I can’t sleep sitting up. Thankfully this is not often problematic. When it does become problematic is on long haul flights. The worst in my time on this planet was with Air Lineas from Australia (Sydney or Brisbane, I forget) to Buenos Aires. The plane was old. So old the seat fabric felt like well-worn carpet and the only in-flight entertainment was a projector screen at the front of the cabin that featured some grainy Spanish-language films.
I was flying with a rugby team, so the company was at least modestly decent, if not particularly well-perfumed – a fact which became increasingly noticeable from hour 10 on as the back sweat and what we think was some kind of chilli con carne kicked in. It’s hard to put a flavour on the sort of aroma that emanated from our cabin, but if you were to bottle it as a perfume it would be called ‘Personal Space’. I’m not renowned for my empathy, but I really did feel for the poor souls stuck in there with us. I’m sure they recall their 17 hours of hell as fondly as I do.
The good news for any fellow parents is that the above still ranks as considerably worse than 12 hours to San Fran with two little yappers who spent much of the flight terrorising each other. But then I got to shift seats, leaving BB to deal with them on her own. She probably has a different opinion.
The reason for my abandonment was that we booked an Air NZ Skycouch, which allowed for the seats to transform into a bed so Hurricane and Chaos could lie flat and get some kip. They did, eventually. I watched Guardians of the Galaxy 2. Then something so unmemorable I can’t recall it. BB got stuck between the floppers and fell asleep in her breakfast.
What first struck me about arriving in San Fran (having survived a very long customs queue) was that they had airport police on Segway scooters. Hurricane asked why the very serious looking men, with guns, were riding toys. I didn’t have an answer for him. I still don’t have one. Maybe they ran a focus group, as tech people love to do, and found Segways were non-threatening to the general population but completely freaked out potential terrorists. The embarrassment of your attack being thwarted by a Segway officer would be enough to kill off any extremist movement.
We had 10 hours to spend in San Fran. We spent it all in the airport. Hurricane and I had a nice nap on the floor and then ate some unexpectedly good nachos for dinner. The calm before the storm.
It’s fair to say none of us wanted to be on another flight. Hurricane and Chaos just expressed their displeasure more forcefully. They tag-teamed it, for a good two hours. The little man kicked it off from the moment we boarded, deeply outraged that we were in the middle of the plane and he could not have a window seat. Nothing could appease him. Not even a lollipop. When he finally gave up from exhaustion and decided he wanted to sleep under our feet Chaos took her turn to stretch her lungs.
We were those people. We were both too tired to care about the dark looks being fired in our direction. To be honest I wouldn’t have cared no matter my state. Kids cry. That’s life. My sympathy these days lies with the parents, not the aggrieved bystanders. No doubt that will change when I’m old and grumpy, but that’s at least five years from now.
We arrived in Newark (New Jersey) at 7am. I’m sure the skyline looked great flying in, but you know, no window seat. We had booked a shuttle, we ended up in a private SUV. God was smiling on us. It felt like we were rolling in the Soprano’s opening credits as we set off, cruising past industrial zones and the dirt brown Hudson. It all felt very foreign, yet familiar. The reach of US pop culture, I guess.
We finally arrived. It had been 30 hours since we boarded our first flight in Auckland, and we had survived.
Though we didn’t have any sheets. Still, a sweaty sleep on a mattress protector beats no sleep in a plane seat any day.