Friday, April 15, 2011

Of Airplane Rides and New Beginnings...

jdomawa © 2011* All Rights Reserved



I always wondered what it would feel like to ride an airplane. I envied jetsetters or just plain Joe’s who’ve had the privilege of getting on a plane. I thought that it was one big adventure that was a privilege shared only by a select chosen few.

It was overrated.

First off, my ride to the airport in a van was more comfortable. Second, it’s comparable to a fully packed Victory Liner Bus travelling from Baguio to Manila (granted that there were meals and a washroom… and a TV). And a few hours into the flight, the view from the top of the clouds becomes tedious (it also hurt I had the aisle seat).

Second, the damn Philippine airport routine was freakishly suffocating. Now I know why we have one of the worst airports in the world. The lines were too long, the information too fragmented and the personnel were choosy (and boy, was I glad that I was wearing formal clothes – it gave me a nice reception from stewards who clearly favored who they thought were of ‘pedigree’ – I place that in italics since it was the clothes that made it or was it the shaved head, haha). And the attendants at NAIA were very snotty that it made you want to punch through the glass divider and bloody their effin’ noses (again I have my clothes to thank for their deference. At least my experience there was better but still the worst by my opinion among all the airports in my route).

I must admit that upon boarding my first plane, I was jittery and ultra excited. It took all my self control to stymie my grin and giddiness. Who wouldn’t be? First time travellers are either filled with euphoria or quaking in fear. I was the former.

Waiting at the departure lounge, I was left at a quandary whether I should open my bag and bring out my camera to take a few snapshots but this thought was tempered by the fact that it would probably telegraph my being a neophyte and thus I remained cool (which I regret since the chronicle of my first flight is forever lost to time and memory). I wondered instead whether they will charge me extra for my camera case or if they will detect the excess poundage on my luggage or whether the dried fish aka dilis that I have carefully packed would require summons from customs. And then there was nervous apprehension while I looked at my e-ticket and wondered if it was authentic and that maybe, just maybe I have been scammed…

My first airline seat was an aisle seat. My seatmate… damn, I couldn’t remember now, except the fact that he/she had the indecency to deny me my first view out the plane when it taxied out of Manila since she/he closed the windows. Out of sheer fear of being considered a neophyte again or sounding like a probinsiyano, I deferred although I wanted to ask to switch seats.

Going down Hong Kong was better. I got to see the bay of Hong Kong and some of the junks that were parked there. I saw the city from above, albeit briefly.

And then the plane was taxiing down and then we were jostled out of the plane. If NAIA personnel are snotty, Hong Kong airport persons were business like with a pronounced discrimination against Filipinos. Although, once again, my clothes were a lifesaver. I guess that in Asian cultures, formal clothes and balding hairlines plus glasses account for something. And yes, unfortunately Hong Kong’s airport is a thousand times better than NAIA and they have well maintained and visible washrooms. Except for the musky aroma of a mideastern group of men and the lack of coherent English, they were great.

The twelve hour ride to the other side of the world was boredom punctuated by the annoying cries of a kid from the next cabin which really stole the rest for most passengers. I guess it’s one more reason not to have kids. Though I like kids, sometimes during the most inopportune times, they can present a quandary difficult to ascertain.

Airline food sucked. I loved the beef saut√© but the rather bland selection and obviously budget beverage selection was not that great and the stewardesses clearly favored whites over other races: I guess that’s the sickness that pervades Asian psyches.

Going down Vancouver was the high point. Seeing the vast blanket of white snow over the mountains was simply breathtaking. And then the nightline in Calgary. I must admit that I viewed it with both apprehension and jubilation. Apprehension about the new risks and the new life I have given myself and jubilation at finally being there. It was also tinged with sadness, in part for the chapter of my life that has passed and the memories made there and then the sadness of knowing that there is no turning back now…

So in a way, my first flight was never about the airplane or the ride or the fact that it was not as glamorous as I once thought it to be. That maybe the mile high club is a gross over the top urban legend and that people are quirky… It doesn’t matter at all.

What matters is the journey after and then the memories before…


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