Plane passengers sigh, shuffle and shake their heads
as the Captain announces that we are delayed by 25 minutes and our plane is going to taxi and park up.
As the other passengers grumble I remember that we are about to take this hundred tonne time machine up in the air for maybe one of the last times in this way. I savour it. As article 50 is being signed in London and flown to Brussels, I am on a separate plane to Europe, flying away, time travelling, just not far enough for all this madness to have never began.
After a while we prepare for take off, this is all too normal of us now. We are spoiled. Low prices and high expectations. Nobody watches the safety demonstration, they watch their phones. And I see the sadness in the eyes of the hostess as she stands as deflated as her life jacket, somehow feeling shame over a moment that was once sophisticated and specialised. I always watch.
It’s a well-timed day flight, no one had to get up at 3.15am to make this one so why so sleepy? I wonder if they put something in the cabin air to keep us calm, or is it the gentle bumble of the plane bumping us like babes on a knee? Or if the lack of internet makes folks unsure of what to do for hours alone with empty hands? Or if rather than be alone with no escape from their thoughts, sleeping them off feels better?
Those not sleeping wear headphones and play games on screens, I wonder if we are dependent on stimulation. I read a book, I love the smell and feel of the paper, it is refreshingly simple. This time in the sky is precious and its a time when I am anonymous, free to be silent and un-contactable – totally excused to go off the radar. One of the only excuses we still have to use, one the last flights to use it on.
I wake up when my head falls in the isle
and order a tea as the trolley passes. I am dehydrated because of the knockout air and need to drink yet I hate the fact that even in the blue sky thousands of feet in the air our plane still produces bags of trash. So much unnecessary plastic. The kind that they fling at you ‘just incase’ for the sake of easy service and speed. With my tea I receive a plastic cup, plastic sugar stirrer, second plastic cup for my used tea bag, sugar sachets and plastic pouch containing 3 milk sachets, plastic of course. I put the bag in the hot water and leave it there, no milk no sugar thank you for asking. I don’t use any of the items minus the teabag and yet feel responsible for them as they go in to the trash bag unused. How much sugar is picked, processed and wasted? How much milk? How many times has this happened on my flight? That days flights for that whole airline? For all the other airlines for the week? The year? All the planes that have ever and will ever fly? How much unnecessary waste for the sake of easy service and speed?
Landing, I meet the gaze of a lone girl like me
she looks towards my window and I hers each trying to catch a glimpse of the new city in the top third of our windows as we sit in the cheap seats between the wings. She has a kind face and I notice her arms are slightly too hairy.
The concertina staircase peeps out from the airport building like a giant hungry caterpillar. It attaches to the plane like a 1950’s envision of the future and connects with a bump. The fasten seatbelt sign bongs off and the passengers immediately unclip in unison. The sound of 350 tap dancers and typists fill the plane for 2 seconds.
I am always amazed at the urgency to get off the plane, is everyone a smoker? We can only be as fast as our bags and the car for them hasn’t even arrived. Everyone must be first off, nobody can even wait for the old lady to move out of their way as she’s reaches for her heavy luggage above. Not even the kind faced girl. This rules out the knock out gas.
Moving as quickly as possible with the flow towards the caterpillars mouth and I am back to wondering, waiting and watching.