Wheels Up

My first time on an 8-seater propeller plane was this past summer during our trip to Martha’s vineyard. It’s one of those planes where, as part of the boarding process you are asked your weight in order to assess which part of the flying, mini death trap you will inhabit for the 45 most terrifying minutes of your life. Since I am prone to vomiting at the slightest hint of motion and have a thing about not going on planes where death is a real option, this wasn’t my idea of a good time. Also, due to my weight class (extra small) I was seated in the way back. But we were heading to “the vineyard” to attend a friend’s wedding (where Daniel would be cooking and I, filming), so I thought — “even if this tiny plane runs out of gas in the middle of the ocean, bursts into flames and we all plunge to our deaths before being swallowed by a fish or hit by a submarine — hey, at least we tried to get there“.

If you’ve never had the pleasure of being transported on one of these things, this is the type of ride where you can actually see your pilot (as he or she is usually sitting directly in front of you, beside you, or on your lap). And I can remember white knuckling the worn leather seat of my chair, fearing for my life and feeling not totally OK with the fact that my pilot was wearing a neon blue scrunchie in her hair. She also had a matching cell phone.

Normally you don’t get to see the person who is flying your plane, which is maybe how it should be. Because at that point, I was listening to the rattling of the windows as we rocked back and forth in the eastern wind currents in a tiny plane being piloted by someone who, in my opinion, didn’t make the best choices.

Now I bring this up because 1. We actually survived that flight, and 2. Quite the opposite of our Martha’s Vineyard pond jump, I actually really enjoy our international flights. There are many reasons for this: First, you dont see pilot, but instead just hear their soothing voice over the loudspeaker telling you that everything is going to be ok. And then you get to veg out in front of a TV for 10-19 hours while someone serves you TV dinners; The bathrooms are nice, the floor is carpeted, and I’m the perfect size to fit just neatly into an airplane seat so there is minimal discomfort or cramping. In fact, after experiencing a bulged disk in my neck from too much editing (I know, I just give so much to my job) the 20+ hours of flying to India actually made me feel better. Plus, this is the first introduction to the country in which we are about to visit…if you’re into blatant stereotyping. On the way to Japan, the stewardesses were amazingly polite and dressed in super chic uniforms; heading to China the attendants were brusk and acted like they hated me (though I will note that my fellow Chinese passengers were incredibly friendly); en route to India, I was sandwiched in between two rows of small children and served all vegetarian food — and not because I had specified it on the “special needs” tab of my ticket purchase, but because that’s what everyone was eating; On our way to Sri Lanka, the sweet stewardesses wore flowers in their hair and teal eye shadow to match their teal dresses. I actually find myself feeling a little disappointed when the “one hour till landing” announcement comes over the loudspeaker.

There are only two bad experiences I remember on long flights. The first was in 1998 when my mom convinced an unsuspecting flight attendant to walk up and down the aisle yelling “Mirra Fine, your mom says you forgot your fanny pack” until I raised my hand to retrieve the bright orange stomach purse. The pack was not mine but a decoy my mom had planted to create (what I can only assume was) a character building experience for me. (She also convinced me at age 11 to perm my bangs into a spiral curl which I think was another attempt at building character). The other incident was more recent. On Hour 6 of an international trip home, our pilot got on the loudspeaker to notify us of impending turbulence, and then describe in great emotional detail how horrible we should expect it to be. Naturally, I found myself scanning the plane in a hysterical panic trying to decide who I would have to mate with in order to continue civilization in the event that our plane went down. But, turns out it was just a fire drill… The pilot had just overreacted. As had I, apparently.

Many people may think of international flights as horrible, soul sucking experiences. And I understand that there are challenges. For example, 20 hours of sharing only 6 bathrooms with 200 other people who just spent 3 weeks in India maybe isn’t ideal. But hey, the fact that you’re in that situation means that you just spent 3 weeks in India! And that’s awesome. Yes, occasionally a 2am flight home from Sri Lanka will be delayed 5 hours, and that will mean you miss your connecting flight in England. And it is Dec. 23rd. But again, you just spent 2 weeks in Sri Lanka… And now you get 5 more hours! lie on the airport floor and think about how wonderful your trip was!

My love for the international flights goes deep. Not only is it a means to an end, but it’s a relaxing one at that. The 12-19 hours I spend at 30,000 feet is the calm before the intense, crazy storm of nonstop travel, heavy lifting and intense filming for usually 4 weeks straight. The “pampering” before the bulged disk, if you will. Don’t get me wrong, the bulged disk is totally worth all that we get to experience when actually on the ground in these countries… but so is what it took to get us there.