I don't fly well. I never have. And when I do, it's almost always under the influence of copius amounts of pharmaceuticals that ensure that I spent the vast majority of my airborne time asleep. I love to travel. I just hate to fly. It's an unfortunate, inconvenient dichotomy given the time on the road I've been spending as of late.
My journey home from London involved 13 hours on a plane, 11 1/2 of them in one stretch. It was something I had been dreading since I set foot on British soil. I just had a bad feeling about it, especially given the mad-dash ordeal I went through at LAX and in Minneapolis on my way to Europe last month. And the moment I stepped on the plane, my pessimistic thoughts were confirmed.
"32F isn't a window seat, as I requested and confirmed THREE TIMES!" I seethed at the model-attractive Dutch flight attendant. "It is a MIDDLE seat! Do you think I would book myself 11 1/2 hours in a MIDDLE seat!"
"I'm sorry ma'am but the flight is completely booked. I am sorry for the mistake but there is nothing I can do."
"Easy for you to say when you're not the one who's going to lose all feeling in her legs."
There was really only one thing I could do if I hoped to sleep at all on this flight. Pull out the Benjamins.
"$300 US for anyone in a window seat to switch for a middle!"
I walked the length of the plane down both aisles. I even upped the price to $400 through the last ten rows. Not a single taker. I don't blame them.
Forced to take my seat, I wedged myself between two old women who smelled bad for vastly different reasons. One wore so much perfume that if I opened my mouth in a yawn, I could actually taste it. The other wore some sort of burka and hadn't bathed in at least a week. There was some sort of metal box attached to the seat in front of me that stuck out where my legs would be able to stretch out at least a little bit. And when the guy in front of me leaned his seat back, it was practically in my lap. I didn't even have room enough to open up my 12" laptop to write. Even worse, there were NO individual TV's attached to the backs of the seats. No movies on demand. No little screen that showed where the plane was. Just the old-school drop-down video screens attached to the cabin roof. All that played were re-runs of Friends and Everybody Hates Chris, as well as Spider-Man 3, which I'd already seen on the flight out. And given the two smelly snoring women between me, there was no way to easily get in or out of my seat. I was trapped, literally staring at the walls for 11 hours straight.
And then, there were the babies. Two of them. Devil-possessed. These things wailed like they were under rendition at Guantanamo Bay. Non-stop. By hour 6, I was completely pushed to my limit and stood up in my seat screaming "WILL SOMEONE SHUT THOSE KIDS UP!" to a smattering of applause from my cabin-mates and glares from both mothers.
I was ready to kiss the ground when we landed. My body was twisted and cramped from the top of my neck to the base of my spine.
"Welcome home" said the Homeland Security official who stamped my passport in the basement of Terminal 4 at LAX.
"You have no idea how good it is to be home" I replied.
My mother picked me up and drove me home up La Cienega through miles of rush-hour traffic. And once I walked through the doors of my apartment, it took maybe 15 minutes for me to sink into my couch, flip on CNN, take a massive bong hit, and fall asleep for the next 14 hours straight.