Catching a flight is rarely a varied or altered experience.
That's a positive thing- in a business that creates profit through operating like clockwork, any unforeseen event falls into one of the three categories: a) 'we're delayed', b) 'we're having trouble locating your bag' or c) 'we're going down, brace brace brace'. Option d) 'we're upgrading you to business class' doesn't exist, nor does option e) 'we're going to depart early and arrive ahead of schedule, give you a whole row to yourself, and fill your cup of tea past halfway'.
The most you can hope for is that nothing is out of the ordinary. The best flight you can have is the one which is entirely uninteresting, one you will not remember again once you step out into the sweet fresh air.
But I wouldn't write about one of those, would I?
I wrote once about another flight during which I tipped my whole meal down my front, inadvertently turned my plastic spoon into a spattering of shrapnel which then rained down on my neighbour, before drifting off to a well-earned sleep just in time to jolt myself awake with enough vim to kick said neighbour- who then went on to compliment a column I had written the week prior.
I like to think I have more grace and decorum these days, so earlier this week, when I found myself sharing a row with a husband and wife, I thought I would be able to keep on my best behaviour. But in these dark days of the new Coronavirus, who knows anymore?
Once seated, the wife, who had moments prior been chastising her husband for holding up the people behind them, gave her husband a fairly curt reminder that since he had forgotten to get their face masks and hand sanitiser out of said bag before stowing it, her death would be entirely on his shoulders. I almost chuckled along, until I realised she was deadly serious.
After he shimmied past me and remedied the face mask/hand sanitiser situation, I struck up a polite if not slightly muffled chat with the two of them about the state of affairs in regard to global health.
"Better safe than sorry" they reasoned, and I can hardly blame them for that- although it came across as a veneer on the more honest "we are utterly terrified of catching this thing".
They were hardly alone either- moving through 3 airports that day, there was a consistent stream of both passengers and staff masked up.
As a side note, the more normalised it becomes to wear a mask in public, the better. Asian countries have long done it- you know you've seen it long before now. I've seen it draw negative reactions of, at the very least, a dose of exclusion and glares, and at worst, full blown ire that someone would have the audacity to wear one- it seems to be taken as a personal insult or insinuation that you personally have something they are protecting themselves from.
Powerfully ironic, given that in Asian cultures wearers typically don the masks when they themselves are sick, to protect others around them. I'm all for a world
where people contain their own spread of germs rather than shuffle around the supermarket coughing because it would be socially unacceptable to take the most obvious and practical course of selfless action.
Chat finished, headphones on, movie playing. All is well, another unremarkable flight. Until one of those tickles began to emerge in the back of my throat. The kind of tickle that is here to stay.
Cut forward 30 minutes and my face is running with sweat. My shirt is glued to my chest with dark patches. My coughs are rocking me around my chair with turbulence only I alone am experiencing. I am red with exertion and crimson with embarrassment.
I turn to the lady who was formerly beside me and is now reclined backwards across her husband who is also pressed up against the window, both trying to look as natural as possible, now with her hand across her mask across her face. She locks her fear filled eyes with me and waits for me to reassure her, to make it all okay somehow.
The best I could manage in between splutters was 'I'm just so glad I didn't get sick while I was away- I'd been planning that trip to China for months!'.
I don't think she found it as funny as I did.