I'm not sure why I decided to start my timer when we left our hotel in Barcelona. I had my big backpack on, and my daypack strapped to my chest and we were walking up the Rambla towards the airport shuttle bus. I had some vague idea to simply track how long our journey from Barcelona to Merida, Mexico would really really take. You know, a curiosity. But I decided to write about it while in transit.
It's one thing to see a flight time when you book a trip, but things are different when you add in layovers and transfers and time zones. Sure it's a 10 hour flight, but what does that feel like when you add a layover of 8 hours in a place you have no intention of visiting? I hope to show you. :)
Barcelona: Safety First
We have an extra seat in our row giving us what seems like a palace of room. I’ve moved to the aisle to secure it from anybody who might want to take it from us. The movie selection is mediocre. I think I can safely watch 2 or three movies without resorting to complete boredom. The safety video is all cgi in Norwegian air and the airplane is shown gliding above the clouds looking much like a botched circumcision. The child getting fitted for oxygen has blonde inflatable hair. I think I had a swim aid just like as a kid. I can feel the heat sealed edges of his hair just looking at it. I touch the screen and feel only the greasy food fingers of previous passengers.
We rise into the air with a rattle of the overhead luggage and I think of the lego planes I built as a kid. My attention is drawn out the window where Rothko has painted our sunset this evening and I find myself wanting the pilot to mention this but he doesn’t. I think he may be too busy flying the plane and making sure it doesn’t crash into the Mediterranean. On the horizon the mountains are layered black cardboard cutouts shadowed with clouds rising in different shapes assembled by a consensus.
In Flight: Barcelona to Fort Lauderdale
We are chasing the setting sun so the Rothko is gone. It’s ahead of us for to delight the pilot at least.
It’s hours later and I have don't have to recap you on the flight. I think you know what a lot of that looked like. Bleary, open mouthed sleeping, watching movies like a zombie, getting excited by the shitty airplane food, and extended bathroom breaks. Toss in a few turns about the plane for a version of exercise and stretches while waiting for the bathroom and you get the picture.
Layover: Fort Lauderdale, Florida
We are at the airport baggage claim and have made it through customs. It’s after midnight and the elevator jazz is meant to be soothing, and it would be if it weren’t coming out of shitty ancient speakers. But since it is coming out of shitty speakers, it's having the opposite of the intended effect.
There are no more flights until ours in the morning. We can’t check in because there is nobody working here. It seems like day. Benches are all changed around to accommodate stranded families and the homeless, and it's hard to tell the difference. This is Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The sliding doors opening to the taxi area and parking garage squeak with every use, and is in constant use. Families are FaceTiming with distant relatives. I used the bathroom and when I turned to wash my hands, two guys were watching a third guy pluck his eyebrows. I seemed I break their reverie with my presence and left without drying my hands.
My yoga mat makes a great pillow. I had planned on stuffing my jacket into my hat and using that as a pillow but found I needed those items to prevent freezing to death in baggage claim. Despite the cold, a mosquito made a feast of my fingers. At some point in the middle of my melatonin induced sleep I stumbled to the bathroom. It may well have been day for all the lights and the music and the number of people milling about, talking like it was a cocktail party. I listed and I wasn't walking so much as the the floor rose and fell before my feet at the right times.
At 4:15 Jill woke me. My alarm didn't go off and I panicked a bit before realizing that it still had another 15 min left. She went to the bathroom while I pushed the benches back to their original position and put my yoga mat into my bag. I looked at the three people talking before me and half remembered my prolonged dream of disembodied voices talking over and around me in Spanish. Sometimes dream interpretation is really simple.
Moving On: Fort Lauderdale to Mexico City
I’ve never been so excited to head towards airport security. My carry on bag got singled out for the first time since starting to travel full time. We waited with an old woman in a wheelchair who had a 2 liter bottle of liquid wrapped in a plastic bag. After much discussion it turns out to be her medicine and it is allowed through. The woman next to me with tight auburn extensions frets to me in a Jamaican accent about the bottles of of perfume she is bringing through. She asked me if the security woman would take them away. I asked about their size and quantity and told her of the 3 one ounce bottle rule. This confused her. She treated her hands like she was getting the last drops of water from a towel. I told her to smile and relax and it would be alright.
On the plane and it’s deadly quiet. Everyone has their shades are drawn and the sun hasn't yet risen. It feels like sleep. The air isn’t moving. Something heavy and important sounding is dropped offstage. A moment later that same sound is repeated but I feel it in my feet. It felt metallic and heavy but no longer off stage. Could be a phone hitting the carpeted floor of the plane. Could be anything else too. It’s best not to follow this line of inquiry.
The woman in the window seat raises the shade to reveal a pair of car headlights shining in at us through the darkness and rain. I confuse it briefly with a ride I'm waiting for, so close my eyes to chase the memory away.
Briefly: Mexico City
We all have so much in common sitting as we are at the gate before boarding the plane. We are all headed to the same town on the Yucatan. It’s a small flight but again nobody talks. The woman across from me smiles and says 'Hola' when we approached the seats to wait but quickly resumed her relationship with her phone. I might have had a coffee on the flight from Fort Lauderdale, but I have another one at the airport here because who can remember anything anymore. Reading doesn't work and I've listened to everything in my phone. There is nothing to do but sit.
We go to a cash machine and take out some pesos and maybe eat something. I don't know what time it is or what day it is. I'm sure there are answers to these questions, but there is nothing you can tell my body that would make sense.
One. More. Flight. Mexico City > Merida, Mexico
The man in the row before me has reclined his seat to a degree that makes it possible for me to notice his ear looks like the overgrown potted balconies found in the small streets of Barcelona. This flight happens and doesn't happen, I'm there for it but not really there at all. I don't know where I am. I'm on a plane. I'm at the airport. I'm on a plane. I'm in a cab. I'm in Mexico. I'm tired and awake and full and yet dully hungry.
I consult the timer on my phone, the one I set in another world as a reminder that it exists. I look at it and take a screenshot because the taxi has rolled up to our tiny apartment in Merida. 33 hours after we left Barcelona, we set our bags down and try to get our bearings.