Monday, September 12, 2011

How could the flight have been worse?

In my mind: this might have been an improvement
"The only way that flight would have been worse is if the plane had crashed." ~ MySister

My last day in Sri Lanka was Sunday August 14. I had woken up at 5 am in Kandy, taken a 90 minute bus ride to Columbo, waited* in the Colombo airport for 5 hours, flown four hours to New Delhi, and waited** 8 hours for our plane home to Chicago to board. This story is about that plane home from Chicago. It was a 17 hour flight - but it felt longer.

*There was another group flying out of Colombo earlier than us, it made more sense to wait the extra time at the airport instead of going back to the hotel and making another run to the airport.  **The layover in Delhi was relatively painless, we experienced a grand shopping mall that existed inside an airport and experienced McDonald's without beef as an option.

But by the time we had boarded Air India Flight 127, it was 1 AM. I had been awake for 20 straight hours and still had another hour before the flight would takeoff. That was the longest hour of my life.

The Boeing 777 jet was packed. MySister & I were unable to change our seats, which we desperately wanted because we were separated on the flight. The plane has a window-middle-aisle-()-aisle-middle-aisle-()-aisle-middle-window configuration: MySister was in one of the "side-middle" seats and I was stuck in a "middle-middle" arrangement. Same row, but just far enough away that we couldn't easily communicate with each other: we were both on our own.

The four seats to my left were for a family of four: the two parents, a 4 year old daughter, and an infant son. It was the second row of the economy (coach) section, and of the 18 passengers total in the first two rows, six of the passengers were crying babies... at 1 AM. But none of those six crying babies were my biggest problem. Immediately to my left was the patriarch of that family of four. I'm not happy to admit this, but I've never wanted to punch a man in the face more than him. The following are his offenses:
  • Instantly removing his shoes and socks after seating
  • Playing with the tray table as if he didn't know how it worked before takeoff
  • Deciding to lean entirely on the armrest between us (instead of the other one on the aisle, that was shared with no one)
  • Leaning his face clearly over the invisible border between us to read the book I was attempting to read
  • Dancing feet, row seat shaking dancing feet (he was not listening to music)
  • Punching his leg, violently, which he had placed on top of his tray table
Yes, he put his leg on the tray table. And yes, all of these offenses were occurring in the initial hour after I had boarded - before takeoff. While his leg was propped up on the tray table, he began punching it - hard. He wouldn't go 3 seconds before the next rabbit punch to his leg. I've re-enacted this scene to a few people, and each time I stress that I'm not hitting my leg as hard as he was his. The only one more bothered than me by this was the poor man in the seat ahead of him. Thank God nobody behind me had lifted their leg to lay on a table and begin rocking the hell out of it through calf violence.

It was only though a more bizarre act that I was saved on this flight. After we had taken off and the seatbelt light went off, that man moved away from me. He spent most of the flight making the rounds of the airplane and guarding watch over his family. Why would his family need a guard?  Because his wife was sleeping ON THE FLOOR OF THE PLANE! Meanwhile, his infant son was sprawled out along two seats and his daughter was standing on the third seat. If only I was an artist - I would illustrate how a mother could squeeze between two rows of seats in the fetal position under a tiny airline blanket.

Life Saver
My saving grace were my large over the ear headphones and my fully charged iPod. Specific thanks to the comic duo (and twin brothers) Randy & Jason Sklar. Their podcast helped me through that long journey. I had written them an e-mail of thanks after my arrival - and they replied in appreciation. I will repeat my sentiment in early December when I see them perform live (they usually sell merch themselves after shows).

Sadly, MySister was not as fortunate. The headphones she had brought were not as loud as mine - not louder than the many crying babies. Worse for her, she was flanked on both sides by less than positively fragrant men in a perpetual lean invading her personal comfort. The quote at the the post is very real - it was uttered before we even exited the jet-way at the terminal.

The entire situation left me more delirious than exhausted. I didn't sleep at all. All food was refused (note: if you think airplane food is bad, try adding curry to it). Did I get up once? NO. That's right - I freakin' locked myself into that "middle-middle," dialed my headphones up to volume 11 and RODE THAT FREAKIN' PLANE - RODE IT G.D. HARD.

You ran a marathon? Good for you. You swam a large body of water? Beautiful. I've had my endurance test - it was Air India Flight 127.


  1. I have heard nothing good about this airline. this just adds to the negative reviews!

  2. In all fairness, all of my complaints are solely with the fellow passengers - not on the airline itself.