After a layover in Moscow we hop onto another, smaller, Aeroflot jet to complete the last 4 hours to Tel Aviv. Two things were notable on this leg of the journey. The first was a mom and daughter with whom we shared a row. The flight attendant presented this young family with a package of goodies designed for juvenile passengers. The daughter was symbiotic with a handheld entertainment device and could not be bothered with the mundanity of airline trinkets. The mother, however, lit up like a Christmas tree at the sight of the package. With great delight she dug through the package and vainly attempted to impress it’s worth onto her daughter. Her sheer joy at receiving this unexpected bounty warmed the cockles of my heart, which is good, because I don’t like cold cockles.
The next notable event happened just minutes later. I am sure it happened on the previous flight, but I did not have a screen in front of me on that part of the journey. I was sitting innocently in my seat solving a sudoku puzzle as a I awaited take off when my screen came to life with the Aeroflot logo. The scene switched to a tall blond strolling in slow motion to some unseen destination of great importance as the wind blows her hair. It appears she is heading out for a night on the town as she is wearing 4-inch pumps. At this point her feet are joined by several identical legs in equally absurd footwear. The camera pulls back to reveal a phalanx of women that we are supposed to believe are a flight crew from Aeroflot. (I noticed that our flight crew all wore very practical flats to avoid breaking an ankle while serving you a thimble of room-temperature water.) This was the intro to the safety instructions. I did not watch the video to the end, but I never watch all the safety instructions. I refuse to believe that a plane will crash if my tray table is not latched or my seat is not in the full, upright position. I also don’t think if the engines drop off the plane and we plummet 50,000 feet into the Northern Sea that the first thing on my mind will be “how do I blow into this tube protruding from the rubber sport coat I’m wearing.” More likely, the first thing that goes through my mind will be my knees. The majority of the safety instructions are for people who have no business traveling unsupervised. If you are foolish enough to leave your chaperone at home when you can’t find your way out of a hallway where eight doorways have just opened and have flashing signs to tell you to exit, then Darwin says you should remain in your seat with your seatbelt securely fastened so you can improve the gene pool by removing yourself.
Traveling to Burundi was fairly uneventful…if you don’t count the lack of air conditioning in the plane. I don’t want to over-state the conditions on the plane, but if there was an oven near by I would have put my head in it for a breath of fresh air. I had a small concern that the plane had crashed and I was now in hell just hallucinating the plane. The heat combined with my lack of a shower had me feeling like a link of sausage left in the sun for a week ready to burst through the casing. I imagine that is how I smelled as well. As a bonus, the heat prevented sleep. I was able to get a good thirty minutes, broken into several smaller chunks, of sleep.
May 30th, 2:30 am. I have almost everything ready for departure to Africa, but I’m exhausted and I need to get some sleep.
3:30 am. The alarm on my phone is making an unholy racket as it terminates my one-hour nap. I wake up Judi and announce it is time for us to get ready to meet the rest of the teem at 4:30
4:25 am. My phone wakes me up again with Vickie asking if we are up yet. An inauspicious start to our trip. We skip our showers as we head out for 24 hours of travel.
S’Won shows up at 3:00 pm sharp to shuttle us to the airport and deposits us on the curb without incident. With ample time to check in and a short security line we start thinking about food. We fly through security despite having a bagful of lithium batteries and forgetting to remove our liquids or my C-PAP machine. I’ll have to up the ante next time by tossing a couple of knives and the schematics of an embassy in my bag.
Memories of my previous international travel have my excitement and anticipation at a high level. We board American flight 718 for my first international flight aboard an American airline. I try to find the source of my growing disappointment. There are no glitches, we are on time, there is ample room for our carry-ons…it hits me. The flight is so…well…American. No fancy accents, no exotic foods, no communication mishaps; I may as well be flying to Chicago. With all the customary American luxury in place there is nothing left to do but watch movies on the LCD monitor embedded in the headrest of the seat in front of me.
Out of the corner of my eye I notice my son, Ethan, is watching a variety of channels. I play it cool, too embarrassed to admit that I can’t find the “On” button. In classic adolescent disgust, Ethan leans over and points at my monitor where it states, “Touch screen to begin.” Oh. That’s what that means. With the mystery of the device unlocked, nothing impedes my quest for hours of mind-numbing entertainment. To reduce sensory overload I filter to action movies, and now the fun begins. I see a movie that both looks interesting and was not filmed in the 70s – a standout in airline offerings. I confidently touch the icon of the movie and wait…nothing happens. I touch it again and a window pops up with a brief description and the options, “More Info” and “Cancel,” but no play. I touch “More Info,” nothing happens. “More Info” again and a new screen opens with an identical description (apparently we are starting to encounter a communication mishap over the meaning of the word “more”) and two new buttons: “Preview” and “Play.” I touch “Preview” because I am a slow learner. Nothing happens. Touch it again and a preview commences. It looks interesting so I touch the “Play” button when the screen returns to the “More” page. Nothing happens. Undaunted, I press it again. Nothing happens. Confused, I touch it again – nothing. I touch it again with identical results. Now I tap the screen with the ferocity of a woodpecker building a home in a rock maple tree. Suddenly the screen switches to play the movie and I let out a triumphant sigh having bent the screen to my will. My victory was short-lived as the movie playing is not the movie I selected. I surrender. My family is now asleep, we are already past Iceland, and I am clearly no match for the demon-display. I guess this is an international flight after all.