Sixteen Hours to Africa

7:00 a.m. – I eat breakfast, brush my teeth, throw out the trash. My bags are packed, I’ve got my passport, my snacks are accounted for. South Africa, here I come!

9:02 a.m. – After an hour-long train ride to the airport, I take the elevator to the ticketing counters. I’m in a new, unfamiliar terminal. I look a screen displaying arrivals and departures: Flight SA203 11:15 a.m. DELAYED 9:50 p.m. Ohhhhh, really. That’s, like, awesome.

9:25 a.m. – The woman behind the counter passes me a sheet of paper that says something like, “Blah blah blah, flight last night from Johannesburg blah blah medical emergency blah blah blah deepest apologies blah blah blah.” She hands two (rather generous) vouchers for lunch and a snack, $25 and $15, respectively. I tell her I think I’m just going to go home. She tells me to hold onto my receipts. Free cab rides? Yes, please!

10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. – I sit on my couch, get some work done. Per my mother’s suggestion, I go for a run. That’s only after she spoils my good time by telling me just how long it will take for me to get to South Africa, since I hadn’t bothered to look. She Googles the flight while on the phone with me. “Here it is,” she says. “Ten Worst Flights in the World.” We laugh now, but I’ll be crying later.

5:31 p.m. – My cab driver arrives (second one of the day!) and I feel quite posh and luxurious.

6:15 p.m. – Because my cab driver is a badass, we make it to the airport in record time: 45 minutes during rush hour. Red lights were run, side streets were taken.

7:10 p.m. – Though I feel like I’m taking advantage, I use my lunch voucher for a dinner snack: a water, crudités sampling platter, and cut up fruit all for the bargain price of $14.99. God, I love spending other people’s money.

9:45 p.m. – There appears to be no sign of our plane, nor any announcements regarding when it will magically appear.

10:10 p.m. – More of the same. The people across from me start bitching about South African Airways, sharing horror stories about lost luggage and extreme flight delays. I am unfortunately dragged into a conversation about how one woman got on a plane after the previous riders had disembarked and, apparently, the turbulence had been so bad for them, she could see head marks or blood or something on the ceiling. Thanks, lady. That’s, like, just what I want to hear before I get on a 15 hour flight over the Atlantic Ocean and across the massive continent of Africa.

10:25 p.m. – Our missing plane arrives and the poor bastards on it get off, not soon enough, it seems. Me and my annoyed comrades have pieced together the story in our hours together: at some point during this plane’s initial journey from Johannesburg to New York yesterday, someone had to go and have a real bad time of it (medical emergency) and they turned back, only to have to wait some hours after for the crew to rest. Then they had to get back on and start all over again. No f’ing thank you.

11:15 p.m. – I’m seated somewhere far far in the back of this massive plane, next to a young boy who later tells me he’s heading to Africa to help poor people. He seems to like me in the beginning, until about hour 8 when I start getting up to pee a lot.

11:18 p.m. – The pilot comes on and makes one of about twenty-two lengthy, ingratiating announcements about how they’re terribly sorry about the flight being delayed half a day, how we’re all in this together, how he hopes we focus on the next 15 hours of “hos-pee-tal-ah-teeeee” we’re about to receive. He sounds like my mom’s friend, John Spass from Durban, circa 1989.

12:10 a.m. – The plane is up and away and the flight attendants are walking around starting the “midnight dinner service” our pilot has joked about. “Excuse me, you ordered a special dinner, yes?” She places in front of me what must be the worst decision I have ever made, ranking up there with about five of the assholes I dated in 2011. I am nearly brought to tears. There, on my plastic tray table in the downward position, is a platter of vegetables: an entrée portion of cut up vegetables, a side portion of the same cut up vegetables, a salad with lettuce and three slices of tomato, and a saltine cracker.

12:12 a.m. – I beg the flight attendant for the chicken.

12:23 a.m. – After making sure everyone has their first, second, or third choice, my flight attendant (who is none too happy about this) hands me a tin full of hot chicken and rice with greasy potatoes. Oh, sweet sustenance, fortify me for this journey.

12:41 a.m. – I fall asleep watching Snow White and the Huntsman for the second time. All I’ve garnered from both viewings is that Charlize Theron plays a massive bitch that takes whole milk baths, white and thick as Elmer’s glue.

12:42 a.m. onward – Time becomes a slippery, irrelevant thing. I will eventually wake up some eight hours later with an unfortunate amount of time left, something to the tune of seven hours. I alternate between feeling extremely uncomfortable and extremely claustrophobic. Outside, it’s daylight, but everyone keeps their shades drawn, choosing instead to ride out the duration of this journey in a darkened tube. My feet swell, my mouth rids itself of any bothersome moisture, my lips chap. When it’s about 10 a.m. my body time, my head begins to throb with the dulled ache of a caffeine addict. It doesn’t get any worse, I swear to God.

 

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