Why Can’t We Just Wake Up Back In Airport Arrivals?
Night flights — you really kill me
Imagine it is the last day of your holidays. Your bags are packed ready for your departure. It’s the end of another fantastic trip.
Or maybe it’s the end of a week of worldwide travel to meetings.
Whichever it is, let’s face it, the very act of getting from B back to A is a bind.
Gone is the excitement of travelling to your destination. The option to stay one more night has passed and we just want to be back home.
For you to truly understand why wishing to be teleported home is a big deal, it might help to see just how much I ordinarily love flying.
I mean, I really really love flying.
Firstly, there is the eager anticipation as I wait in departures. I made it through security without having to unpack my bags. But hey, if you had asked me to, I would gladly do it and laugh along with you. Because I am going on a plane.
See all this stuff I had to get out and try and balance under my arm while queuing for security? That was no bother at all, ma’am. Because I am going on a plane.
What? Take my shoes off. Why, sure I will. It is no trouble at all. Because I am going on a plane. As I banter my way through the body search, then dress myself again, life is all just fab. Because I am going on a plane.
Airport shopping done, I sit with a cheeky glass of wine in hand, and watch the planes on the tarmac as they get ready to transport me to another place, in another time zone. I love this bit. No, I really do. It’s like watching a little toy town through the window. I sit right where I can see it all going on. I even look for a plane from my airline, and make believe it’s my actual flight.
Mesmerised I watch the activity. Pallet trailers full of precious cargo, each patiently waiting its turn. I try to guess what is in them. Flowers? We must be in Holland. Off it goes to the cargo loader, up across and into the plane. Then the plane appears to gobble it up. Two, three, seven, eight, nine pallets. I can almost imagine another loader on the far side taking them all back off again. It is like a comedy sketch where 93 people appear to be climbing into a Mini Cooper. Where do all those pallets and containers go? How heavy are they? Actually it’s better not to think about that. How those planes even get off the tarmac, with all that weight, is a mystery.
Then the bags arrive. Who doesn’t try and spot their own luggage as they sit on the tarmac waiting to be loaded. Go on, admit it. Is it on top? Does that mean first on, last off right? Or is it on the bottom? Somehow it never matters where mine is. Holdalls always come off last. I think someone said it’s the law!
Then it comes time to board.
Isn’t queue behaviour funny? It really doesn’t matter how many times the staff call passengers by row, the shuffling begins. Let’s get up now and join the queue. And if there is no queue, you can be sure someone will start one. Hedging their bets in the hope they will be first on. Imagine all that overhead locker space, and you are first on. Yes! Let’s start a queue now.
Then the crowd control ropes appear and the banners get re-positioned. Are we in Speedy Boarding? The look of shock as they realise they will have to give up their pole position and join the official queue. Maybe if we stand just to the side, right here, we can just quietly merge into the official queue as they start to call boarding.
But even this is great fun. I really don’t mind. I have a seat, my seat has space for my bag, and my thoughts are already turning to the flight. What movie will I watch. Am I too old to watch Frozen at 54? How soon will the food arrive? Will I have red or white wine. Will I start with a gin & tonic?
Moist towelette, madam?
Don’t mind if I do. I went to the bathroom before I boarded and did a thorough hand wash, but that refreshing lemony, slightly disinfectant-meets-dish washing liquid scent will just set the scene nicely. And I think I will just dab my cheeks and chin and nose too, in a slightly exaggerated ‘how luxurious’ way too. Thank you.
I settle into my seat. I am super organised. I have my book, my specs, my mobile phone is already switched off. I glance at the magazine, and try to look intelligently interested in the business page, as I surreptitiously watch my fellow passengers board. Crying babies? Not a problem, sit right here beside me. You just can’t steal my happiness.
Yes, I get really excited about flying to my destination. Be it the short hop down the UK or the eleven hour flight to Johannesburg, I absorb every little thing. And that is just economy. No extra leg room, no economy plus. Just basic.
Heaven help me if I ever did get upgraded. There would be no sleeping for me that’s for sure. I would stay awake the entire trip just to be in that zone, in that moment. Eating dinner without having to move my food courses around a tiny tray like some two dimensional Rubix cube. And drinking my deliciously chilled wine from a real glass. Noel Cabacungan will know exactly where I am coming from.
But now it’s time to come home. The tables are turned. I am already dreading every painful step of what is to come.
