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Concerning Flight

1 July 2008

I have a confession: Flying is definitely one of my favorite parts of traveling.  That seems odd, I know, especially when you consider the rather ghastly state of airports these days–not to mention the solid legion of ENTS concentrators who are undoubtedly casting a scornful look at their computer screen right now.  But there’s a focus that I love about it.  It’s disorienting, in a good way, in that it disconnects you from the world down below ( though I’m sure that’s not a perk that I’ll be able to enjoy for much longer, particularly if cell phones are eventually permitted).  Plus, there’s always that glorious sensation of being able to look out the window at just the right moment during a long flight, and see from above the sun just starting to peak out over the horizon.  In the most literal sense, you’re separated from even the timetable of the rest of the world, in a transitory, liminal zone.  No matter how long security lines get, I don’t think I’ll ever stop being exhilarated by that feeling.  

The more poetic aspects of air travel aside, however, getting to Israel has just about exhausted even my tolerance for jet lag and long-haul travel.  My grandmother was able to help with this trip by letting me use her immense stockpile of frequent flyer miles, but in doing so the directness of the route had to be sacrificed.  As a result, I’ve flown from Chicago to London, then Zurich, then Tel Aviv.  Counting my eight hour layover in London (if you’ve never had the misfortune of going through Heathrow, it’s quite possibly the worst design for an airport that one could ever imagine.  Despite its marvelous people-watching possibilities as one of the few truly global transit hubs), that adds up to about 30 hours from start to end.  Add to that the fact that I arrived at Tel Aviv around 3:30 a.m., while the dorms at Hebrew University did not open until 9:30, leaving me to wait in the lobby of Ben-Gurion airport for five hours.  Although Ben-Gurion was the first airport I encountered during this entire trip which has free WiFi, so that was a plus.

The major upside to the frequent flyer arrangement was the fact that the powers that be at United Airlines saw fit to give me a free upgrade to Business Class for this trip.  As I’d never flown anything besides cattle car class–a.k.a economy–and can’t see myself making enough money to do so again on an international flight, I was determined to enjoy this as much as possible.  Believe me when I tell you that even the worst of airlines do not disappoint if you’re lucky enough to finagle this sort of bonus. There is complementary booze the entire flight, food that’s not only edible, but somewhat tasty (Swiss Air hands around chocolates toward the end of the flight).  Probably the most surreal moment of my flying career thus far occurred when I took the last swig of a glass of water, and before I’d even touched it to the table again, the neck of a bottle was in my face, filing it up again.  I think I’ve been spoiled for life.

I’m somewhat recovered from the jet-lag after a good night’s sleep, so I’ll post some more first day impressions later tonight–provided I can find a signal, since my dorm room, while quite nice, is not so much with the internet access.


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