As a child my horizon consisted of home, school, holidays to the beach to visit Gran and holidays to the Karoo to visit Gran and Grandad. Small or not that small, depending on your point of view.
Things exploded when I turned twenty-one and climbed aboard a flight to NYC. My eyes bulged, my pulse raced, I felt like I was living in a movie. Since then I have been fortunate to travel often and I’ve loved every second of it, even the bits I wasn’t loving quite so much at the time. Like being stranded at the airport because there were technological problems with the plane, or missing a flight or racing for a flight (which brings out all sorts of nefarious driving skills), or arriving three days before your luggage. There are passengers with BO, those who don’t know how to control their intake of free drinks and even those who use the ‘barf’ bag.
Even airports give me a kick, my heartbeat accelerates as I board the plane, fold myself into that tiny seat then, and this is my favourite part, we speed along the runway, thrust backwards in our seats and lift off – the huge bird takes flight. It blows my hair back, well it would if I were on the wing.
Lately I’ve been on a series of short domestic flights, literally a hop, there’s little cruising time. We’re
ascending, then descending as in drink your tea fast, and for the first time in my flying life I’ve been afraid to fly.
It’s not the aircraft, nor any of the crew, it’s my delightful fellow passengers. When you land or take off there are a set of specific instructions, repeated several times. Fasten your seatbelts, make sure your seat backs are in an upright position, lock away your tray tables and switch off all your electronic devices, even those that operate in airplane mode. Now I’m not sure about that last instruction, some people believe it is to do with satellite interference or some such scientific thing, others declare the crew simply want you to pay attention. It’s irrelevant. The point is you are asked to do 4 things for a maximum period of 5 minutes and yet when I look around all I see are blinking cell phone screens. The owners are vaguely furtive but they cannot not check on that final Facebook status or send that quick, ‘I’m landing’ message to their loved ones.
On the last flight I took and from what I could see, if we were to crash, there would be three people on the plane who knew how to follow instructions. And if survival depended on our ability to follow orders: Would we get out alive?