Dubai Diaries: Do you miss travelling?
It's the banal part of travel - which we often dismissed - that we miss now during Covid times.
There’s a video going around on TikTok of a woman aching for the day that she can “walk down that aisle, have my best girlfriends beside me, and hear those magical words….‘This is your pilot speaking.”
For thousands of people who are stuck in countries where they are not meant to, there is nothing they won’t do to get on a flight. For those itching to travel, all they want is to board an airplane.
Flying is the big breaking news now. When someone flies, it is news. When someone does not or cannot fly, it is news.
I remember my childhood days when our backyard game of marbles or the latest round of hide-and-seek among the coconut grove in Kerala would come to a pause at the spectacle of the jet streaking overhead. It seemed impossible to us, frozen in place, trying to imagine what it could be like to hover weightlessly, it seemed, above the clouds and birds.
We’d talk about who would be the first to fly, if any of us ever could. We promised one another that we would be sure to wave when we went over or -- even better -- open a window and rain down sweets from the sky. All we could really dream of was a car in the sky, and if we could see the plan certainly the passengers could see us, right? We would wave and wave and wave, hoping that someone might drop a sweet to us below.
It took two decades before I finally obtained my first boarding pass, as a new bride heading to a new life in a new city: Dubai. The details of that day are burned into my memory as the fulfillment of a long-time wish: the smell of the air, the crispness of the cabin crew uniforms, the unfamiliarity of the seat.
I fiddled with every knob and button I could find, accidentally calling for help twice and finally mastering the art of putting my tray table in the upright and locked position. I read and re-read the safety guide until I had it memorized, knew my primary and secondary routes to the emergency exits in the unlikely event of a water landing, and knew with certainty that I would put on my own oxygen mask before helping others around me.
In Dubai, I quickly adopted the expat mentality of traveling as much as I could. Boarding passes -- once preserved post-trip souvenirs -- were discarded like trash.
It wasn’t just that flying became no big deal. Flying, in fact, became the obstacle to travel, the banal, boring, and tiresome part that we needed to get through in order to get to the real adventure.
Then came coronavirus, and the airplanes stopped going over.
It’s the banal that we miss now. We know what the airplane smells like, we know how crisp those uniforms will be, and we know what the knobs and buttons do, and we want them back in our lives.