My First Flight Abroad
As I watched the mighty plane before, heaving on the tarmac at London 's Heathrow airport, I don't mind admitting that I my excitement was overtaken by fear of the unknown. I had never flown before and my inexperience had already caused me to miss the buffet of duty free sales. All those smokes and varieties of cheap booze had already passed me by. I looked at the other flyers in front with envy, they all seemed so calm and sure of what they were letting themselves in for.
I nervously checked my boarding pass and felt my pockets for my wallet, passport and mobile phone. The stewardess's cheerily welcomed me aboard the Boeing 747 bound for San Francisco , where I would catch my connecting flight to Sydney Australia. As I walked down the rows and rows of this giant flying machine I calmed a little and my excitement returned.
Terrible generic music played in the background, the sort of music you get while on hold, as you wait for your bank to inform you, “that yes indeed, you have been charged for withdrawing your own money, now have a nice day” click… I found my seat and my fears checking in were confirmed, I was in the middle aisle, 2 nd seat in between a large man and…another large man.
I squeezed my 6 foot 2 frame into the child size gap between my new traveling buddies for the next ten hours of my life. Worries when I landed in San Francisco , my luggage would be in Jakarta filled my head as the mood music filled the air. All around me people were pulling books, Ipods, laptops and other assortments of time killers out from their overhead luggage. I looked down at my pathetic rucksack, filled with pens and paper that I would never have the space to use.
I glanced enviously at the people in window seats, jealous of the cloudy views they would no doubt enjoy during our flight. With the plane full, it was time to buckle up and enjoy the ride. My first flight! All around me people started to lock their seatbelts in, I picked up mine, pushed, pulled, forced, turned it this way and that and…nothing. I could not get the shiny bastard to lock! To my relief and embarrassment my new found friend in the seat to my left showed me how to lock myself in. I was exposed then and there as a flight virgin but at least I was strapped in.
The Stewards and Stewardess's went through the safety checks with a look of amusement on there face, every flight they must do the “I'm a little tea pot” dance to indicate the exits and what to do in an emergency. The Captain's voice came on over the intercom informing us that while it would be a wonderful flight there might, just might… be some slight turbulence. Fantastic. I had no idea what to expect from turbulence, but I was pretty sure from everyone I had asked after booking my flight that it wasn't too nice an experience.
When the plane finally started to move for take off, all horrors and fears were forgotten, I could feel the power of the plane as it gently built up speed and prepared to lift us all into the clouds. As the front of the plane left the ground and the nose of the plane pointed up at the sky I was fit to burst with excitement. I felt my stomach twist and turn, it was the same feeling you get going higher and higher on a swing. I twisted my neck left and right trying to get a view out of the small windows that were so near yet so far. Within minutes all the windows were filled with fluffy white clouds. Flying was going to be fun.
An hour later I was bored beyond belief, desperate for an escape and a smoke and regretting ever even thinking about flying. All around me people wearing headsets were watching movies on the tiny screens in front of them. I too donned the cheap earmuffs and switched on to a movie…which had of course already started, damn!
Over the next few hours the stewards would wander past and I would buy a few beers, hoping to get drunk and fall asleep. I threw my head back on the tiny pillow provided several times but every time I would drift toward the heaven of dreams and sleep, my head would roll to my left to dribble on the big guy sitting there or to my right…to dribble on the big guy sitting there. I was pretty sure they didn't like me.
I looked to my right and saw curtains drawn where there had been empty seats earlier, the curtains had a sign on them that read “Stewards Rest Area”. Every now and then a steward would disappear behind the curtains, spread out across the seats and have a nap. In my cramped middle aisle seat I sat and stared at those curtains with a jealous rage I had never before experienced.
After about six hours in the air we hit the bumpy joyride that is turbulence. To be honest it didn't bother me at all, but the guy sitting to my left was gripping the arm rest so tight his fingers were turning purple and his eyes were so tightly shut that tears would have struggled to leave their ducts. I lifted my feet off of the floor and relaxed my back and let the bumpy airwaves gently roll me around my seat, it was fun.
An hour later I made a mistake…I found and pressed a small button by the entertainment buttons, it simply read “Map”. I was so bored of switching onto halfway completed movies and trying to fall asleep that this new button intrigued me. I wasn't wearing a watch and didn't really know how long we had been in the air except that it seemed like days. The “Map” button bought up some graphics of our plane moving across the world toward our destination, San Francisco . It looked so near on the scaled down map and yet, it was so, so, SO FAR. I stared at the map for hours, praying for us to get pushed along faster and faster by a giant gust of wind or the hand of God.
Our 2 nd meal of the journey was bought round by the tired stewards, I declined mine, as the first had been something that resembled chicken but tasted like I imagine warmed up turtle would taste. I did however get another beer and another scornful look from the steward and the happy campers to my left and right.
Finally some relief came in the form of the Captain's voice over the intercom, telling us that we approaching San Francisco and would be preparing to land soon. I was giddy with joy, not about seeing San Francisco Airport , I was joyful at the thought of freedom! My craving to taste the smoky delights of a cigarette returned as well with a vengeance. We must be near I told myself as I looked at the “Map”. The “Map” told me otherwise but sod that, I was going to put my faith in the Captain, he wouldn't lie to me, soon meant SOON.
Over an hour later we felt the plane gently touch down on the tarmac of San Francisco International Airport . Ten hours in the air, Ten hours of boredom and cramp was over. I had completed my first flight. It took about half and hour for us weary travelers to exit the giant plane, the first thought on my mind was racing away from No Smoking signs and that glorious first cigarette, the second thought on my mind that soon overtook the first was of my next flight in five hours time…14 Hours to Sydney, Oh goody.