Saturday, April 01, 2006

Taking Off

It’s sad to say but all this commuting to and from Geneva has left me almost indifferent to the whole airplane experience. You know, the excitement and wonder that overwhelms you when you take your first plane trip. How do those big hunks of metal stay up in the air? And how do those cumbersome yet graceful ships of the air stay in the sky with that big 200kg woman seated next to me, not to mention her 50kg suitcase.

On Monday morning flights to Geneva, I tend to maximise my time in bed and end up checking in late. This therefore gives me hardly any choice in seats. Coming back from to Paris late on Friday evenings, I’m usually tired and grumpy from a long hard week at work and from elbowing old grannies out of the way to get a seat by the aisle closest to the exit. This way, I get out first without having to wait for families with 2.5 kids to get their 8.8 bits of hand luggage (you’re only allowed 1 per person!) from the stuffed overhead lockers. Anyway, in short, if you want of get off a plane quickly, you aim for a seat next to the aisle.

Last night however, urged on by unusual springtime cheerfulness, or dazed from the extra daylight (we’re on summer time yay!), I opted for a window seat…and I wasn’t disappointed.

Taking off from Geneva, I witnessed the lights of a small French town (Ferney-Voltaire) glimmering a faint orange in the distance, recognised the route that I took every morning driving to work brightly lit up like a miniature model in some museum. I even saw my workplace…and held myself back from breaking the window with my heels and spitting showering it with freshly-coughed up warm saliva. Snow-capped mountain peaks reached up and waved goodbye, while the rumbling grand metal beast struggled to escape the clutches of gravity. And as all clichés go, I watched the sun disappear in a blaze of colour beneath the horizon.

I wanted to save each scene in my memory but I knew I would have forgotten it in a second, and come next Friday, I would be back jostling old grannies for that lucrative aisle seat again. So I madly jotted my thoughts down on a couple of sick bags (I had no paper!) before my 30-something brain pushed it aside.

Anyway, I spent the entire flight staring out the window, fascinated by the little clusters of sparkling lights. In Australia, you can fly on a clear night and not see a single flicker of light below, but in densely populated France, small clusters of lights were everywhere. Little villages looked like clumped up bits of a big fairy-light puzzle.

The 1hr flight that usually feels like 4 hrs at the dentist seemed to take 15 minutes.

As the plane descended into the south of Paris, I felt my ears block up and glimpsed the Eiffel Tower, usually standing majestically high above the Paris skyline, but this time was barely indistinguishable from the swamp of lights around it.

So for the first time in a very long time, I was actually glad that I had to make that trip to Geneva, but sorry for the next passengers in 20 E and F, hope they don’t get airsick.

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