My flight home from Israel was less than holy indeed.
Forget the fact that it involves sitting in one spot for almost thirteen hours straight while breathing recycled air, because that is a given and is to be expected when embarking on an overseas voyage of such magnitude. I’m talking about a brutal and torturous experience involving many unforeseen negative variables, all of them coincidentally arising at the same time on the same flight.
First of all, I was set to depart from Tel Aviv at precisely 11:30pm and arrive in Philadelphia around 5:30am. Israel is 7 hours ahead of EST, so that would mean 13 hours of airplane time. This is especially painful for a person who is extremely fidgety by nature, so I booked the red eye with an intention to take a sleeping pill and be comatose until we landed in Philly. (I rarely ever take medication, not even the over-the-counter kind, so when I do decide to pop a pill the effects are far greater than average.) Since I confiscated this sleeping pill from a friend, I had to safely secure it in a side pocket of my purse, where it would reside until the captain turned off the seatbelt sign and there wasn’t a need for my seatback to be in its highly uncomfortable upright position.
Tel Aviv airport, 10:30pm: I had just said goodbye to my colleagues, and was headed to my gate when I caught sight of a Wal-mart sized superstore that was full of duty-free shopping. I suddenly remembered that I was going to be retrieving my luggage when I connected in Philadelphia, and rechecking it again prior to boarding my flight home to NC, so I knew I would be able to easily repack any gifts I might purchase now into my suitcase when I retrieved it in Philly. Awesome.
I quickly browsed through the superstore and managed to snag a case of Israeli wine (supposedly the best red blend around), a bottle of Johnnie Walker Red, and some Jean Paul Gaultier perfume.
By the time I had waited in line and paid for my goods, it was already 11:10pm, and I knew the flight was close to shutting the gates. I bolted down the hallway and when my departure gate was in full view I realized they were indeed getting ready to close it up. They pointed at me and I waved my hands rather frantically as I ran towards the gate.
“I’m on that flight!” I yelled as I approached them.
I whipped out my boarding pass and handed it to the gentleman who was manning the gate.
“What is that, in the bags?” He sharply pointed at my duty-free items.
“Just gifts I bought in the shop,” I responded through the heaving breaths brought on from my mad sprint.
He opened the bags and peered inside, then shook his head aggressively.
“No, you cannot take liquids on this flight!” he proclaimed.
“What are you talking about? I’m getting my bags in Philly and will be able to recheck the items. No big deal,” I shrugged my shoulders and extended my boarding pass again.
“No, I’m sorry but you cannot. U.S. law prohibits it,” he glanced at the passport I was holding in my hand and cleared his throat, “I’m surprised you weren’t aware of this law…you’re a U.S. citizen.”
“I am aware of the law, but I thought it was fine as long as I checked it in my bag once I landed in the States…”
“We need to get her on the plane now!” another gentleman boomed behind him.
I nervously bit my lip as my heart started racing.
“Well can I at least run back to the store and return this stuff?”
“I’m sorry but no. This flight is closing and we need you to board immediately.”
I felt like I was going to puke. I just dropped more than $500 bucks on wine, scotch, and perfume and I was going to have to leave it at the gate. I couldn’t have lost money this quick if I were in Vegas!
“Is there anything you could put some of the stuff in and check here at the gate?” the gentleman asked as he looked at my carry-on bags.
All I had was a camera bag, my laptop bag, and my purse.
“What about that one?” he pointed at my oversized Prada bag.
I dropped to my knees and frantically emptied my purse. All of its contents scattered about the carpet, which included tampons, lip gloss, and a bunch of condoms (in my defense, they were given to me at an adult tradeshow where I had recently exhibited Hot Rawks and had shoved them down in my bag at the time. Now here I am, on an airport floor in the fucking Middle East with a confetti of condoms sprinkled about the carpet. I must’ve looked like the biggest whore ever.)
I managed to shove my wallet, phone, sunglasses, keys, and iPod into my computer bag and had to toss my non-important personal belongings into the trash in an attempt to make room for some of my bought items. We managed to shove 4 bottles of wine and the bottle of perfume down inside the purse, but nothing else would fit. They wrapped it up in “Fragile” tape and scurried it off to be transported with the rest of the bags below.
I boarded the plane minus my purse, one bottle of whiskey, and 8 bottles of expensive wine. They were all sitting at the gate for the airport staff to enjoy later. Bastards.
The plane was packed full…there wasn’t a seat without someone sandwiched next to someone else, which I found odd since my flight out there was practically empty. I had enjoyed an entire row to myself and was able to spread out and relax. That was not going to happen on this flight.
I found my way to my assigned seat and there was a teenage boy asleep and laying over my side. I gently poked him and he grunted. I poked him again, this time much harder. He opened his eyes and shot me a cold stare as he made a lame attempt to move over and give me room to settle in my seat.
Upon sitting down I realized the seat in front of me was reclined back more than usual. It was leaning about 3 inches further than any other seat on the plane. The overweight guy occupying it was leaning rather comfortably into my “space”, and already snoring emphatically.
I shoved my belongings under his seat and buckled my seat belt. This was going to be a long flight. Thank God for the sleeping pill that was in my….oh shit. The sleeping pill was still in the side pocket of my Prada, nestled away safely in the lower chassis of the aircraft. I sighed in disgust and sunk into my seat.
Once we achieved full altitude, I decided I would kill as many hours as I could by absorbing myself into the television that was nestled in front of me. It was a bit closer than the rest of the TV’s since the broken seat in front of me leaned into my lap, but at least the screen wasn’t touching my nose (it was close).
I got comfortable and pushed the power button to select my first feature presentation. The screen froze on the menu, so I pushed it again. Still nothing. Suddenly, I heard the flight attendant boom over the loudspeaker.
“We apologize that several of the television sets are not functioning properly. We are going to reboot the system and see if helps reset them. Please give us a moment”
I think you know where this is going. I was one of the lucky few that had an inoperable television set on a 13-hour flight. Fuck.
So there I sat. A narcoleptic teenager on my left, who was passed out cold and using my shoulder as a pillow but would periodically jolt himself awake just long enough to realize he was dreaming and then pass out again on my shoulder…a snoring fat guy in front of me who was reclining way too close for comfort…a screaming baby 2 rows behind me, and a flight attendant with an extremely large backside that would hit me in the face every time she walked down the aisle.
My iPod was dead. My computer was dead. My television was broken. And all of my books had been read. So there I was, a fidgety anxious soul, confined in a chair without anything to do, nowhere to go, and nothing to read for 13 hours.
Did I mention the flight was really hot? I was miserably sweating so I removed my shoes and tried to get somewhat comfortable. This caused my feet to swell so when I had to go to the bathroom (which was numerous times since I had eaten something in Tel Aviv that had, ahem, really upset my stomach), I would have to bolt to the John without my shoes. This in itself is gross enough, without having to add the fact that I had to tiptoe around a pool of vomit that was scattered about the lavatory floor.
When we finally landed in Philly, I was so buzzed off of sheer exhaustion and dehydration I could hardly see straight. I gathered my belongings and anxiously awaited my turn to jump into the single file line in the aisle and get the hell off the plane. I still needed to get my luggage and go through customs before boarding yet another plane that would officially end my journey and take me home to North Carolina. I looked over at the row next to me and caught sight of my faint reflection in the glass of the oval window. I practically gasped. My hair was piled in a frizzy mass atop my head and my mascara was smeared down my pale face. My bloodshot eyes were sunken into my head and my lips were dry and cracked. Just then, the kid next to me finally woke up and stretched his arms above his head. He yawned loudly then looked at me and said, “We’re here already?”
I almost slapped him.