I’m like all sane adults: I fear and despise flying. The worst part is the ascension after takeoff. The slightly backwards rake of the aircraft reminds you that you are on a rocket ship of sorts, and that in short order you’ll be more or less in space. Once the plane levels off, your reptilian brain is fooled into thinking it is basking on a rock instead of hurtling through the ether at 40,000 feet.
The flight is uncrowded, and I’m able to “kick back,” as American Airlines thoughtfully advises on their omnipresent screens. Speaking of screens, one of the few pleasures of flying is that people leave their various phones and devices in their pockets. They can’t do much with them, the friendly skies still being somewhat resistant to the idea of full-bore wifi and other electromagnetic magics.
The meal arrived almost immediately after we leveled off. Our hosts wanted to get that chore out of the way so they could put us to bed early. I noticed a lot of booze was being plied about the cabin and asked the sky hostess (the correct name?) how much would a beer cost me. I’d determined I wouldn’t go over 15 dollars. Surprise, surprise. “Drinks are free on international flights to Europe and Latin America,” she said as if I should have known. I was tempted to ask her what was the deal with Africa and Asia, but instead said I’d take a beer. We’re out of beer, she said, how about wine? Wine is fine. She give me two bottles of red, perhaps anticipating I’d be less trouble in the future if I was properly soused. Then I truly tackled the meal. It was a Woody Allen affair: terrible, and the portions were too small. But it was an international cast of characters: Naturally Fresh Oil and Vinegar dressing from Atlanta; Freshens Crackers from Wigan UK (what I know about Wigan I learned from George Orwell, and these biscuits seemed Spanish Civil War vintage); Land o’ Lakes Fresh Buttery Taste Spread ( come on! This stuff was from Wisconsin, the dairy navel of the country. A travesty); Malras merlot, from France; Love and Quiches Brownie, again from Wisconsin; Crystal Geyser water from Cherokee national forest in Tennessee –hard by Dolly World, if Im not mistaken; and a Swiss gourmet cheese wedge, not from Suisse but again from the cheesehead state.
I managed to sleep after this bacchanal. I woke too soon, around midnight. Strange dream. Looking out the window I half expected to see William Shatner crouching on the wing. Instead there was nothing but the bouncing rivets. The tv was playing Top Chef. One of the judges looked remarkably familiar. I realized I must be feverish and asked the steward for some Tylenol. None of this was good before trout fishing in Switzerland. Maybe it was that Malras wine. Even the name sounds evil.
Paris was visible directly below, the arrondissements laid out perfectly, just like Napoleon had wanted. The whole city glowed orange, as if the streets were on fire. In no time we were over the Alps. The pilot was putting pedal to the metal. There were few lights down there. I guess the shepards had turned off their lanterns. Honey Boo Boo was on the tv, looking pensive. Next time, I thought, I’ll insist on Swiss Air. What was it about American Airlines that they wanted to globalize only the worst of cable programming? Now there were big reefs of cloud below as we entered the Schweitzer airspace. Zurich was socked in, but above the mist the mountains looked like they were supposed to.