Visiting the U.K. – Part 4


You know how they talk about cabin fever? I think it could be applied to aircraft cabins as well. You sit here for hours with nowhere to go and very little to do, and in my case right now the scenery outside is nonexistent, just blackness. My seat is close to one of the engines though, so I can at least see the blinking lights on the wing when I look out the window.

I’d never flown before this trip, so being in a plane for six hours seemed unbearable. I had packed all sorts of things to keep my ADHD tendencies in check: my PSP, my Nintendo DS, my new Kindle, a notebook and pencil for writing (which became my trip journal), and so on. The problem with all of this is that much like the stock photo I chose, the cabin was plunged into bedtime mode. Everyone went to sleep and everything I’d brought to entertain myself had these brilliantly bright screens that in the darkness seemed like frickin’ spotlights.

It was a seriously bizarre experience though. I did sleep some. The sensation of someone stomping past you on a hollowish floor where you get that bouncy feeling – that kept cropping up in my sleep. I slept pretty fitfully because of it and at one point I woke up abruptly, and I bolted up and completely panicked. I couldn’t remember where I was or why on Earth I was sleeping with so many other people around me.

For a moment, there was this strange collective-unit and we were all part of it. We all obediently shut our eyes and went to sleep when the flight attendants turned off the lights. We had all gotten out our pillows and blankets and curled up – every last one of us. So when I woke so abruptly and sat up and looked around at all the reclined seats, I felt somewhat odd, as if I’d broken some precious vase that’d been in the family for years and at any moment dozens of angry eyes were going to turn on me. But everyone continued to sleep…completely uninterested in the presence of anyone else.

It was at that moment that I realized just how truly alone we can be when we’re surrounded by others. I was there with over a hundred people, but I was no longer part of that collective. I was awake and on my own. I was just one more among many, no more special than the guy next to me. Perhaps I thought so deeply about the subject because I was unable to go back to sleep, and I had nothing to occupy my thoughts, as I didn’t want to to disturb anyone by turning on the lights or turning on any of my gadgets. Eventually, one other guy woke up and I decided I couldn’t keep staring around the cabin, it might’ve weirded him out since it’d look like I was just staring him down. So I went back to writing:

Truth is…I’m writing this in the dark, using the light from up in the little kitchen area [which I now know is called the galley] — I have my own lights but I don’t want to disturb anyone. I think myself and one guy on his phone/ipod might be the only two people awake in this section of the plane. It’s not bad though, the light is more than sufficient.

What’s not sufficient is the angle of this seat. My tail bone is hurting me. I’m trying to sit somewhat forward but my ass hurts! Also, they keep refilling my water since I’m awake and I feel obliged to keep sipping it — so I have to pee something fierce! But the guy in the aisle seat, a nice polite fellow, is asleep and completely reclined so I can’t get out of my seat…thus, the drawback to window seats. Now it all makes sense.

Here I should explain that prior to my trip, I  had decided that floor desks were the new way to go! The news had recently gone the way of death by computer chair, detailing the way the human body wasn’t naturally made for postures imposed upon you by comfy padded leather. (HMPH!) So, having the minor discomfort in my back that I sometimes have (I still think Aikido is somehow to blame…) I thought that sitting on the floor would be the best option.

I moved my desk and chair out and moved a short table in and spent the next weeks sitting on a cushion on the floor. The result? My back felt AMAZING – but my left leg routinely fell asleep and I ended up somehow bruising my tailbone. Apparently, my ass can’t handle that much constant contact with a hardwood floor. Only days before my trip had the tenderness in my tailbone area relented (I’d turned to sitting in a gaming-rocker chair thing.)

So the lesson behind revealing all this? Don’t sit on your ass for too long or it’ll hurt when you sit on your ass for too long. And when you’re in a plane – especially the window seat – you don’t have the luxury of getting up and moving around to take away that pressure.

