Five hours before arrival.
It’s 3:00 AM and my socks reek like someone lit a fire in a locker room. I air them out while waiting at the departure gate, hoping no one sits too close to me. I’m waiting for my second red eye in less than 24 sleepless hours and it’s not before I board my flight that I discover I lost my neck pillow somewhere during the twenty minute walk from arrivals to this quiet, almost empty corner of Mumbai’s airport.
Six hours before arrival.
I splash on water my face in the washroom mirror and forget not to swallow what comes out of the tap. I realize I’ve probably just guaranteed that I’ll get the travel shits sooner than anticipated this trip.
Six and a half-hours before arrival.
I’ve just landed at Mumbai. The airport is glitzy like a high-end mall and looks like a well-curated museum.
I find a shop selling tourist SIM cards. It’s staffed by four guys in dress shirts sitting behind a counter. Their booth is decorated like a water-damaged basement undergoing renovations.
I feel like these guys are greasing me, but I don’t have a lot of time or options. I offer them cash, and they just laugh, asking for Visa.
Suspicious, I purchase a SIM card and am kinda surprised it works an hour later.
Thirteen hours before arrival.
The map on the little screen tells me the flight’s about a third of the way from London to Mumbai. The flight attendants came by and took the dinner trays away about forty minutes earlier and already the food is cutting a hole in my gut.
I want (need) to get to the closet that pretends to be a washroom down the aisle from me but I’m stuck between two sleeping, elderly aunties who both have a hard time getting in and out of their seats. I’ve gotta wake one of them up and I’m already feeling guilty beforehand.
Sixteen hours before arrival.
Waiting at Heathrow to print my boarding pass from the Air India kiosk. I see a confused guy who looks like he just stepped away from a house fire stumble up in the line next to me. He goes to the counter clearly marked Air Portugal and asks them for an Air India boarding pass.
The friendly staff point him to my line and instead of going to the back, he tries to cut ahead right before the guy at the counter.
I cough loudly and get his attention. He turns to face me, confused and not-really seeing me, like I’m a vapour or a phantom. He responds with, “oh, there were people here before me.” Almost like he’s upset I noticed.
Filthy cutter, not today, I proudly tell myself.
Twenty-two hours before arrival.
Stepping onto my British Airways flight. Two cabin crew members greet everyone at the door. One is clearly Scottish; the other, who knows. He mumbles something that could have been any line from Long Good Friday. I walk by wishing I had turned on subtitles.
When the drinks come around, I ask the flight attendant for a red wine and he gives me two, knowing I’ll need them both.
I watch 2018’s The Predator expecting it to be trash and it delivers. It’s bad. Like 90s sequel. Strangely anachronistic, too. Gives us two characters making gay jokes. In 2018. Plus there’s a monster in a lab that we’re told is heavily sedated. I then wakes wakes up, energized and escapes, tearing through its barriers like they’re made of tin foil. We even got a child actor in a lead role. All that’s missing is a sub-plot involving a dog.
Twenty-eight hours before arrival.
Not looking forward to spending twenty-four hours at airports and in flight. I get a text message ten minutes before I’m due to leave for the aiport informing me that my flight’s been delayed. Pushed it three hours later than expected. Exactly enough time to cause my arrival in London to take place after my connecting flight has departed.
I call up British Airways and the person on the phone gives me three options.
Leave the next day, spend nearly a full day waiting for a connection at Heathrow, or go down to the Airport in person and see if they have better options.
I’m tempting to go for the first, uninterested in the second, and kinda afraid of the third.
Figure I’ll take a cab with all my bags, get there, and the people at the kiosk give me the same first two options. Sucking it up, I go for option three and am pleasantly surprised when I reach the airport to learn that they’ve already made the arrangements for new connecting flights. Less time in layovers than previously. Not bad. Maybe I’m on the way to a decent couple of flights after all.