and Other Such Wonders of Aero Travel.
14.08.2011 - 14.08.2011
Air travel is time consuming and as I sat there staring around the sections rows 40-60 I realised I had forgotten how bloody far Australia is from civilisation. A depressing, reach for the noose thought occurred to me, although I had said goodbye to Mum and Dad 20 hours ago I still had 8 more hours ahead of myself. That’s Echuca to Melbourne and back, and back and back.
It is such a mind-numbing, uninspiring experience (after the initial excitement of take-off of course – will we get off the ground? Will we pull up before we crash into the fence at the end of the run way?) There’s take-off, a crap-blur of time, then descent. They start the descent preparation two hours before landing to give you a glimmer of hope. Pop your shoes on we’re nearly there. The next corner I promise.
You are going to have to sit in the same uncomfortable place for 24 hours of your life. There’s no getting out now, you signed up for this. There are only three things that can create a sense of delight on a hell flight such as this.
The first. If you are lucky, if a religious figure or one of those angels from a tarot deck is looking out for you, a free seat will lie within your grabbing distance. Free seats not only mean that nobody’s arm is touching yours or no one snoring in your face, but sleeping space.
I love 747s for many reasons, mainly because the aforementioned take off is even more exciting, waiting as a huge-ass hunk of metal drags itself lazily into the air, lacking the energy to do it with any zest but the huge size also means they are a lot harder to fill thus I received three seats to myself, the equivalent of aeroplane gold. I sat in the aisle seat to eat, the middle to watch TV, the window to check if I could see any Ukrainians when we flew over Ukraine and to admire the London skyline during descent and used all three for the most prized position of international travel, a horizontal sleep.
The second in the short list of amazing things that can happen while flying is an awesome film line up. This is both good and bad, because if you are like me a good line up means less than 30 minutes sleep at best, in 24 hours. I miss precious sleep and aggravate the inevitable jet lag because I need to watch the three episodes of 30 Rock I watched on DVD the week before. Throw in a few Friends repeats and touch of Glee and I’ve killed several hours before even venturing into the movie section. Air Asia and other low-cost carriers may offer a better price but 24 hours with no movies is a penalty worse than death as far as I am concerned.
Then there is the food. The glorious food. Now it has a bad reputation and some of it lives up to that reputation. It’s nowhere near as horrendous as hospital food but not as satisfying as baked beans on toast, so it lies somewhere in between the miserable to edible scale of culinary delights.
Food eats, pun, lol, a great section of travel time which is why I turn down nothing. I have also paid a ridiculous amount of money for the privilege of eating tin foil packed food.
My flight ‘part dos’ went as follows. I boarded. Peed a little at the thought that I had two extra seats. I ate my weight in peanuts and promptly fell asleep before we had finished our ascent. Lunch time! It was 11am Malaysian time, despite not being in Malaysia which means lunch time. I was starving, hence the inhalation of peanuts like a zoo elephant, the guy kept bringing me more conveniently fun-sized bags because I kept emptying them. Breakfast at 4am on my earlier flight had consisted of a chicken sausage (in what world is that a thing?), some mushroom shaped but not mushroom tasting mushrooms and a bright yellow omelette which served to induce the gag reflexes. Instead I ate my freshly warmed – to give the illusion of freshly baked – croissant and tried to keep down some yoghurt, which the more I eat the more I realise I dislike it.
By the time I had a boredom inducing 4-hour layover and boarded again I was quite hungry. It was a drag there wasn’t anywhere for me to lounge comfortably and I was tired and the stupid duty-free girls were guarding their stalls like wolves so I couldn’t even give myself my usual mid-trip make-over with expensive products I cannot afford.
Lunch was a miscellaneous chicken and rice curry dish, Indian appears to be a well-loved fare at Malaysian Airlines. I hoovered it before anyone else got the lid off theirs. An ice-cream came around before I had finished but I don’t like to miss an opportunity for a Magnum. I ate nearly everything off the tray until I felt a little like I could puke, squeezed the ice cream in. I left the salmon salad because not only do I not eat sea critters but I certainly wouldn’t eat any sea life which has been sitting on an aeroplane for as long as I had, or even longer.
TV and sleeping followed. Then snack bag time. My favourite time in the flight eating schedule is snack bag time. Snack bag is so they don’t disturb you and you can nap and enjoy life aboard an aircraft. Snack bag has biscuits, cheese and crackers, chocolate, more peanuts and fruit. I ate that. I was full so I rested on my three-seat long bed, even my feet where within the seating and not dangling in the aisle waiting to trip and old person on their way to pee. Oh the perks.
With no time to digest the snack bag, I also took one of the chocolate covered dates that were being offered to people who I think, looking back, were undertaking Ramadan. Like I said, I don’t like to miss snacking opportunities so I put my hand out. At first I was a bit put out that he gave me one and the guy opposite a handful but I suppose I had just eaten a cookie, nuts, cheese and crackers and a Kit Kat and he had possibly not eaten in quite some time.
I fit in one more meal before landing, a delicious chicken breast in an herby, tomato sauce. Perhaps it was awesome; perhaps my standards had lowered since making a meal out of peanuts? It was served with some soggy unflavoured linguini next to it and three small orange balls of still as yet unidentified vegetable, carrots cut with a melon baller? Meh, down the hatch. It feels like you should eat everything to keep your stamina up, you don’t know where your next meal is coming from. And if we plummet from the sky and end up in a ‘Lost’ scenario I am good for at least a few days before I have to strangle a wild boar with my hands. Or kill Piggy.
I made it, I had slept, ate and TV watched away 28 hours of 2011. I think the food is 60 per cent air because considering you are not moving it evaporates and as we started our descent into England (shoes were back on and tray table stowed somewhere over Germany), ducking through the customary cloud layer permanently above London I thought I wouldn’t mind a nibble and ate another bag of peanuts stashed behind my seat earlier for an emergency.
What a good flight it had been. Good as in ok, better than a poke in the eye.
Along the Thames, over East London – a quick look out for rioters visible from the air – and I landed in Heathrow. I had my almighty visa in my possession, raised high like a prized battle sword as I slipped easily through immigration. I was back in ole Blighty for the first time for 2011.
A good, gastronomically filling, well-rested flight or not, I still managed to eat dinner on arrival and practically fall asleep exhausted on the couch. I made it. Let us not do that trip again for some time. Not until Richard Branson makes a passenger rocket.