36 Hours (actually 38) in Transit
Tuesday, 25 August
7:45 AM (UTC +4) | Dubai Conrad Hilton
Due to a mix-up with transportation to the airport the concierge upgraded my ride to the airport at no extra cost. She gave me a choice of a Maserati or Porshe which seemed excessive, but we settled on the Porshe because it was a bit roomier and she was worried about the luggage fitting in the Maserati. Maybe my luck will hold and 36 hours (actually 38 hours) in transit won’t be too bad.
8:00AM (UTC +4) | Dubai International Airport
Although I was not traveling in business class, I checked in at the business/first class terminal which is gleaming, efficient, and full of people with designer handbags, sunglasses, and, well, everything. Since I didn’t have to clear immigration and security with the masses, this whole operation took less than 10 minutes. With 1.5 hours before my flight, I did what everyone does in Dubai, I went shopping. One bracelet later, I stopped at Paul, a french bakery for a cappuccino and a fromage croissant because that is a logical breakfast choice in Dubai. Then it was time to board via a small, stifling hot bus that took longer to get to the airplane than the entire Porshe ride from the hotel. At least there is an empty seat next to me.
10:15AM (UTC +4) | Emirates Flight 763
I was able to indulge in an 8 hour, 4 movie, airplane movie marathon. The thing about an airplane movie marathon is that you have to pick the most embarrassing films to watch, the ones you would never want recorded in your Netflix profile in the event a loved one caught sight of your viewing history or Netflix used its fancy algorithm to recommend equally horrible movies. These are movies that you have been secretly wanting to watch but can only admit to having viewed if you were on a plane. I refuse to divulge what I watched, lest I am judged.
4:25PM (UTC +2) | O.R. Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg
Deplane, immigration, customs, check-in for South African Airways flight 260. Why am I doing this? My house is just a short 40 minute ride from the airport and I seriously contemplate whether I have enough time to dash home to check on the cat.
7:25PM (UTC +2) | South African Airways Flight to 260
Given the choice between an airplane meal and sleep, I choose sleep, always. My general rule of thumb is to eat before I get on the plane as airports tend to have better options than anything you will be served on the plane. That should tell you something about the quality of the food, if airport food rates higher. Plus, cramming in as much sleep as possible helps me adjust better to the timezone of my final destination. Once I settled into my seat, I slipped on my silk eye mask and nodded off. Stamina was going to be the key to the remaining 27 hours.
Wednesday, 27 August
6:10AM (UTC +2) | Frankfurt Airport
I had business to take care of in Frankfurt. South African Airways was unable to check me in to my final destination and I was trying to avoid clearing customs just to go to the ticket counter and get my boarding pass printed. Had I not only had carry-on luggage, United Airlines and I may have broken-up. I was beginning to rethink our on-again off-again relationship where I continue to put up with being treated badly. But right when I was thinking of moving on to my next airline love, I spoke with someone nice on the phone who confirmed my business class upgrade on the final leg of this arduous journey. Who cares that it is only a one hour flight and I would have preferred to be upgrade on the Frankfurt to Newark leg. I ate a fantastic breakfast (maybe airport food is better in Europe) and charged my devices at a little charging station where all of the power-deprived gathered and chatted about their final destinations. Still going strong.
11:20 AM (UTC +2) | United Airways Flight 969
Airplane movie marathon number two. I am delirious and have begun thinking that I may be trapped on a plane forever. Is this my groundhog day? My movie choices have gotten progressively worse and I regret most of picks by this point. I would usually look forward to landing, but I am arriving in Newark and have chosen to ignore that I am being welcomed back to the United States after an eight month absence by my least favorite airport, Newark. I hate Newark. I pay extra money to avoid this airport. Maybe the plane will get diverted and we can land at JFK or Dulles. I can only hope.
1:55 PM (UTC -4) | Newark Liberty International Airport
Global Entry is the best thing that ever happened to me. When my application was accepted and they gave me an ID card with a distorted photo of myself, I rejoiced . No lines. No hassle. Goodbye cheapskates who don’t fully understand this is the best $100 you can spend. 15 minutes and 1 terminal later, I spot the United business class lounge. I pull out one of my coupons for those of us who have credit cards that accumulate perks and don’t actually fly enough on United to warrant any special treatment. I immediatley ask if they have a shower I can use. They do and it is disgusting. It’s spotless, but it looks like a public restroom and there is no bathmat. I find the no bathmat part to be the worst. Thirty-five minutes later, I feel refreshed and the airplane stink has been washed away. I stock up on US magazines and meander to my gate. I am just 2 hours away from my final destination and have managed to avoid a meltdown or major international incident.
4:05PM (UTC -4) | United Airways Flight 4398
There is no room in the overhead compartment for my bag. Isn’t this supposed to be business class? I know it is when the flight attendant takes it upon herself to make sure all of my luggage fits.
5:17PM (UTC -4) | Portland International Jetport
The plane lands 13 minutes early. I have never been on a flight to or from Newark that has been on time so early is a bonus. The weather in Maine is perfect with unbelievable blue skies and fluffy popcorn clouds. And then, disaster. I am trying to extract my suitcase from the overhead compartment, while two large men unhelpfully watch my plight. A third is trying to assist, but as he is behind the two extremely helpful guys, he is fairly ineffectual. As my suitcase is unlodged so is my phone, passport, and magazines that I was gripping in my other hand. I pull my suitcase to the side and furtively search for my phone which is wedged somewhere. I have made it this far and am trying to hold it together. The pilot watches as I search the seats around me and points out some chapstick. It isn’t mine. I spot the phone and wheel my luggage off the plane.
6:00PM (UTC -4) | Hugo’s Portland, Maine
Jet lag, what jet lag? My mom and I meet family friends for a five course meal at one of our favorite Portland restaurants, Hugo’s. It was amazing. Another reason to starve yourself on planes, you can reward yourself with an amazing meal when you reach your final destination. Also, if you have something to look forward to 36 hours (actually 38 hours) in transit is actually worth the hassle of five airports, four security lines, three passes through immigration, two strong espressos, and one hot shower in Newark.
Three and half days later I was back on a plane headed on a 22 hour flight home. Usually I mark the end of summer in Maine, but this year I celebrated the beginning. And, if you were wondering if it was all worth it? Yes, it was.