 So, it’s roughly something like 6 AM, and I’m sitting in the arrivals area of Heathrow Airport. It’s not quite as grand as I’d expected. Turns out we had at least 1 American flight attendant – and funnily enough, hers was the only name I ever saw: Anna.

Kyle [my younger brother] said it could be a while before he got here [depending on what times the trains would leave Dundee], so I’m trying not to look overly nervous or freaked out. [This was because now that I'd gotten off the plane, I had no idea what to do next, except wait on him.]

I had always wondered if the line of people holding name cards was as real as they make it out to be in movies, and there really are several people walking around/standing in a line holding name card of people they’re meant to meet. It simply amuses me!

You have NO IDEA how hard I tried to find a picture of the waiting area inside Heathrow Airport, specifically Terminal 1 where I sat for hours on a frigid metal bench by the doors while waiting on my brother to come pick me up. It seems I wasn’t the only one who was too tired and bored to even think of taking a picture. I should have. I didn’t document this trip as well as I’d have liked.

I did learn that most people take pictures of the “International Arrivals” sign on the wall – the words… You’re photographing words. Words that aren’t even an indicator of where you were. You could travel the world and years and years later see that picture – “International Arrivals!” and sit there thinking, “What the hell? This could have been anywhere.”

How original.

This means I failed in my quest to find a picture of the cluster of benches where I sat. If you have a picture of the waiting area for international flights inside Terminal 1 in Heathrow, it’d be awesome if you’d link me to it. As it is, this is the about the closest I could find:

At least I walked through those doors…the benches should be on the area just to the right of this photo, on the other side of that wavy light. But this isn’t my photo. I found it on Google images and it didn’t seem to have a clear trail back to who it belongs to, so if it’s yours, Thanks! or Sorry! <– whichever applies to how you feel about me using it. That’s also about how it looked when we landed – there was NO ONE in the airport. It was like 5:55 AM but still, Hollywood, you know? I was led to believe Heathrow would be bustling at all times.

It’s now 1 AM back home, which means its 7 AM here. If my brother really  can’t get here til 9, then I have two more hours to keep myself entertained somehow. The airport picked up a bit after 6:30, so for a few little bursts as the flights arrived, it looked more like I was expecting. It’s a lot of fun to watch reunions, it’s kind of uplifting. But dang! [What? Was I censoring myself in my journal? I never say "dang."] It is cold here, and I haven’t even gone outside yet! I can just feel the air coming in the door.

There is internet here — or so says my iPod. Says its an open network too, but nothing will work or connect properly. I wanted to let home know I’d made it okay, but I can’t even get an email off. Have to try and solve that later on. Also, for some reason, it smells like steaks in here.

 There is a small airport eatery behind me called “Costa” but are they grilling up steaks at 7AM? What’s the average English breakfast like? Maybe they are grilling steak. Who knows? All I do know is that I’m sitting here hoping there isn’t more than one International Arrivals area…and for all I know, there probably is.

Today, I guess, is tomorrow becoming today – so yesterday and today? Which means I’d be talking about yesterday now? The whole day with all the flights and travel — the whole new experience…everything has felt so, so surreal. I literally felt like  I was in a dream while on those planes. The fact that I’m sitting in Heathrow waiting — well, that feels more real. There’s never any waiting in dreams…everything just happens. Waiting is real.

And there are my deep, insightful words for the year…or whatever. I stopped writing at that point. I was getting tired, so I decided to go change from my slacks into my jeans (partly to be better insulated against the freaking cold blowing in through the doors and partly to just be more comfortable.) I then spent a while playing with my PSP until it died.

Turns out that my brother had been at Heathrow since 2AM. He’d caught one of the last late trains out from Dundee and just decided to sleep a few hours til I arrived. When my arrival time came and went, he decided to ask where the plane was — turns out he was at the wrong terminal. By the time he made it to where I was, I’d already been waiting for two hours.

But that’s the way the world works, isn’t it? I mean, like I said – waiting is real.



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