At this point, I am well practised at flying long haul. Having flown to and from Australia upwards of ten times, visiting my family, I am used to taking a fourteen hour flight, stumbling blearily around an airport for two hours and then boarding another nine hour flight. Ten hours direct from Mahe Airport to London Heathrow should be easy in comparison.
And yet, regardless of experience, long haul flights are a beast unto themselves. Here’s how I spent ten hours in a metal canister with hundreds of other people travelling hundreds of miles an hour.
We board the plane, armed with books, laptops and two delicate patisseries that Jake bought last minute with our ‘sorry you’ve been delayed please don’t sue’ vouchers. The seat next to us is empty, making an excellent perch for the elaborate cakes. The flight attendant looks confusedly at the small bakery we’ve brought on board.
We wave goodbye to the islands. I switch on Ready Player One and open up Candy Crush, the combination of which is my best remedy for any turbulence related anxiety. Level 1216 proves challenging but I figure it out by using some of the many boosters I’ve accrued after eight years of intermittent play (don’t judge me).
Our first meal comes along. They’ve only got the beef left. I don’t mind plane food except for the tiny, tiny portions. We may be sedentary but this isn’t even enough food for a guinea pig. I get through not the just main but any of the other random pre-packaged foods they’ve shoved on the tray. Chickpea salad, crackers and a weird Mars bar-Milky Way hybrid? Sure. Still hungry.
Then comes the unfortunate period between finishing your food and waiting for your tray to be collected. Never have you wanted more to pull your knees up to your chest or antisocially pop your feet on the armrests of the row in front. But you can’t.
The plane goes through a bumpy spot. I make Jake pause his movie and chat to me. “I’m fine. I really am. But, you know, this is a little bumpier that I would like. It’s just too bumpy for me. I wish the pilot would appreciate that.”
Ready Player One finishes and I’ve only managed to make it to level 1218. Feel like I’ve been sitting there for hours. Hope that, with all the pausing of the movie to look out the window or receive my tray, it’s actually been four hours. Check the screen. Still seven hours and forty minutes to go. Press ‘try again’ to take another crack at 1218.
Then, despite the fact that this is a day flight and we’re flying across Africa with an unusually clear view of the Nile, the cabin lights are dimmed and the new-fangled electronic windows are darkened to midnight purple. Jake and I look around, disorientated. I let out a silent but deadly fart. I hope no one notices. Jake slowly turns to me and whispers “if you’d let off one of those in the airport, they wouldn’t have let you on the plane. They’d think it was a chemical weapon. They’d consider it an act of terrorism.”
Open laptop with a plan to write my next blog or edit photos. Stare at the screen. Close laptop. Put on Frozen and open Candy Crush.
No, you’re the one tearing up at Let It Go. Leave me alone.
Take a break from movies and switch to classic 90s TV. Watch two episodes of Sex and the City; three of the four main characters flash their nipples. Remember Carrie Bradshaw is the literal worst. I couldn’t help but wonder… how did people keep tuning into this woman for six years?
Watch the only two episodes of Friends. Relive Rachel’s beef trifle and the routine. Love your work, BA. Plane jostles.
Go through and start culling some of the three thousand photos we took. Lament the number of blurry underwater shots I now have to sort through after I stalked a baby lionfish with the GoPro for half an hour.
Try to edit photos. No access to the cloud. Try to read. Plane turbulence makes me too rattled to focus on my book. I need the dual sedation of a bad movies and oversaturated cartoon candies to make it through this patch of rough air.
Select The Meg as my next film of choice. Is watching a scary film about killer prehistoric sharks when I’m already slightly on edge a bad idea? Possibly. But my desire to see a recreation of this colossal shark along with the (I’m assuming) compelling storyline accompanying the CGI is too strong. Plus films like this were made for long haul flights.
The plane is still in darkness, despite the fact it’s daylight outside. The flight attendants bring around trays of juice at an alarming frequency. The near-constant infusion of cranberry juice will likely be doing wonders for my sensitive urinary tract.
I am sincerely enjoying this film. People who didn’t enjoy it were clearly misled as to what the film would entail. It was clearly going to be Jason Statham fighting a giant shark. In reality? It’s Jason Statham fighting a giant shark. It wholeheartedly delivers on its aims. This is Jaws with bigger sharks and more testosterone. Also submarines that can go from surface to eleven thousand metres below the surface in a matter of minutes. Also why did they let (eight year old) Meiying go on the shark catching mission? ALSO why did they not just evacuate the beach???
Wait. Stop. This is the kind of basic analysis that will stop me from enjoying this masterpiece.
The worst of the turbulence hits as the shark fight hits its main pace. Too much adrenaline and I don’t know what to do with it. I fart again. Jake glares.
We’re coming into the home stretch here. I pop on Moana to round out the flight as I consider my strategy for level 1222.
After hours of unnecessary darkness, having missed out on most of a beautiful flight across the Sahara, we ask the flight attendant whether it will be dark the whole flight. She looks sheepish and admits that one of the other cabin crew accidentally turned down the lights before going on break. She then says, given that we’re not the first to mention it, she’ll turn them back up.
The cabin floods with light, though we can turn our windows dark again if we want to. After half an hour or so, another flight attendant comes over to explain that most people like the lights down hence why they keep the cabin dark. This is evidenced by the fact that, when offered the choice, everyone has elected to keep their windows open. Guess we know who accidentally turned the lights down, don’t we, Susan?
Dinner is served. I get cheese covered pasta, a stale muffin and both mine and Jake’s triangles of soft cheese. It’s, of course, not enough, but I am pleased with the ratio of cheese to other foods.
Moana is sublime. I tear up again at How Far I’ll Go. Fatigue and reduced air pressure wreak havoc on your emotions. Bonus points for the coconuts, manta rays and island landscapes that are reminiscent of the beautiful islands we’ve just left behind.
Okay, I’ve got to the homicidal coconuts scene. Who knows what the writers were taking when they wrote this.
I keep ploughing at away at level 1224.
We fly over the UK. We spot Tower Bridge, my favourite landmark, from the plane and I squeal. The pilot comes over the intercom to warn us that the descent will be bumpy so they’re dimming the lights and putting the seatbelt signs on early.
I sit there as the plane bounces down to London thinking “I don’t want to sit in the dark waiting to die.” (The flight was fine. I am overdramatic. I need to get my shit together.)
Plane lands at Heathrow. Jake and I change into our London clothes in our seats because we apparently couldn’t find time in the ten hours we’d been sitting there. I feel like I should feel bad for flashing my bra while on a plane, but it’s just not in my nature. Our weather inappropriate flip flops remain the only sign we’d been somewhere warmer and sandier only mere hours ago.
We disembark, checking frantically for forgotten passports, charging cables or uneaten baked goods. Until next time, flying metal canister of wonder and potential doom. Thanks for the soft cheese and Disney films. Ten hours wasn’t long enough! (HAHA. Ha. Ha.)