“It is strange… that the years teach uspatience; that the shorter our time,the greater our capacity for waiting.” – Elizabeth Taylor
There was a time when the brittle romance of air travel escaped me. I loathed waiting on planes. You wait at check-in, then at immigration, before waiting in the waiting room – which invariably reminds me of clinics on Monday mornings. Then you wait to stow your carry-on in the overhead compartment, and wait further as the aircraft taxis lazily on the runway for take-off. By the time you’re in the air, you’re waiting for the seatbelt sign to die so you can wait in line for the cabin washroom. Finally, when you’re snugly ensconced in your seat, you’re waiting to fall asleep.
The airplane experience used to be, at best, voluntary imprisonment to me. You can’t roam in a plane. I used to enjoy the purposeful name-calling in Business Class. Though these days, it’s more like reading your name off a card right in front of you as they refresh your flat-white. But nothing (not even the fast-dwindling 25 per cent of attractive stewardesses on Singapore Airlines) in the universe of air travel is worth hearing the two words that strike fear into most modern men: Flight delayed.
The disrupted itineraries, lost productivity and distressed emotional states of the dishevelled passengers caused by the rather beautiful Icelandic volcanic ash cloud are a firm reminder that while we can over schedule our lives, we cannot control state-ordained fly zones. You can understand the consternation of the trapped passengers, who have to deal with marked-up hotel rates and the depression of being door-jammed for days in some backwater city, where Wi-Fi is as precious as bottled water. It’s like god is saying, “Learn to exist. Be by yourself. Listen to the inner monologue and don’t murder anyone. Be still.” You know, all the existential, Deepak Chopra-esque advice that fail spectacularly on anyone with a pulse.
If patience is a virtue, then I was virtually malevolent. I was one of those guys who would die a little inside each time the flight was stalled. I don’t do haplessness well, especially in a place where the books in the bookstore aren’t written in English. I was stuck once in an airport in Helsinki for 24 hours, and was forced to take up a room at the airport motel – that, or drive six hours into… oblivion. It didn’t matter that it was the kind of vivid, rolling green-and-sandal oblivion that magazines like Wallpaper loved to fetishise. I went into my room and pulled back the drapes at midnight, only to have the noonday sun flood my room. That was Helsinki. That was waiting.
I hope this month’s Travel Guide satisfies you. Especially if you’re in transit somewhere.
Enjoy the issue,
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