First of all, it’s the goodbyes. Did I tell you I am hormonal? I cry. A lot. And I hug too. A lot. Even the staff at hotels cannot escape my tearful farewells. Sometimes it’s awkward. I mean, she only cleaned my room for the past two days. She left me clean towels. I hug her. I weep. It’s embarrassing, I know. I apologise.
Then there is the transfer. Did I book one? Will it arrive on time? Have I cash to tip? Do I actually have to tip? What is the etiquette?
Check in, in an unfamiliar airport, brings its challenges too. Will I find the right desk? Or even the right terminal? Do I need to queue with the rest because I wasn’t able to check in online, or is it self service. Help! Will my bags need a label? So much stress. Have a nice flight, ma’am. Are you having a laugh. I am going home. Holiday over.
Then we have security to master. Shoes off? What? Can’t you see I have my hands full? Laptop, Kindle, coat, scarf, belt, bag of liquids and gels, a handbag and a carry on and you want me to now try and get my lace up shoes off. Are you crazy? I have two hands. That’s all. Just two. And now I am holding up everyone else as I have to do this at the conveyor belt, as the security woman looks on. I know what you are thinking, Mrs Security Lady. ‘You have had all that time in the queue to do this and you wait until now?’
As for shopping - well it’s just not the same when you are coming home is it? I might well have a few dollars left in my purse, and I know I should spend them, because exchanging them back is just lost money. But my heart’s just not in it. Those funky shorts I promised myself on the way out don’t seem quite so “fun”ky now I am heading home to 4 degrees in the UK! So I head straight to the gate. The quiet, solitary gate, with just the cleaner for company as he empties the bins. Self imposed exile, because I don’t want to smile.
But there is just one thing I hate more than the end of a good trip.
Night flights! I detest them. I hate them with a passion. Yet they seem to be the price I always pay for a long haul destination. Daytime out, nighttime back.
They stink. I don’t mean they actually smell. Actually they do a bit. But they really suck.
Those in-flight entertainment screens on the back of your seat? You know what, lady, they are touch screen. The clue is right there, in the name. Not hit screen. Not poke screen. Not thump screen. Just touch gently. Like you would brush a hair from your face. Yes I know I tolerated you thumping my seat my entire flight out. But you have to understand, I was excited then. And my excitement gives me the strength not to stand up, lean over and scream ‘WILL YOU STOP BASHING MY FREAKING SEAT!’. But now I am flying home? The rules have changed. And I want to sleep! Have some consideration will you?
No, I know my patience won’t hold out. Instead I choose a seat on the back row now. Yes, that’s the one right there, backing onto the bathroom. Not ideal but it’s a trade off. Occasional flushing plus the gradual rising odour of poorly disguised urine and the mass post breakfast airline ‘dumping’ — versus incessant seat jabbing. It’s a tough call, but one is concentrated, the other is the whole damn eleven hours.
Crying babies and over excitable children do not make for a good nights sleep either. Now don’t get me wrong, I love that kids get to travel to places I only ever dreamed of as a four year old. But please put them all in the same section. Hell, they could even take turns at walking the baby up and down the aisle. The parents can all sympathise together, swap stories of how theirs didn’t sleep for three years. And those children who are just too excited to sleep can have some buddies to talk to.
Ear plugs in, eye mask on and a blanket over my head, I pray this night will end quickly.
Morning comes around and breakfast is served. Rubber egg or something that looks awfully like the dinner they served just five hours ago. Not long until it is time to get off. By now passengers have already started to put more layers on, ready for the bitterness that will hit our cheeks as we disembark into the chilly UK air.
Now it is just passport control to negotiate. A queue of anxious passengers eager to get to baggage reclaim. Stop panicking. Those bags will likely take a good 40 minutes to come out. Hey, go in front of me if you like — because mine will be last off. It’s the law, remember.
Bags collected, I run the gauntlet through customs. Always the green channel. I have absolutely nothing to declare. So why then does my heart always race and my eyes skip furtively around. I focus on a poster, chat with my companion in a carefree and easy way. Don’t catch his eye. Why do we do that? Are we trained to act guilty in the company of officialdom?
I rest my case, your honour. Returning home, especially on a night flight, is no fun at all.
How I wish we could just wake up in arrivals? Complete with trolley already loaded with our luggage, our passports already stamped, and our taxi waiting at the door. Better still, at home, on my sofa, the first load of washing in, and a proper cup of tea.
Thanks Kristi Keller for the prompt.
©Marie T Smith (She Wordsmiths..) x