Here I am in the air again over some or other continent, island or ocean. Over the next just-shy-of-three-weeks I will be hanging out in the western-most province of Canuckistan – a place I once called home. By the time I get back to the southern tip of Africa I will have used five airlines and taken seven flights. I really should have tried for seven airlines but I was lazy. And I’m on a budget.
I flew out of a decidedly catatonic OR Tambo airport on a British Airways 747, bound for Heathrow. Her fleet is feeling old and worn, but homely in its own way, much like its cabin crew. On a bordering-on-insane whim I booked myself a “bulkhead” seat – one of those they also give to families with babies, where a bassinet can be hung on the wall. Its other major selling point is that it has more legroom than the regular cattle-class seats.
As it turns out, there wasn’t a baby in my row, but there was a mom with her soon-to-be terrible two-year-old. I joke. She wasn’t terrible at all. Before we had taken off she was asleep, and she stayed that way well into the wee hours. I eventually had to shake the mother awake at 1 or 2am at the site of the tyke trying to escape her temporary perch half way up the wall. And then the tot was truly awake.
No amount of cajoling could get her back into her sleeping spot, but she was quite happy in the seat between her mom and me, watching a cartoon with no sound about singing animals. Sleep for me became both fitful and dangerous. Not only was I repeatedly whacked in the head by her bunny security thingy, but she decided that my seating area, and as a result my lap, chest or face, had been specially made for her to rest her feet upon. Which she would do violently and unexpectedly just as I began dozing. But there’s something special about countless cat naps filled with a giggling toddler pointing out her favorite singing pigs, lambs etc. ad infinitum.
Eventually she fell asleep with one foot on my arm and a mute pig singing in the background. Her mom was most apologetic in the morning, but really the little one was quite delightful and, to be honest, I got more sleep than usual what with the extra legroom.
My layover in Heathrow passed so quickly I barely had time for an Earl Grey tea, and before I knew it I was on my Air Canada flight to Vancouver. Their plane was shiny and new but with narrower, less padded seats and what feels like cheaper, “thinner” finishings compared to the big planes of the 1980s and 90s. Also, the crotchety cabin crew seemed to be having a bad decade and ran out of food sometime around breakfast. A cattle-class stampede was narrowly averted by one of the more experienced flight attendants, while two of the newbies were seen sobbing in the aft galley.
After the previous bulkhead experience I once again booked a similar seat, but this time was seated next to a young couple with their nursing baby. I’ve had some horrific experiences with screaming babies on planes but, incredibly, the little doll didn’t make a peep for the entire 9.5 hour flight. Clearly this is their first baby, with whom they had never flown either. Before we had even rolled away from our parking spot she was fast asleep, snoring quietly as babies do. Of course, I suggested that they wake her up before take-off to give her something to drink to help her equalize the pressure in her ears. At that the mom whipped up her shirt and attached the child to her right boob, where she stayed for 45% of the flight. The other 45% was spent on her mother’s left boob, while ten percent of the flight was given to burping, gurgling and bouncing on her dad’s knee. I was extremely grateful for those boobs as I again managed to sleep more than usual in my quiet, vast row.
I’ve had some pretty nightmarish flights in my time. This was not one of them! The chaotic arrival in Vancouver, was another story, however. But more about that another time …
(Apologies for any garbled writing as I am currently in the early throes of cross-continental jet lag.)