Air Travel: Livin’ on a Prayer

2017-04-12 15:30 - Anje Rautenbach
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In a relatively empty and quiet space of the airport - in the middle of a monologue of whether I should go left or stay right - I grab a seat by the gate-to-be.

Today – like most days – I’ve arrived early, got my check-in done and dusted and preceded through the security checkpoints. 

The journey is upon me and a destination awaits; but not before I spend a few too many hours pressing my face up against the window for a bit of shut-eye, not before a neighbouring passenger drool on my sleeve as the shoulder-to-shoulder situation is mistaken for a pillow and not before a pair of rather overpowering pungent shoes gets removed mid-flight.

It’s not about the destination, but the journey.

In the once empty space seats fill up quickly with young, old and screaming toddlers running themselves hopefully tired before take-off; in the air lingers the smell of fear for the unknown, the joy of reunions, the excitement of possibility and the tears of goodbye between my travelling comrades. 

A space of 550 square meters is on the other side of the window; lined with seats stuffed with hours of boredom and begging question: if I am in seat  17A, who will be in seat  17B?

Like a well-mannered school kid I fall in line with my ticket and passport in hand; scan, check, walk and into the plane I go.

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Seat 17A catches my eye and I scoot in; I stuff my bag under the seat in front of me, gently tuck the blanket and pillow in next to the arm rest, open the air vent and adjust the seat belt.

Now I wait. In anticipation my eyes waltz with the eyes of every single passenger coming down the aisle.

What are they looking for? Are they in the middle row, will they move along to the next section after the toilets or are they looking for seat B and C, 17B and 17C in particular? Every single time a passenger gets closer to 17 I say a little prayer.

"Airbus 380, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

My eyes lock with the expression on their faces as they read the numbers.

“Please read 16, please read 18,” I think as soon as one someone gets closer.

I peek out of the window, look to the front and look to the back to gamble on my odds of having seat 17B open for the next few hours of travelling.

A laptop bag hits 17C and all of the sudden the emptiness of the 31 inch space between 17A and 17C looks significantly smaller.

More passengers pile in. Where do they all come from?

“Will this be it, will 17B stay an open space?”

A man halts in his steps, looks to the seat and puts his cabin luggage in the overhead compartment.

Filled with faith another air travel prayer has me on the edge of my seat as I clasp my hands together hoping for the best.

Our flying machine, which art almost in the sky,
honoured by thy roar;
thy journey come;
thy destination will be done,
on land as it is in air.
Give us this day our empty seat.
And forgive us our need for space,
as we forgive them that drool on our shoulders.
And lead us not into the wrong aisle,
but deliver us from stinky feet.
For thine is the cabin,
the glory of boredom,
For ever and ever.

The man closes the overhead compartment and moves into 17D while I’m still livin’ on a prayer, one passenger at a time.

The passengers are thinning out.

Click-click-clack come the sound from the aisles as the closing of the overhead compartments have the almost final say.

The doors close.

And everyone is seated.

Seat 17B is an open space – this time – an airspace blessing of a place of no drool and nothing too close for comfort.

Praise the aircraft.

Every single flight, every single time, I’m living on a prayer… unless of course I find myself on a United Airline flight; I’ll be reciting a whole different prayer then.

"Oh aircraft, that you would bless me and enlarge the cabin’s territory! Let your space be with me and keep me from harm, so that it will not hurt me.”


Anje Rautenbach is the writer behind the blog Going Somewhere Slowly, find her Facebook,Twitter  or on Instagram!

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