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Danny's Reading: Flying to America

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It’s one o’clock in the morning, the sun is shining through the window, and I’m travelling backwards through time.

You know, I’ve been writing these articles for almost four years now, and I’ve always wanted to write an introduction just like that one, because, let’s face it, it’s pretty cool as far as introductions go.

And it’s absolutely true too, because the window in question is that of a British Airways Airbus A320 that is currently blazing a trail through the sky, forty thousand feet above the Atlantic Ocean, with me and my family on it. My wife, son and daughter are gently snoring away, oblivious to everything except whatever it is they’re dreaming about. As for me, as I may have mentioned in a previous article, I can’t sleep on planes. Even when it’s the second one of the day, it’s eight hours long, and it’ll be followed by a third which will take us from Chicago to Denver, Colorado. And to top it all off, the last leg of the journey will consist of a four-hour drive to Aspen, our final destination. By this time, I expect that I’ll be as close to a zombie as one can get without the whole messy business of dying and being reanimated by some Voodoo priestess with a penchant for skull jewellery and chicken sacrifice.

People often say that they love travelling, and while it is not in my nature to be confrontational, I have one thing, and one thing only, to say about this…

No they don’t.

Nobody could possibly enjoy travelling, unless they also enjoy waiting in queues that are so long that they actually end where they began, and they derive great pleasure from taking off and putting on their shoes, over and over and over again. No, nobody loves travelling. What they love, like myself, is being there, and if we could simply teleport ourselves directly to our intended destination and dispense with all the chaos and mad dashes through airport lobbies and train stations while dragging tons of luggage behind us, then our holidays would be far less stressful, which is, after all, what a holiday should be.

The thing with the actual travelling part of travelling is that there is always an unexpected hitch somewhere, no matter how far you plan ahead. Take the trip we’re currently on, for example...

A week before the day of departure, we compiled a detailed list of everything we would be packing, which, keeping in mind that we have two young children with the attention span of the average goldfish, resulted in three or four pages of very small handwriting, complete with arrows, brackets and call-out boxes, glossaries, indices and alternative endings. And then, a day or two before we were due to leave, we methodically and systematically crossed items off the list as we placed them one at a time into one giant and two slightly smaller suitcases. So far, so good, except for when I attempted to lift the larger of the three to place it in readiness by the front door, and promptly dislocated the entire left side of my body. But this was just a minor problem...all we needed to do was get the suitcases to the airport, and the airlines would take care of the rest, shifting them from plane to plane until we eventually pick them up in Denver.

Our first flight was scheduled to leave Malta at twenty past seven, so we woke up the next morning at five. I checked us in online while my wife dressed the kids, and then we quadruple-checked that we had our passports, triple-checked we had our itinerary, double-checked we had the keys to the suitcases and finally took one last look around to make sure we hadn’t forgotten anything, loaded everything into the car, and took off for the airport. And then we hurried back to turn off the water at the mains, and to collect my wallet, and we took off for the airport. Minutes later, we did an illegal U-turn and rushed back home to pick up the kids, who were waiting patiently on the doorstep with slightly bemused looks on their faces...and we took off for the airport.

One roadwork crew, four detours and five stops to ask for directions later, we got to the airport in the nick of time. We checked in our luggage, asking for everything to be taken directly to Denver with the exception of my daughter’s pushchair, which we would collect at our first stopover at Heathrow. And we boarded the flight.

Three hours later, we were standing at the luggage carousel in Heathrow airport, watching our three suitcases gliding serenely round and round – the larger one minus a wheel – and waiting for the pushchair to make an appearance.

Which it didn’t.

So we quickly checked our luggage in again, explaining patiently that we wanted it to go directly to Denver, and reported our missing pushchair. The harassed-looking woman behind the counter explained that it would probably turn up in Denver. We wondered aloud why, if that were the case, our luggage had not also gone straight to Denver. I don’t remember the exact reply, but I believe that it consisted, in part, of words synonymous with ‘incompetent’ and ‘morons’. After heartily agreeing with her, we rushed off to passport control, where a large, official yet very polite woman stood behind a small podium and asked us a series of rather odd and seemingly unrelated questions for twenty-five minutes before informing us we had better hurry to the gate because our plane was leaving in three minutes, probably without us.

And so we ran for the gate, backpacks slung over our shoulders, a child under each arm, passports and boarding passes in our mouths, and made it by the skin of our teeth.

And now we’re here, on an Airbus A320, forty thousand feet above the Atlantic at one in the morning, with the sun shining in through the window as we travel backwards in time. In four hours time we’ll land in America, with our luggage in Baghdad and the pushchair lost in a parallel universe somewhere...

You love travelling?

You must be mad.

By Danny

Danny's been teaching English at EC Malta English school for 10 years.