That feeling in my gut is back, a feeling I lost when I spent seven months continually travelling in 2008, and it’s a feeling that I’ve managed to keep at bay since then. That feeling of dreading a journey. Mostly this is because of the idiotic security at airports making them wholly unpleasant places to be. But that’s not all of it. I have never lost that inability to sleep the night before a flight. Doesn’t matter if I drink less coffee, and have a couple of beers to make me sleepier. I go to bed around midnight, watch a movie to help me doze off. But it doesn’t work. I lay there twitching, awake, and totally aware that I need. To. Sleep. Now. And I’ll fret about sleeping through the alarm, but I never do. I’m awake three hours before I need to leave the apartment. And because I’m all packed and ready to go, there’s really nowt to do.
But the journey to the airport felt nice. I don’t really think of Mexico City as that alien a place any more. It’s still not entirely home, but it’s definitely not a strange, unknown place. Occasionally, though, I’ll be reminded of what it felt like the first time I visited. Something about the air, the smell, and the journey along the road near to the hotel. I see buildings that normally I don’t see. Industrial buildings, auto repair shops, half-finished buildings, restaurants that I will never eat in next to eight lanes of traffic, and when the road is elevated, a view over the top of buildings, so, through the smog, I can see a few landmarks that mark out parts of the city that I know, and other buildings that make me wonder is what up in that part of the city.
A tip for non-Americans flying from Mexico to anywhere: do it on Thanksgiving. Mexico City airport was pretty much the emptiest I’ve ever seen an international airport in the daytime. I walked straight up to the check-in desk. Got my boarding pass, went outside for one last smoke, and then to the security thingy. No queue there, either. The four lanes of security were empty. I was the only person there, so it was kind of nice to do the stripping off of shoes, belt, jacket, wallet, iPod, metal things, and removing my laptop; doing all of that without the hurried feeling of someone behind me nudging the tray along the conveyor belt area.
If you are like me – a curmudgeon – you’ll pick someone to hate in the departure lounge. Sometimes it’s tough (for example, in San Salvador on a flight to Belize City), but most of the time, it’s pretty easy. There’ll be someone who you just don’t like the look of. This time it was a guy with slicked-back hair barking into his Blackberry and walking up and down the rows of seats. Obviously his conversation was incredibly important, because he was kind enough to share it with everyone waiting for the flight.
They announced that passengers who need assistance and The Super Duper Better People could board the plane. Then the folks at the back, and then the folks in the middle. Usually, when you’re in that last group of people, there’s just a ton of scrambling, people neeeeeeding to be on the plane right now. But, with the whole Thanksgiving thing, there weren’t many of us. The plane itself was only about a third full. I had an entire row to myself. (Even though Thanksgiving can’t really explain why a flight that doesn’t stop at all in the U.S. would be so empty.)
The pilot came on the PA system, and introduced himself as Craig Something. I kind of felt a wee bit safer knowing we shared a name. He’d not let a fellow Craig die in a flaming mess of metal and cliff face.
Now that there are the fancy touch screen entertainment systems on planes (which, as a user experience, are even worse than using the iTunes store), with all the different movies, TV shows, music etc., it’s pretty difficult not to be entertained during a flight. They had “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” on there. It’s always gonna trump pretty much 99% of movie possibilities, that one. (“Those aren’t pillows!”)
Crappy lasagne. And then watched some of Cowboys and Aliens. Got about 45 minutes in and it was just kinda dull. There’s this moment early on, when they’ve been talking about a character, we know this character is powerful, and when we finally see him, the camera is behind him, the music swells, he turns around, and it’s Harrison Ford. Isn’t it a bit odd to include something in a story that is solely about us recognising an actor from other stuff? Aren’t you essentially saying, “Ta-da! Look! It’s Han Solo stroke Indiana Jones!”? And while Olivia Wilde is clearly an attractive human, I couldn’t quite get it out of my head that she looked a bit like the singer from Fields of the Nephilim.
I gave up on the movie, and stared out of the window, and watched the map thingy. Flying over the United States is enjoyable. And my brain does something that reminds me of when I worked for a record distribution company. Back then, if I met someone from, say, Chatham in Kent, I would know that their local record shop was called Loco. And now, being a fan of an American sports, I see towns on a map, and the journey is a beautiful collection of major league teams, minor league teams, defunct teams, Negro League teams: Pelicans, Black Barons, Biscuits, Lookouts, Redbirds, Sounds, Hot Rods, Colonels, Reds, Clippers, Indians.
As we flew over Cleveland, I knew that my friend Pete – who lives in New York, but is from Cleveland – would be somewhere in the sodium glow beneath me. It’s funny to think that he and I email each other pretty much daily, and we’ve only met once, two years ago, which was after a handful of work-related emails lead to us having a meeting, and this moment, 30,000 feet in the air, was the closest we’d been to each other since then.
As the plane got closer to its destination, we got lower and lower, the light pollution reflecting off the underside of the clouds created a nice effect where it was like looking out at some sort of nebula. Like when you’ve got a cheap duvet which has got a bit lumpy, and you look through it and some bits are darker. And there’s lots of white and orange points, street lights and buildings. But the cloud cover meant I couldn’t see the CN Tower. Toronto is kinda non-descript from the air at night.
This obviously will sound stupid to people who live in countries that have well-defined seasons, but after a year and a half being in a country where the winters are mild, and wearing a sweater is the most you’d ever really need in November or December, it was a nice novelty walking out of the airport and breathing in cold, crisp air. But, this is getting long, and this journey was a week ago, and I’ve been too busy to write about anything else. Not that I’ve done a huge amount. Hanging out with friends, mostly. And now I’m boring myself, so I will stop typing.