Friends, I have arrived in continental Asia, and am resting comfortably inside a temporary apartment in the ass-end of Suzhou. The sky is an actual blue, I did not perish in a terrible fiery plane crash, and my VPN is humming along beautifully, so all is well.
But no one really likes hearing about the times when all was well.
In the intermission between periods of all being well was a 14 hour direct flight from Toronto to Shanghai, a slog of air travel surmounting my previous records of sustained mid-air sitting. In actual fact, sitting still for 14 consecutive hours isn’t the most impressive thing I’ve ever done, but it is certainly something that maybe drove me halfway insane, and thus something to write about. Join me then, won’t you, as we journey through the skies to the magical land of China, and while I stall until I can edit some of the last remaining content I have from India.
Don’t fall don’t fall don’t fall don’t fall
-2:30 I arrive at the airport with my life compressed into approximately 112 pounds. My parents offer to carry a bag, but I feel duty-bound to complete this drag alone. I have backpacks on both sides of my torso, and if I were to fall down, it is unlikely I would ever rise again. I am the backpack turtle.
-2:03 My employers rushed and managed to secure my ticket just yesterday, and I suddenly fret over what seat I will be trapped within for the next foreseeable chapter of my life. “I think it’s an aisle seat,” the check-in monster lies cautiously. I think she knows that if she told me the truth I may simply rip open my jugular and allow my weeping corpse to be carried off by the luggage conveyor belt.
Absolutely nothing terrifying or important is going to happen.
A woman beside me nervously looked around the line. We were boarding for Guanajuato, and she checked her ticket again and again. She asked the passengers ahead of us for their boarding group, and then turned to me and asked the same question in English.
We were both in group 3. “But I don’t think they’ve called group three yet.” Her fists clenched and she let out an anxious grimace. She seemed sure that when we approached the boarding agent, our disharmony in the line would cause a major malfunction in airport progress. We would be castigated, double-checked by the TSA, thrown out of George Bush International, or sent directly to Guantanamo for any possible deviation from accepted airport etiquette. Every few seconds she looked around, as though plainclothes feds were milling about in the crowd, just waiting for unwily travellers to step on the wrong side of the queue.
I assured her that we would be all right. This was her first time flying.
From the serenest airport I’ve ever seen. There were still goobers.
It is approximately 2:34 a.m. We are in the Mumbai Airport, and have completed the security check as well as unseemly reams of paperwork required to properly exit India. We are tired and each of us carries off-brand Thai valium to try to aid sleeping through the twin 9-hour flights that lie before us. We do not want to get on this plane, and we begin doing stretches in a corner far away from all of the other seats, a desperate miniature yoga practice. We will be sitting for approximately the next full 24 hours, and we need as much movement as we can get.
A crowd forms. The airline has set up a network of convoluted stanchions to keep the mass at bay, possibly to lose them in the labyrinth, but something seems to summon them here. The attendants will not let them line up at the actual gate, as we are still dozens of minutes away from boarding, but the horde is growing anxious. It has swollen to over a hundred people, each of them twitching, as though the airport cafe stocked high-grade amphetamines. Were they called? Has a dog whistle sounded? More than half of the people flying to Frankfurt have now joined the undulating crowd, pushing and grunting and trying desperately to get into line so they can get into line.
We have deemed them goobers. They look upon the other travellers, sleepy and world-weary and nervous about the flight, as enemies to be vanquished. Everyone else is an obstacle stopping them from getting on the plane first. There is a woman nearby with a baby, and they think how they might be able to bludgeon her to death, or pass the infant off as their own, so that they might board faster. Her move to the front of the line causes wails of agony, and several people begin brandishing switchblades and butterfly knives, out of nowhere. Several elderly people are brought forward in wheelchairs and a frisson of rage passes over the mob: these wretched, useless monsters will board before us! They should be melted down for soup to provide nutrients to the young and robust. Everyone begins to consider the perfectly legitimate logic contained in Logan’s Run.
It is 2:34 a.m., and we have no idea what is wrong with these people.
Just taking her for a quick spin along the coast. Back in a few hours.
While I process the nature of my return to Korea and everything to do with my glorious time in Toronto, a brief look at the hellscape that was my trans-pacific trip back.
As we’ve discussed, I don’t do well with long plane rides, which is a problem, in that I keep taking them. I had booked a flight back to Korea leaving at 8:30 a.m. Toronto time, subjecting myself to a Draconian 5:00 wake-up, but a planned 3:00 p.m. arrival in Korea. Every other flight has landed me in Korea at obscene night hours, meaning taking the last train back to my apartment or waiting around for early morning buses, so an afternoon arrival seemed heavenly in terms actually feeling like a human being again. I was prepared for everything to go swimmingly.