed) to sleeping in the Hostel tonight, I will have been awake and traveling for over 30 hours- give or take some minutes. I look around and envy the students and fellow humans who can sleep in a sitting and upright position, head all crumpled to the side. Look damn uncomfortable.