Prepare For Takeoff
April 6, 2012 § 1 Comment
Ever since I was a young girl, I’ve always dreamed of going to Singapore. I barely knew anything about it, but after spending summers in the polluted urban jungles of China, I figured a place where cleanliness was the law was too good to be true. In fact, a few years ago when I was first considering studying abroad, Singapore was my first choice — that is, until my father deterred me by telling me that I’d be bored within a week. Still, although my romantic notions of spotless sidewalks have mostly faded as I’ve matured, my eagerness to visit remained. It was with some trepidation that I booked my flight without a travel buddy, but thankfully, my Singaporean friend CK was willing to show me around.
Interesting things abounded before I even got on my flight. When checking into Tiger Airways, which is apparently the budget airline to fly to Singapore — other ones don’t fly there, strangely — the lady at the counter asked if I would consider changing my flight to the next morning. “We would book you a hotel room for the night and compensate you with S$200 (~$159US),” she offered. Two hundred Singapore dollars, eh? I mulled it over for a moment, thinking of the things I could buy with that extra cash.
Sensing that I was weak prey, the first lady’s partner/assistant/lackey, who was standing behind her, elaborated on the deal. “There are two flights tomorrow morning, and you can use the money as credit for a future flight with Tiger Air…why don’t you take some time to think about it, maybe call your folks, and we’ll keep your boarding pass here at the counter for you,” she pressed. Ha ha, call my folks…that’s a good joke…as if I have any family to contact here in Hong Kong! And if I couldn’t use the money as cash, I didn’t want it. Besides, I didn’t want to inconvenience CK by changing plans and cut into what was already a pretty short vacation, so I declined. It was their own fault for overbooking the flight anyway — not my problem!
Air travel always offers interesting experiences before one even arrives at the destination. This time, while I waiting in line to board and while walking down the tunnel thing to the plane, I was in front of an older Asian man who was carrying some English-language newspapers. I got the feeling that he was following me a bit too closely, so I was a bit alarmed when I stopped at my row on the plane to pull my laptop out of my bag and he paused right beside me to stuff his bag into the overhead compartment, his armpit hovering just above my face.
The plane was still relatively empty at that time, and he just happened to have the seat right next to mine, effectively trapping me by the window. Perturbed, I fleetingly hoped that he wouldn’t try to molest me on the flight. (It’s an extremely silly scenario, but these are the small things that men probably never have to worry about…) The third person in our row turned out to be a woman that I had also seen before boarding; in the airport, I saw her carrying the book Why Men Marry Bitches, and in the plane, she was reading He’s Just Not That Into You. Interesting choices. But I guess she was better off than me because I had stupidly forgotten to pack any reading material, not even a magazine.
Flying during the day is a delight because the view from above the clouds is always gorgeous, but traveling at night has its advantages as well. As I gazed out the window and saw stars in the sky and clouds floating below, I imagined a flipped world, that the space below the plane was actually the sky, rife with puffs of clouds and miniscule lights from boats that could’ve passed for stars, while the view above was actually the ocean, vast and dark and dotted with reflections of the lights below. There’s nothing like stargazing to make me feel incredibly small, to remind me that I’m nothing but a speck in the universe. But sometimes I relish that humbling existential feeling and remember to enjoy what I have at this very moment.