I like looking out the airplane window at night. It’s always disconcerting to see the stars above you, and the clouds below you; it’s like looking up at the sky and, instead, finding an ocean undulating above you. There was a handsome Brazilian man who sat beside me. He and his wife were visiting America: California, Vegas, New York – the stuff that America is made of. I asked him what was his favorite destination so far and he replied Yosemite. I agreed – I had spent a good part of my childhood watching those waterfalls rush down the dizzying mountains. I then asked him if he had to choose between San Francisco and New York, which would he choose. He laughed and said “It’s a tough choice.”
“I know,” I replied, and waited for an answer.
He looked like he was in pain and went on to explain that the two places were very different. How San Francisco was beautiful in its own right, but New York was like his home, Sao Paolo: crazy, disorganized, addictive. He looked back at me and said he couldn’t decide. I smiled and said, “I understand.”
I then coughed up a ball of mucus and that ended all conversation for the rest of the flight. Flights are petri dishes for germs and bacteria. So, as it’s bound to happen, I had fallen sick. Now when I fall sick, it’s not the dignified kind of sick. I remember when my friend and I were traveling through India, we were boarding the plane and were both nauseous and unwell. My friend got dizzy and fainted like a delicate flower. Meanwhile, I (having some sort of crazy stomach virus) ended up bolting into the bathroom, where this stunning combination of projectile vomiting and violent diarrhea took place. I would go into more details, but I’m feeling a little nauseous myself. So let’s change the subject to how fucking cold it gets inside flights!
I used to think the window seat was better than the aisle because you could lean against the window and fall asleep. However, the window seat invariably gets cold due to the drop in the outside temperature after takeoff. I never remember this until I’m on the flight and freezing my ass off. While flying to Brazil this time, I debated walking around the airplane looking for extra blankets. But the handsome Brazilian sitting next to me was fast asleep and I didn’t feel like waking him because I had already shook him awake five times thanks to my overactive bladder. I swear; one glass of apple juice and my bladder is like a fucking water park for the next seven hours.
In any case, I turned the flight attendant light on, hoping somebody would come by and I could ask them for extra blankets. But I was having no luck getting any attention from the air hostesses. Twenty minutes passed while I tried to twist in every direction and attract the attention of anyone walking up and down the aisle. I slowly started transitioning from mildly annoyed to outright crazy when I noticed a passenger staring at me from the other side. There were literally 5 seats in-between us but she could sense my agitation, as if I was about to leave an unattended bag by her side and jump out the window. That heightened my frustration for some reason. Fine, I thought: stare at me all you want. I’ll stare back. I was cold, I couldn’t sleep, the flight attendants didn’t give a damn and that fucking attendant light, shining with all the futility in the world, was driving me crazy. So the last thing I wanted to do was lose this shit staring contest I had going on with the passenger five seats away from me. Fuck you, lady, I’m going to stare right back at you. And so I did, for two straight minutes. I stared at her like my life depended on it, and she stared back at me, both of us assessing how crazy the other person looked. An eternity passed and we both reached a point where we got uncomfortable. I debated whether I should burst into a random, creepy smile and then decided to try and sleep again, instead.
I never learn from the past. I always forget how cold I get during flights. When I fly to Houston, I invariably forget to take warm clothes for the flight. Houston is hot as hell, but the flight that takes me there is a levitating morgue: after takeoff, it’s freezing until you land.
Once, I made the promethean mistake of wearing sandals during the flight. Domestic, economy flights don’t give you blankets, so I was freezing in ten minutes. Desperate to catch some shut eye, I decided to get creative. I opened my backpack, turned my laptop on and waited for it to warm up. Then I put the laptop back into my backpack and then….wait for it…I stuffed my legs into the backpack.
Are you serious, you think to yourself? Fuck yes, I’m serious. Do you know how cold my feet were? The warmth of the laptop and my own body heat kicked in and kept my legs nice and toasty for the rest of the flight. Did the passenger next to me wake up and wonder why half my body was inserted in my backpack? Sure. But I didn’t give a damn: I just wriggled my toes in the makeshift convection oven I had created for myself and slept like a baby the rest of the way.