Flights of Fancy

I love flying. I love the exhilaration of being thousands of feet in the air. I love watching as the people turn to ants, then the houses, then the mountains, then all you can see is clouds billowing around you like a fresh blanket of snow. I love the sunrises and sunsets above the clouds, the colors are unlike anything else. I even love turbulence, a high stakes rollercoaster.

Leaving LAX was hard. A part of me wanted to run back to my mom and say "Please don't let me go. Tell me it's too far, too dangerous." It's not that I'm worried about traveling. I was terrified that I would get lost in some airport where I didn't speak the language. The anxiety manifested itself physically, I already had a head cold and I felt as though my stomach was staging a coup and about to claw its way out.

The first flight was from LA to Philadelphia. I sat next to two brothers on their way to Tel Aviv. They were probably between 10 and 14. They bickered the way brothers do, but when the younger one got tired and put his feet up and laid his head on his brother's shoulder, then lap, his brother cradled it. It was so adorable (especially for kids that age) that I didn't even mind that his feet had crossed over onto my side of the chair and were pushing up against my thigh. I tried not to think about my brothers, homesickness so soon would make the rest of the trip impossible, but I couldn't help but think maybe one day the little freckled siblings would also go to the gym together and "firepower" through life. I slept for no more than 20 minutes, instead spending a majority of the time reading one of the books I picked up for the trip and masochistically enjoying the turbulent ride. The flight ended, I left my two little friends and scurried over to my next connection with only a couple minutes to spare.

The second flight, from Philly to Frankfurt, was scheduled to take about six hours. I was most concerned with navigating the Frankfurt airport, notoriously large and confusing, and I only had an hour to make it. This anxiety meant sleep, once again, would be impossible. I sat down in my aisle seat, waiting to arise for the passenger to my right. Eventually a young German man came down the aisle and passed me a little, then just stood there, staring. I asked if he was in the seat next to me, he mumbled "yes", so I got up and let him in. Later during the flight, as I finished the book I was reading, I felt the uncomfortable feeling of being watched, I turn to my right and he, once again, is just staring and has been doing so for several minutes. "Do you need me to get up?" I ask. Once again a mumbled "Yes". A couple times during the flight he would just stare and wait for me to figure out what it was that he wanted. Strange, and a little obnoxious. Not long after I finished my book and realized I was much too groggy for word puzzles, the flight attendant came by to deliver meals--pasta with cheese sauce and spinach--surprisingly, delicious. And on and on with mundane details. The flight dragged, so I was taken aback when upon landing the captain revealed it was only 9:50am in Frankfurt--we'd arrived an hour early.

It would turn out that the hour was a godsend. Frankfurt airport: beautiful, yet treacherous. I felt like Theseus at Crete, making his way through the labyrinth. Little did I know that soon I would meet my Minotaur. Half way to my next gate, I discovered that I needed to go through security again. I made my way through a hellishly long line, walked through the sensor and "beep". Shocked (as I'd not set off the machine in LA and had not changed), I step to the side. There she was, my Minotaur. I understand the need to wand someone--I get it. Maybe even a light pat down if they are wearing baggy clothes. However, in skinny jeans and a tee, I wasn't really too conspicuous--at least I don't think so. The Minotaur obviously disagreed. She patted me down, I mean, it was a borderline cavity search. She grabbed at my underwire, going so far as to put her hand up my bra, completely down either side of me, and in the groin area enough to make me extremely uncomfortable. She even ran her hands through my hair, I'm still not sure what she was looking for there... Then her Minotaur companion decided to run my bag through the scanner twice. I get it--I look suspicious. Obviously, since the German airport was so thorough, it took quite a while to actually get to my gate (which had changed).

Getting onto that last plane took all the energy I had. Once again, I couldn't sleep since the sun was shining right into my eyes. The only thing that kept me going was knowing this heinous journey was almost done.

Finally, the plane landed. I scuttled down the aisle as quickly as my fatigue allowed and out into the airport. I waited impatiently as my bag ceased to appear from the mouth of the carousel. Just as I was convinced that my fear of lost luggage would be realized, out popped my bag. I pull it off the conveyor belt and as I roll around the bend, I see a familiar face through the glass partition.

I scurry passed the last of the customs guards-nothing to declare!- and give Doug a huge hug. I couldn't help but note that he hadn't shaved in weeks and obviously hadn't showered in days. I smiled to myself, happy to see him nonetheless, and resigned to the idea "It's Europe, people here are supposed to smell like that."