Journeys are the midwives of thought

"Journeys are the midwives of thought. Few places are more conducive to internal conversations than a moving plane, ship or train".1

As your eyes come to rest on a landscape passing you by too fast to focus on, or too high to see detail or so monotonous it won’t change for hours beyond landless seas and cloudy skies or the blue of the seat in front, your thoughts are left to rest on all that is within. At least until they are rudely interrupted by the stench of humanity.

The back of my seat shares a common wall with that of the bathroom. The meal of red curry chicken did the smell emitting from not far enough beyond no favours. Blessedly there was an air-freshener wielding angel wrapped in Singaporean batik, red lipped, with surprisingly large boobs. She masks the smell that engulfs our oxygen. The first connecting flight boards in Singapore at eleven that night. Its twenty-nine degrees and I have time not enough even to piss.

‘Are you 28K?’ I ask the woman in my seat.
‘No, I’m 30, it goes 28, 29, 30,’ she points across the row. I hate how idiots try and justify themselves.

If ever I was to understand the thinking of an aristocrat De Botton refers to in The Art of Travel it is now. "He rarely went anywhere to avoid what he took as the ugliness and stupidity of others”.2

I don’t bother explaining the numbers are the rows, the letters the seats and that she’s in 28. She moves not without a huff and the boys beside me prefer me. My seat this time is the very first row as opposed to the last, so we have heaps of room at our feet, all of which is required by the three six foot something Germans beside me. I set up my legroom like my bedroom and my crap is sprawled on the ground about me. The guy next to me doesn’t use his pillow, so I have two and he helps me with my tray table, bless.

I see lots of German words and hear lots of German voices and I am not used to not understanding what is going on around me, but this is what excites me. I try to drill the new words into my head.

‘Turkey or Fish?’ I hear. Oh, I wish they’d serve sleep. I look out the window at God knows where and the stars in the sky are stunning, like tiny light bulbs poking through the ceiling of a black marquee and I am grateful for that.

This Frankfurt leg flies through a small scrap of turbulence with the unwelcome arrival of my ‘visitors’. At least that explains the emotional wreck I’ve been. Wrestling an unexpectedly required tampon from the depths of my backpack, I extracted my cleanser, toner and moisturiser while I was there. It was during turkey-fish time that I performed my ablutions so I wasn’t holding anyone up. Good on me. I was missing for a while though and those boys must have thought I was Miss Super-High-Maintenance.

It’s cold like Brie warned. My wise beyond her size little sister sent me a ‘what to pack’ list before I left to meet her in London. I put on the puffy pink socks my older sister bought and wrapped myself in the small plane blanket and $18 Miranda Fair pashmina. It ain’t quite doing the job, but what can one do? I’m left to wonder what else Brie told me that I didn’t heed, but reject retrospection in favour of sleep. Foul uncomfortable sleep. It’s 5am Frankfurt time and home would have just finished lunch. I left my clock on Sydney time because I like to know what my real life is doing without me.

I’ve decided I hate Lufthansa seats and what’s with breakfast? Sausages, spinach, potatoes boiled and little squares of fried potato, add to that a rock like raisin muffin, cold croissant, fruit yoghurt and bread roll – to think it all fits on a single plastic tray. The boy next to me was nice, let’s face it, he left me there asleep on his shoulder for much of the trip, but please can he stop yawning? That German morning breath is killing me.

I go and freshen up in the airport bathroom and realise the day has come that I always hoped never would…that I can’t leave the house without make up. I should have looked after my skin while it was good, now I have to resort to damage control. He told me I’d get lost at Frankfurt airport, so I was a little concerned when everyone went their own way and I was left with a pack of smokers who soon dispersed. I wait for the gate number to appear, even though I’ve already asked a member of staff and been given the answer, I like to see for myself (there I go again, never trust anyone).

I sit there and I think how I didn’t drink enough water, how I have a headache and how I don’t know where my hours went. I wonder if I’ll get served another breakfast on the onward flight and then when I land its only 8.25am and I can have another. This travelling midwife is really here for the long haul.

I wonder if I’ll even like travelling and if I’ll like travelling alone because sitting in airports isn’t all that fun. Then again, there is nothing to talk about at airports. Everyone feels crap and tired and at least if you’re on your own, you don’t have to listen to anyone else’s whinging. I've always thought there to be a mild deafness associated with airports. I find terminals surprisingly quiet. You rarely hear others speaking and there's a hum in this transient part of the world like an atmosphere on mute, like the ear-popping deafness you get when your thousands of miles in the sky yet you haven't left earth yet.

Oh, how could I forget? We got Magnum ice creams for dessert on Singapore Airlines. Mmm

1 De Botton, Alain, The Art of Travel, pg 57
2 De Botton,Alain, The Art of Travel, pg 10 cites Huysman, J.-K., A Rebours, referring to the behaviours of Duc des Esseintes.

1 comment:

  1. Amazing story.

    I've always liked traveling by myself.

    I'm content at airports as long as I'm not waiting around for a long time :)