The In-Flight Movie

A tale of focus and flying machines.

Sometimes you just need to keep developing your temperament. Our pick up ride to the airport didn’t show. We had to walk down a street to a hotel, bags in tow, and request a taxi. Then the security line stretched the width of the airport. Once through that, they funneled us right into a souvenir shop, like friggin’ Disneyland. At last, it emptied into a standing room-only waiting area near the gates. Then we stood and waited, and waited some more. My wife found a recently vacated seat but I remained standing. Thinking back, it didn’t help that somebody we met along our trip told us the airport was way too small and understaffed to handle the traffic it sees regularly. Makes you think about safety, too. Then, unbelievably, while the line at our gate started getting shorter, no one announced that our flight was boarding. Oh, did I saying we were boarding? We were — onto a bus. A bus that would drive us out to a prop jet (jokes aside, I like prop jets). Lucky for us, that first flight, our return to Zurich , was uneventful thereafter. I just kept trying to stay cool.

Once through security at Zurich, mercifully short, we waited for what we thought would be a more comfortable connecting flight. Such wishful thinking did not pan out. First off, getting randomly selected for additional screening beforehand didn’t exactly grease the skids. But then again, being a white American, my selection seemed legitimately random. Next we boarded a big, international plane, run by a Euro carrier, for our flight back to the States. The plane was packed, and everyone settling in cramped it even further. Now some of the natives we met on our honeymoon left a bit of bad taste in my mouth, so I was ready to get home. Being “ready” before what would be a long, cramped flight didn’t relax me. It actually did the opposite, since I started constantly checking the clock and fidgeting like we were in final descent. Then the two people in front of us reclined their seats all the way back. For real. I knew I could recline mine all the way back too, but honestly I didn’t want to. Instead, being just inches from the in-seat screen, I decided to check out my entertainment options. My wife was already watching a movie, smartly. But I didn’t find much.

I kept looking periodically after my first attempt, but I didn’t find much for many hours (like, 3). But eventually I stumbled on a Wes Anderson film, ‘The Darjeeling Limited,’ widely considered his worst. I’ll take it. Having always heard it sucked, I never read about what the plot of ‘Darjeeling’ actually was. I was going in unprepared but also with an open mind. Once I loaded the movie up, I went for the headphones. My headphones — which fit me, sound good and are comfortable — wouldn’t fit in the jack in the armrest. Sadly, the plane forced me to use the Swiss Air set. They have two 3.5mm jacks for some reason. Without a choice, which can sometimes be the best way, I put on the airline’s headphones and pressed Play.

In a nutshell, ‘Darjeeling’ is about three brothers who set out on a transcontinental train ride across India to reconnect with one another. They lost their Father early, but they keep his things and struggle to see eye to eye. They’re cramped into a train that they decided to board, practically on top of each other. Their Father’s things, literal baggage in this case, just shrink their headroom further. Shenanigans ensue, then ‘Darjeeling’ gets serious. They save two little boys from drowning in a river, but they can’t help the third of the group. Three brothers lose one boy from a group of kids who were also struggling. They later find the drowned boy’s family, help the family cope and get invited to the funeral. Victors? How’s that for a perspective change?

Over the course of the movie, they battle inner demons, alone and together, and work diligently on their temperaments. They change their attitudes, outlook and expectations, and in turn re-ignite the strength of their brotherhood. They finally do reconnect in their own weird, self-centered kinds of ways. In the last scene, they ditch the baggage and run free. It had taken them about 100 minutes to learn what was really valuable. Before the movie, I felt increasingly trapped by my own perspective and the things I chose to carry. After it finished, as the flight wore on, I reclined my seat a little bit and started thinking about nothing in particular.

Eventually we the hit the ground in the States, though I can’t pretend I ever really got relaxed. I just tried to look at things a little differently. That’s why I want to keep developing my temperament. It’ll help make those long flights — figurative and literal — more bearable. And if I keep working at it, maybe someday I get to run free. This story doesn’t exactly get tied off with a neat bow or pulled together with an elegant moral. But neither does life. Let’s just look at stories from a different perspective. In the meantime, I’ll meditate.

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