Friday, June 5, 2009

Boston to Paris (5/6/09)

Everything was a white fog when we left Boston. There was no visible moment where we broke through a layer of the stratosphere to hover above the clouds; this is usually my favorite moment in flight. I could not see the city fade nor delineate the horizon. Sometime in the night the sky cleared. There was still a dense and seemingly impermeable layer of cloud cover, but the pilot had maneuvered us above it onto a clear night highway at some point while I dozed. It was bright above the clouds, so much so that it scarcely seemed to be night. The moon was large and reflected off of the clouds, trapping the plane between planes of light. I slept a fitful airplane chair half sleep, neck craned at unnatural angles, chin propped up with crumpled airline blankets, limbs contorted beneath seats that also serve as flotation devices.

Paris weather was a twin to Boston; on either side of the Atlantic cities were wreathed in fog. Not just wreathed by it but full of it. The grey mist hung heavy in the air, darker in corners and under wings where workers in jump suits loaded baggage onto caterpillar like golf carts, a train of luggage trailing behind them. The airport was deserted at 7am, the shops closed, metal screens drawn. Those poles with the retractable elastic bands which would create an orderly queue from a chaotic jumble of passengers stood silent, in a bit of a jumble themselves, like sleeping sentries propped up against a wall.

I slept again. I folded my torso in between the armrests of several chairs linked together and bolted to the floor, knees angled up, boots jutting out, arms folded across my bag, which rested on my chest. A bad idea; I awoke sometime later to the crush of cold metal on my neck as other passengers began to trickle in, slowly accumulating like condensation on a window, until almost unnoticed, the seats were overflowing and tired looking travelers ran like rivulets down the aisles.

I struck up a conversation with a fellow to my left that we maintained with some effort, struggling a bit after the formalities of asking the time. We shook hands and passed names between us. He works in Connecticut, had gone to school in Boulder, is an engineer at an important sounding company, and was returning home to India to visit family after an eight year absence. We discussed Advaita-Vedanta philosophy, which he said brought him peace and filled in those gaps in the world order that physics could not complete. This was after a bout with an ISKON temple in Mumbai, which struck me as amusing for an otherwise practical seeming engineer. He was quite friendly, if a bit awkward and stilted.

My erstwhile travel companion appeared at a moment when the conversation had begun to lull. I had expected her much earlier, forgetting that first class fliers get separate everything, including a lounge with snacks (my stomach was grumbling). I did not however, envy her the first class in flight dinner consisting of foix grois, which she luckily slept through. We snuck into the first class lounge together, where I briefly checked my email (free wireless, what a life!), and then returned to the gate where folks had begun boarding in neat orderly lines commanded by the metal sentries with their uniform of blue retractable dividers.

I am now once again aboard an Air France plane, watching drops of water collect on the window before plummeting out of site. I must admit I feel like shit. I haven’t had any caffeine for… more than 24 hours now. Why? I don’t know. I didn’t drink any the day I left so I could sleep on the plane, then didn’t drink any on the plane because I was half sleeping. My stomach is mostly empty and unhappy. The vegetarian fare on my last flight was less than inspiring, but I’m holding out hope for this one, as I expect the veg/non-veg ratio will improve on a flight bound for India. I want to go back to sleep but I should fight it and stay awake until we hit Delhi.

Also, my seat is right by the lavatories and I can hear folks urinating. India here I come!

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