I don’t like travelling in general and travelling by plane in particular. I never had an irrational fear of flying – and I still don’t. What I incurred is a perfectly rational fear of flying as a result of the recent trend of suicidal co-pilots. On my first flight after the Alps accident, I had at least a good chance that I wouldn’t even make it to the airport. It’s not that there has been an upsurge of suicidal taxi, train and bus drivers. Rather, I have no sense of direction (though I’m a leftist), which is a moderate handicap when trying to get from point A (home) to point B (airport).
I parted with my home and my cat to the accompaniment of many tears on my part and indifference bordering on annoyance on the cat’s part. The first stretch of my route was covered by a taxi, as I wasn’t particularly keen on lugging my luggage all the way to the railway station. Also, I’m lazy. The taxi driver proved a shocking prowess when he found my address. This is not a slight task because my address doesn’t exist. Seriously – ask your nearest clerk. The kind young man not only didn’t kill me, but he also got me to the station on the first try and even helped me with my suitcase.
The train station is temporarily (read: eternally) under construction. I don’t really mind the workers drilling through the floors and trapping unaware passengers in the holes, what bothers me is the fluidity of platform designations. Within a matter of a week, platform 5 may transform into 1A and 1A into APPROACH VIA TUNNEL. Is this a train station or a coal mine? The train was delayed (this is Eastern Europe – which is self-explanatory), so I was at leisure to undertake a sightseeing stroll around the station to locate my platform. It was 1C, which was really 3, actually APPROACH VIA STAIRCASE.
Standing at the bottom of the staircase with my suitcase, I wasn’t chuffed at the prospect of the climb. However, an alien being materialised behind my back and before I aimed at his face with my weaponised handbag, he offered to carry my suitcase. I was analysing his offer. Does the anonymous benefactor mean to carry my luggage up to the platform or away to his stash? And would he appreciate its contents, including a hairdryer, a handbook on Marxism and several pairs of woollen socks? After much deliberation, I imperiously waved to the man to grab my suitcase and follow me.
At the top of the stairs, the alien gentleman grew tired and abandoned me and my suitcase. The conductress present for the train seemed to weight forty kilos with her cap and whistle, so I kindly helped myself with the luggage in the train without requesting her help. I tried to will the suitcase to levitate, but the bastard wouldn’t. Since trains bore me to death-near sleep, before the vehicle even left the station, I curled around my luggage to protect it from theft, set the alarm clock for two hours later and collapsed into unconsciousness.
Things got tricky in the train’s destination, from where I was supposed to take a shuttle to the airport. Prior to my ambitious trip, I received an insider’s knowledge that the shuttle stop was located in front of the station. This turned out to be a rather unhelpful information – while it narrowed the area of interest to a few square kilometres, there was no way to tell where the building had its head, its tail and its front. Forgive a small-town dweller ignorant of the ways of the big city.
Somewhat sleepily, blindly and hopefully, I trailed a bunch of people with suitcases, hoping they would lead me to the stop. Which they did – lead me to a tram stop. I entered the nearest local business to ask for directions. It chanced to be a tiny kiosk, where, taking down newspaper stands with my suitcase, I inquired and was advised wordlessly with an impatient hand wave in an ambiguous direction. That helped. Not. I found the stop after asking, successively, a fast food employee on a smoke break, a cleaning woman and likely a prostitute (not identical with the cleaning woman).
The shuttle appeared to be the site of a world record attempt in progress at how many people and how much luggage can be crammed in one bus at one time. I wasn’t happy to be part of the experiment. Grateful for my new flexibility and stability owing to yoga practice (minus the Zen), I assumed the Eagle Pose and held it for an hour. Because that’s how brave I am. Also, there was no way to move out of the pose. I got off at Terminal One because my flight was due from Terminal Two. (Yes, I know, that makes all the sense.)
There was little to no fuss at the security check because my Eastern European passport isn’t a source of special excitement in Eastern Europe. It is typically found thrilling by security personnel elsewhere, so I know to wear my best shoes, fancy socks and cute underwear to be ready for the thorough frisking I regularly receive. I always beep in the security frame – it’s my heart of steel. As I happened to have a priority boarding coming with my boarding pass, I was immediately segregated from the herd and chased from place to place enclosed in a fence of tape. Priority boarding never more.
Strategically seated in front of the plane in the aisle, I scrutinised the crew for marks of mental disorder. The flight attendants seemed sane enough, but the pilot looked Germanic, which didn’t evoke the best associations. Discomforted by the discomforting mien of the pilot and finding little comfort in the uncomfortable seat, I departed to the toilets after take-off. I saw the signs but no toilets – it turned out that while I was looking for a booth, the toilets were represented by a cupboard. In the cupboard I assumed an embryonal position, not because I was performing yoga but because I had just squeezed myself in a cupboard.
One must love the low fare airlines. I returned to my seat crawling along the LED lights on the floor in the aisle. I didn’t buckle myself for security reasons [sic] and kept my eyes on the door to the pilots’ cabin, ready to get my foot in the door, literally, if it should open. It didn’t. The flight lasted for over an hour, the passengers enjoyed recurrent turbulences and I was running out of gods to pray to. I probably didn’t breathe, but no oxygen mask was ejected above my seat. As I say, low cost airlines. The plane landed, eventually, safely, but next time I think I’ll just walk. I don’t have enough Zen for this.