It’s 4pm on a sunny Tuesday, January 1st 2019. Amazing to think just a few short years ago, or nearly twenty years in fact, yesterday, we were all concerned about aeroplanes falling out of the sky when the clock struck midnight. As it turned out, almost none of the things the doomsayers had predicted would happen as the millennium turned, happened. Not a single aeroplane plummeted to the ground because it could no longer tell the time.
As one is sitting contemplating a sunny afternoon, just a year away from 2020, when we were all supposed to live in sky towers and get around by hover jet or teleportation, one contemplates.
I was contemplating that I should renew my passport. I haven’t any plans for any border crossings anytime soon, but I can’t imagine having an expired passport. My passport expires in May.
This got me on to further contemplation of the horrors of long haul jet travel, as once you get past Australia or the Pacific Islands, all air travel from New Zealand is of the long haul variety. Long haul travel is a truly awful experience for me and usually for only one reason, as it is for most people, but more so for people of my dimensions, long and large.
It need not be awful if you have a lot of money and can afford the big chairs or recliners, or a suite, but I can’t so it invariably offers me a long sit down in the cheap seats. It’s deeply unpleasant having strangers with odd habits sleeping or eating far too close to you, never mind having to share an increasingly deteriorating public toilet situation.
There is only one thing though, which makes such a journey barely bearable. It should actually be quite pleasant, having nothing to do but relax for hours on end, watch movies, read a book, have a loaf without feeling guilty about the chores being left undone.
But instead, even though you hadn’t taken a long haul flight for a while after vowing the last time that you’d never do it again, the horror long forgotten like those childhood memories you’d blanked into oblivion because they were too awful to remember and would otherwise scar you for life. You book another long haul flight to visit somewhere on the other side of the world.
You might actually look forward to the trip, excited about the renewed acquaintances with long lost friends and places, or the thrill of going somewhere altogether new. You’ll count down the days, get up too early on the day of the flight and get to the airport far too early as well, because you didn’t want to get caught up in something that never actually happens on the way to the airport. You’ll have packed far too much stuff to take because you might want to change half a dozen times a day at your destination and you need to plan for any climatic conditions the planet has to offer, even though you are heading somewhere with a climate similar to the one you are leaving today, or the opposite because we live on the bottom of the world, where we have four seasons in one day. So you pack your entire wardrobe in to a bag you could barely squeeze shut.
Boarding the aeroplane is exciting and you’ll check your boarding pass approximately 15 times between being it issued and you getting to the door of the aircraft because you’ve somehow lost the ability to recall one or two numeric digits and a single letter. You walk too far down the tiny isle of seats abreast with hundreds of strangers taking too long to stash a bag above their head, which neatly brings me on to the worst bit of long haul, or any air travel. The tiny piece of plastic covered in fabric they use as a seat on these vessels.
The minute you sit on it, and you do sit on, not in these seats, wedged in like you’ve been placed in a vice, and it all comes flooding back. You’ve been there approximately 25 seconds and you are already uncomfortable, with 25 hours to go.
The memories you’d scrubbed from your sub conscious of the last time you sat here, on the hard plastic thing covered in fabric, wedged in between two unyielding vice arms, next to god knows who because they haven’t boarded yet and you scan the approaching hordes, every one you see, you think ‘please don’t sit there. But they always do. ‘Please don’t speak to me’ as you close your eyes, a last effort to teleport yourself to the other end as we should be able to do by now.
I last took that flight two years ago, to a ruined Christmas, but that’s another story. This time I haven’t stored the horror away anywhere, because I also had to navigate American border security twice as a transit passenger. I will never do that again, never not ever. Surely the only worse place in the world than an American Airport border is a prison? Actually it seems they are more and more becoming one and the same, but that’s also another story.
Moving on from the small piece of plastic covered in fabric masquerading as a chair in a vice, further contemplation, about renewing my passport. Where might I go with it and which border would I cross? I will certainly be extremely reluctant to ever spend more than a small handful of hours in an aeroplane ever again but if I did, the only place I will most likely make the effort to make a special trip to, is France. I don’t need to qualify that with an essay as to why. Simply that France is the only place I would willingly endure a long haul flight to visit instead of staying home.
I can’t imagine ever having the time or money to visit South America, plus I don’t speak Spanish or Portuguese and I don’t like being murdered by bandits or killed in a drive by shooting by the henchmen of a drug cartel. I will not visit the USA while the orange lunatic is in charge and frankly, there are too many millions of his fans walking the streets of middle America to make me getting into a fight with one unlikely. I don’t want to die in an American prison for murdering an ignorant simpleton.
Africa and Asia hold no interest for me at all because of the hordes of people, giant hornets, water borne things that swim up your wee and infest your innards, eye eating brain diseases, dog kebabs, open sewers and man-eating animals.
The rest of Europe is alright but the people are a bit strange, I don’t speak the languages and the rest of Europe isn’t France.
I might also go to Canada though; I read a pamphlet on how to avoid being eaten by a bear so that single, but ever present threat is minimised. True story, people walking the dog, or playing golf, get eaten by Grizzly Bears all the time in Canada, because they didn’t bother with the pamphlet about how to survive bear attacks.
Fortunately for me, I live in New Zealand, which is on pretty much everyone’s bucket list, and while Australia is almost too close for comfort, we have an abundance of idyllic Pacific Island paradises, about 3 hours northeast and north west of here.
I like the sound of New Caledonia. I expect that’s where I’ll cross a border next. A little bit of France, conveniently located very far from the Britain of Brexit, unmade beds and ruined Christmases, and quite near to my large, comfortable leather man chair, where this contemplation started, approximately 1 hour ago. Just one third of the flying time to Noumea.