He never met an airplane he liked. First off, while he understood that there was some scientific aerodynamic explanation, it was beyond his comprehension how nearly a million-pound metal contraption could ascend and continue flying through the air without plummeting. Secondly, he was never able to appreciate why passengers always applauded as the airplane came to a landing. Was that not the normal, intended outcome? Or was that because, every single person was equally as anxious and relieved, as he was?
His very first flight had been to London in the early 70s. White knuckled at take off he attempted to relax and find a comfortable position. While the seating was alright, with only Wife and he in the side aisle, leg room was nonexistent. Attendants were quick to discourage outstretched legs blocking their narrow walk-way. Such was the journey on economical flights. Lengthy. Tedious. Then ‒ the inevitable restless leg syndrome, followed by twinges of claustrophobia. Seven and a half hours seem to be a lifetime of distress.
And, whatever possessed him to travel to China? It was a lark. Business combined with pleasure. The misery encountered on previous occasions was forgotten. As expected, the time arriving in Beijing was exceedingly long. After a while, binging on videos loses its appeal. Even the smiling Asian girls ready with luxury items like slippers, eye covers and warm noodle soup become an annoyance. The flight back home, however, was a different story! It began well enough. Having a government issued passport he was bumped up to business class. What an unexpected delight! But then it happened. Every travellers nightmare. Fortunately, he had the personal use of one toilet cubicle at his disposal. Sadly, all the fascinating drinks, appetizers, and ongoing meal offers were wasted on him. This was before the dreaded SARS and the current Corona-virus outbreak. Nevertheless, the mysterious illness he contracted resulted in a two-week home confinement.
One would hope that such unfortunate memories would remain thus ‒ a memory! But nay. Following a glorious journey through Italy, the final evening of the coach tour was an anniversary celebration for a young couple. The event was held in a fantastic vineyard eatery, with flowing wine and ample nourishment. On the way back to the coach, he noted the male of the young couple heading behind a bush; the sound emerging was unmistakable: throwing up the entire meal. Snug in his bed, he decided not to worry. The next morning, he continued to be well. After his shower and packing the last bits of clothing, he was about to head for the buffet breakfast, when a sudden queasiness over took him. Barely able to reach the toilet bowl, he was overwhelmed by the amount of last evening’s meal that continued to hurl from his mouth. Downstairs, the normally agreeable whiff of bacon and coffee turned against him as he headed for a washroom, again barely reaching the cubicle. He asked the driver delivering them to the airport, if he might sit at the front of the coach. A touchy journey, but he arrived without incident. Until ‒ while rushing to the nearest facility in the airport, he pretty well destroyed his brand-new scarf with the gunk that poured from his inners. At the boarding desk, he begged to be seated near the washroom on the flight. He must have been quite ashen as the attendant instantly took pity and revised his seat. It wasn’t enough that he would experience the same irritation he always did on a flight, now added to it was the uncertainty of how long he would manage to keep down whatever else was still lurking to explode.
As of late, the other airplane saga that has become the bane of his existence has been flights that do not arrive. Waiting for several hours to board his Air France plane in Montreal, one of the managers announced that it hadn’t yet left Paris. The entire passenger group was whisked away to some out-of-town motel where they were sequestered for the night. It was later learned that there had been some engine problem, which had finally been addressed. The plane was ready for takeoff the next day, interrupting his plan to spend an extra day in Paris before his tour began. If that were not enough, on the way back, in Amsterdam, the scenario was the same. Another day spent out in the country at a swank resort, again at the expense of the airline. What it meant, however, was the time of arrival back home was delayed as was the uncertain pick up by the pre-scheduled limo service.
These days, further worries continue to churn in his head. When might it be safe to travel again – to China, to Italy? And worse still, what happens when the engine trouble of a million-pound metal contraption is not caught before a flight takes off?