Flying often starts as a humdrum experience for me. I am usually tired. The night before need not be wasted. You can sleep on the flight. That’s probably best on short hauls where I always choose a seat on the left next to the window. I usually want to be alone and see the view as we take off and land. On longer flights I sit next to the aisle. For long haul flights are an opportunity for exploration and learning rather than anonomity.
I’ve met many people on flights. A few stand out. The flight from Chicago to New York with the Russian whose only English consisted of translating ‘carasho’ (it is good) after ordering yet another round of vodkas for us. I say us because sat next to me was a Swedish stripper who worked in Vegas and was on her way to see her sister. Why she her hand on my crotch I don’t know but it rested there for 4 hours. Maybe that’s what the Russian was saluting.
I remember discussing Miami with a Cuban on his way to Havana to bury his mother. Again he seemed keen to drink and being on our way to Havana, we drank a fair amount of rum and cokes. Similarly going to Kenya, I was sat with an old Indian Kenyan who insisted on drinking while he told stories of driving his VW Beetle from England to India through Afghanistan and Iran. I remember watching the Zoolander for the first time coming back from Greece with an English woman who’d been in rehab in South Africa. We giggled together, her commenting how this was far better than rehab.
I got butterflies too when I met someone on a flight from Seoul to Bangkok. The last man on the flight, I sat down in the middle aisle one seat away from her but knew I had to talk to her. Unusually pretty, she had real personality and a beautiful smile. When the plane stopped in Taipei, neither of us got off but were forced to by the staff to allow cleaning. We went for a coffee, talked and then were again separated by a passenger, this time a huge Indian guy. In Bangkok, I suggested she could stay where I was. She declined, nervous. We swapped emails and the next day, she emailed to say she wanted to stay where I was.
We stayed together for 5 days until she went south to dive and I made the bizarre decision to head into the countryside to find some temples. At 8am on our final morning, next to the monorail, shhe asked me if you can love someone after only 4 days cos…her voice trailed away. I didn’t say it but I knew the answer.