The trip from Canada to Russia is long.
It’s always long. There used to be a direct flight from Toronto to Moscow – ten hours of cramped torture – but, that is no more. Most fly through Amsterdam or Warsaw. We land in Warsaw after eight hours on Boing 787 Dreamliner – one of the largest and newest airplanes currently in the air. And even that plane feels like a claustrophobic steel sausage stuffed with humans. I muse about whether there will ever be an airplane that is a little more respectful of the human body as it was meant to be – supportive of one’s ability to stand and walk around.
I am also must be getting old, because red eye flights are just not worth it any more. I am happy to spend a productive working day on a plane – get on in the morning, get off in the afternoon. Get some writing done, get some reading done – a little stiff, yes, but feeling accomplished. Instead, I get off the plane feeling like I’ve been run over by a herd of wild horses, where the last horse turned around, and kicked me in the stomach after spitting in my face. Perhaps, next time around a couple of days in Warsaw will be well worth it.
The layover in Warsaw is four hours, which turns into five with our next flight delayed. Sleeping on the metal benches is way more comfortable than trying to do the same in an airplane seat – both spine and neck at the angles that spine and neck were never meant to be at – so I take advantage. Some airports I spent time at, were clearly designed by individuals getting pleasure out of human suffering – with rows of benches with metal immoveable armrests in between – no rest for the wicked.
We are both exhausted – the last couple of weeks were hellish in terms of work, and house-related tasks, as we were getting ready to leave. We are overworked, under slept and over tired. Vacation is timely.
Bleary-eyed after a nap, I sit at the gate and let my eyes wander. Watching people at the arrival gates is always an elating experience – happy tears, hugs, and endless smiles, as families and long time friends are re-united. Watching people at the departure gates is an entirely different story – they are travelling together, and are therefore, in a close relationship or partnership with each other. People watching here is akin to being a fly on the wall in someone’s living room – you get to witness surprisingly intimate moments of someone else’s life.
A young family of four – mother, father, a toddler – blonde girl with pigtails, and a baby – a boy who can’t be older than 10 months. Parents play a familiar game of pass-the-baby, while keeping an eye on their daughter, who is marching around the rows of seats, and insists on not only pointing at the airplane, now clearly visible through the window, but also dragging each of her parents to the window, to make sure that they see it too. To their credit, they each take turns to walk over and marvel at the plane with her.
It is feeding time for the baby. The mother takes out a plastic container with powdered baby food, and mixes it with water, until a soupy oatmeal-like substance results. The young girl insists on feeding her brother – her dad scoops up a bit of food with a spoon, which she then directs towards the baby’s mouth. I cannot see the baby’s face, but I can assume that she is only partially successful, as her dad takes away the spoon after a couple of attempts, and proceeds to feed the baby himself. It’s a perfectly ordinary scene – one you may witness in a typical family kitchen.
A couple behind me is bickering in Russia. “I told you once, I told you twice!”, a woman’s voice repeats in a monotone. “Can you please leave me alone?”, a male’s voice snaps in response. It takes few minutes of eavesdropping to realize that they are not a couple, but rather mother and son. The mother is nagging the teenager about the fact that he did not touch his books once for the entire duration of the flight. He is too preoccupied with a game on his cell phone. A long monologue from the mother about how he is useless, and how he will not succeed in life follows. The boy is audibly annoyed, as he barks back at his mother. She shushes him, reminding him that she is, after all, his mother. “Yes, unfortunately!” is his reply. To this remark, she tells him to go to hell, as she gets up and leaves demonstratively.
I feel bad for her. I feel bad for him too.
At the cafe, a blonde woman yells at her blonde daughter: “Calm down, and eat your chocolate!”. “She’ll calm down, once she eats her chocolate”, I think to myself. At least for a little while.
Watching people at the arrival gates is always an elating experience. Watch “Love, Actually” one more time, and you’ll see what I mean. I prefer watching people, while they wait for their flight though. The scenes run the gamut from happy to sad to angry.
More messy. More real.