5C. I seldom get seats this upfront, especially when I checked in just hours before the flight. Maybe many are not too comfortable with flying anymore, given all that has just happened last year. I find it a little odd that my biggest worry until now is just missing my flight. Anything that happens up there, is beyond my control.
But I’m wrong. The flight is almost full. I look for my seat and find a tall man in his 50’s, with his grey hair neatly combed behind as my companion. He’s reading a book on leadership principles by Lao Zi, lost in his own little world. That’s what I like about flying. We’re all lost in another world for awhile. Sometimes you get chatty strangers who make your flight interesting, and sometimes you just appreciate the peace and quiet, even if it’s just as short as 45 minutes.
The engine of the plane becomes a little louder as we begin to move along the runway, and starts to speed up for take off, which is my favourite part. There’s something about being pushed to the back of my seat in anticipation of a sudden lift into the air that thrills me.
“We’re sitting at the most dangerous part of the plane,” the Lao Zi apprentice speaks up as he points out the window to show me. The engine propeller is spinning at top speed right next to us, and I let out a chuckle, finding it comforting that there are still some of us who aren’t paranoid about flying. He smiled and continued to ask if I was studying or working, to which I politely replied. The seat belt light then turns off and he’s back to his book and I begin to write.
I think about the day before, where I was at my friend’s wedding. Wedding is a reunion of sorts and last night was probably the best reunion I’ve had yet. It wasn’t just about meeting friends whom I’ve not seen in years, but it’s about having everyone together at one place at one time. We’ve all become so different but yet we’re still somehow the same. There wasn’t a moment of awkwardness – it was as if we grew up in various directions that eventually converge into a harmonious symbiosis. There wasnt a single person who asked why I wasn’t in a dress – our plus ones and dates were a celebration, and a lack thereof wasn’t a curious thing. We grew up together without asking, “Why aren’t you like everybody else?” We were the bunch that never fit in nor conform just for the sake of it and we still don’t, and that was our normal. It felt good. And I hadn’t felt that way in years. The city with bright lights can be quite a judgemental place.
“Chocolate muffin or peanuts?” The air stewardess offers, and judging by her accent I think she’s from East Malaysia. We both pick muffins, but my friend gave his to me upon realizing it was chocolate muffins, not something on the fruity side. Too bad for him, they’re really good muffins.
I think about today. It’s my Chinese birthday and mom made those customary red eggs which I had one for breakfast. She was hoping I’d be able to find time today to have ‘mee suah’ (vermicelli aka longevity noodles) later. In a few moments I’ll be back in the city of bright lights, in a new home and a new housemate. Work starts tomorrow and here I am still yearning for sleep.
“Cabin crew please be seated for landing,” the familiar phrase has everyone adjusting in their seats anticipating touch down. I’m not a fan of this when I board on smaller ATR planes, but this time the pilot does a good job with the landing. We could use more skilled pilots like these, I think to myself. Then maybe we’ll all be a little less worried about being in the skies.
As usual, everyone unbuckles their seat belts even before the air stewardess does so. In two seconds the aisle is crammed and everyone does their best acrobat impersonation to remove their luggage from the overhead compartment. It’s funny to see, when you’re not in a hurry.
But this is the city if bright lights, everyone is always in a hurry. Everyone is always late for something, everyone wants to be faster, and ahead of someone. Patience is a lost virtue which I sometimes find myself guilty of as well. As each passenger jumps onto the aisle lane as if catching a really fast escalator, I say goodbye to my new friend whom I do not know his name, and made my way back to the cold, hard ground.
I miss the past 45 minutes already.