Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Trip Start Jun 01, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of United Kingdom  ,
Friday, July 27, 2007

"You know why they put oxygen masks on planes? Oxygen gets you high. In a catastrophic emergency, you're taking giant panicked breaths. Suddenly you become euphoric, docile. You accept your fate. It's all right here. Emergency water landing - 600 miles an hour. Blank faces, calm as Hindu cows."

"You wake up at Seatac, SFO, LAX. You wake up at O'Hare, Dallas-Fort Worth, BWI. Pacific, Mountain, Central. Lose an hour, gain an hour. This is your life, and it's ending one minute at a time. You wake up at Air Harbor International. If you wake up at a different time, in a different place, could you wake up as a different person?"

--Fight Club

Air Travel..........

It had been a long time since I had been on a plane. Three and a half years, at last count. Not ashamed of that fact having got half way around the world specifically without flying, but there you go.

It had taken us six months to get from Nottingham to Australia, and I was going to reverse the journey in about forty five hours.

As an aside, let me quickly say that I am currently on holiday. I'm taking a few months off travelling around the world without flying to return home for my brother's wedding, and other stories. When I return I will be going straight to Melbourne, and then at the airport, just for the completists out there, I'm going to walk to the departure lounge before leaving. You know, so I won't gain any extra metres. I've thought of everything, me.

So anyway, there I was, in a taxi at four am, leaving the Pint on Punt which had been my home for more than five months. As it was still my leaving do, I was wearing my Salvos suit - it was the only way I could get the rest of my belongings into my new tiny bag. As it was a black shirt/suit combo, those around me did feel that I looked like a terrorist (complete with authentic scar to the forehead) but what the hell - I was drunk.

First of all came the desperate sobering up, which was OK as JB had helped me to stay on the sensible side of wankered. We had talked ourselves out of doing 'Super' Iraqi Occupations. It was a major concern that I would be denied access to my early flight to Sydney which cost $150, and I would end up missing my lunchtime Sydney flight which came in at a more impressive $1250.

All was good though, because thanks to electronic checking in I didn't have to even speak to anyone.

My Anchorman phonecall came as I was sat in the departure lounge, ten minutes from getting on the plane. But the last entry was nostalgic enough, so that's all I'll say.

An hour and a bit and some popped ears later I was in Sydney (well, just outside actually, and this is important, as it means I have never been to Sydney). I had four hours to kill before my next three flights, so bought some credit for my phone and used it all. I owe eternal thanks to BBMB for keeping me entertained despite lack of sleep all round.

My exit from Australia was slightly less complicated than I thought it would be, but the security measures were just as ridiculous as I feared. The problem I have with airports is that I convince myself I've probably accidently packed three kilos of Cocaine into my carry-on luggage, and it's only a matter of time before I get found out. It's all the authority figures - they bring me out in shivering guilt.

I even lied to the check in woman about having packed a cigarette lighter in my check in baggage - it wasn't that I really wanted to break the rules, it was just that I could vaguely remember chucking a lighter into the bottom of my bag and I was fucked if I was going rooting around in it. Then I felt even more guilty, convinced that at any moment six blokes with rubber gloves would ask me if I wouldn't mind stepping this way.

Then there's flying itself. Now, contrary to what most people believe, I like flying. I hate airports, customs, in flight meals, sitting for long periods of time and members of the general public. But flying itself is fun. My favourite moment in the flight is the take off - that bit where you can just imagine them throwing some stick forward and everyone's head's forced back into their headrest.

This is quickly followed by my least favourite bit - the initial climb. That moment where it looks like you're going at about twenty miles an hour and you have absolutely no idea how this massive lump of metal is staying in the air. And you're not even going in a straight line; as the engines struggle to keep going, and the nose points as high as it can, the plane seems to be dropping through the sky and only going up out of coincidence...

Economy class has changed since last time I was on it - now we all get our own TV screens and a choice of music and movies and stuff - and there's nothing funnier than watching action/thriller movies that have been edited by an airline. The skill is not laughing at the dialogue because you have to try and patch together what's going on in a seventy minute edit of a three hour film. I really should have taken the opportunity to sleep, but couldn't get over how great the whole thing was. And besides, they kept feeding me. A seven and a half hour flight and I had two meals and about four snacks. Good times.

Onto Brunei then, for a quick two hour stopover. I was fortunate because JB and I had raided the back of the bar at the Pint on Punt, which had one of those displays of foreign money that people had left over the years. I was thus armed with five British pounds, five Irish pounds (northern), five Euros and three 1US Dollar Bills, which meant I drank cans of pop like a king in Brunei while everyone else looked on. Well, apart from the nice lady behind the counter of the shop, who had to drink pop with me because I didn't want change from a 5 Euro note and she didn't want her till to be out of balance. We had a most enjoyable chat - it turns out Brunei is a completely dry country, apart from the airport, which had a duty free shop that is the unofficial eighth wonder of the world.

Another seven hours and we were in Dubai. Only an hour here, and then back into the same plane for the final leg of the journey.

I had long since lost any idea of what the time was, certainly in relation to myself. I just knew that when I got off the plane in Heathrow the local time would be about 6AM, so that would do. That it would be 6AM on Saturday, and my journey began on a Thursday was only a small point.

You know that feeling where you find yourself wondering what that smell is? And it turns out it's you? Yeah. At around the thirty hour mark I was regretting my apparel. To throw in a sly Anchorman typo gag, "Silk was a bad choice".

I was able to stretch out over three empty seats and sleep most of the last flight.

At around 6AM we made our final approach to Heathrow. I remember the last time I was making my final approach to Heathrow, and I'd been away a long time then too. It's funny how things change. I remember back then I was a little excited, a little anxious. I had missed home a lot towards the end, and even though my trip was cut short by an illness in the family it wasn't reluctantly that I returned. And there was something about that final descent, the final bump of the wheels as you land and you're down and you're safe and you're home.

This time, all I could come up with was "Bugger".

I was rather pleased that I was able to get through Heathrow without being blown up by terrorists, strip searched or humanely destroyed. It was after all only a couple of days after incompetent terrorists failed to blow anything up and one of the terminals was closed down.

After that it was a rather simple case of getting a coach from Heathrow to Nottingham, where the money JB and I had appropriated from behind the bar at the pub came to my rescue again, as was able to get a ticket using my Irish pounds. Then the journey itself and feeling extremely sorry for the poor bastard sat next to me, and then a bus home...

And so to bed....

Well actually, so to jet lagged drinks with Karim - but that, like so many other things, is another story.
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