Having to go through a 15-hour flight ordeal including a stop-over and an overnight sleep in Chicago, was not an easy task, even if destination was Hawaii. The mental preparation had to take time!
I think we had spent something like 30 minutes wandering aimlessly at Heathrow T3 (was it T3?) Duty Free looking for something – anything – that would accompany us in the 12-day trip and stay in Hawaii, which ended up with another 10-minute stare in-front the “Drinks” section. It had to be something strong and not any namby-pamby soda. The outcome of such a tedious process was slightly pathetic – buying two half litres of proper drink for ..men – not boys – without any specific clue as to where and what exactly such an amenity would prove to be useful. It was only the fact that for both of us this was our first long-haul flight for a business meeting to a faraway destination and not just any destination – and we wanted it to be special.
London-Chicago flight was an international flight which meant that drinks were for free. We both got 3-4 small bottles of white wine and we had a good time. We chatted about our first trip to this divine destination and of course we chatted about Hawaii. On other occasions we also chatted about… Hawaii.
We landed in Chicago, slept overnight and the next day we took our flight to Honolulu.
Things did not look good from the moment we set foot in the airport. It took us ages to find the check-in desk, yet to find after 20 minutes a queue of people which probably ended somewhere in Toronto. It took us ages to check in and then we … happily found out that all window seats were taken. (Who would like to have a window seat in his way to Hawaii? Wouldn’t it be damn boring to keep looking to the endless Pacific Blue (sounds like a “colour code”) on his way to Hawaii?) If that was not enough, we were allocated seats in the middle of the middle row of seat blocks – those usually designated with letter DEFG – (it could not be more middle-r) and on either side of us we had, as we later found out, not some US goddess but some middle-aged super bubbly ladies, if not noisy. As it was just not our day, our seats were in the last row of the middle compartment which meant that for starters in order to watch a movie in the other end of the compartment each one of us had to have a bespoke type of the Hubble telescope.
Sometime just after take-off we realised that our seats – as they were in the last row – could be barely be inclined backwards by an inch no matter how hard we pressed the buttons. Of course, that also meant that we were next to the toilets…
Grand! It was the ideal flight. They say that necessity is the mother of all inventions and truly after that flight and before boarding any plane for any trip that I executed after my trip to Hawaii, I had to scrutinise the seat configuration and numbering for each air plane. If I did not know, I just asked! Politely.
We were packed in the 747 like squeezed sardines in an oil-free tin can and there was no chance in finding two empty seats. So, we looked at each other, sighted and mentally through our brain transmitters exchanged some words – agreeing. It was definitely going to be a harsh flight.
However, somewhere in those pitch black feelings, there was a spark of light – a spark of hope. The lady on our left asked us if we wanted to move to the alley seat so she could sit with her friends!
We looked like small kids given candy.
The first battle was won!
The first hours passed, we had lunch and some drinkes, but after a while we got bored. And I mean really bored!
We tried the movie in the other end of the…tunnel, but it sucked. We tried the radio, but it only played some country American folk songs that even horses and cows get mad on hearing. We thought of getting some drinks from the ladies in the back of the airplane but we quickly realised that we had to pay for every single drop of non-water fluid that we wanted to consume. Apparently in those national US flights as cost saving processes had already started back then in the US due to this internet bubble starting to deflate, airlines tried to squeeze flying costs as much as they could – even if this were a trip to Hawaii. After the golden periods of flying, in 2000 we were at the point that most airlines gradually started charging for anything edible you might consume on board.
In some years’ time I am sure they will charge us for any fluids coming out of our body also.
At some point, lights were also deemed, which meant that all of our hopes had to basically shrink to just the exhilarating option of sleeping, which was again another dreadful option as the sun light of a glorious day was sneaking into the airplanes fuselage through the sunshields and made it even more difficult to close our eyes.
However, it did not take us much time to dig one last, but extremely promising option though. Our eyes were deprived, our ears were limited with options, we had just eaten, but yet the part “fluids” was not very much fulfilled.
So, my friend dropped the idea of ordering a drink. Well, assuming that we had to pay for the drinks we opted for the alternative of… our drinks from Heathrow. My friend went to the back of the plane and took two clean plastic glasses with ice. We opened the (first) bottle and poured some in the plastic glasses and started drinking. To spice up the situation we took out from the bag my laptop and put some music and shared the headphones. We started chatting about all things one could chat. First drink was finished very fast and we poured some more.
Drop by drop, we drank it so fast that even the ice cubes looked like they had been just taken out of a freezer! Second one led to the third, the third the fourth and it went like this for over 2-3 hours. It was interesting to see the course of the discussion. It started from plain things, extended to issues related to our job and then evolved in more serious ones, basically our future, relations, girls, travelling. In the years to come we would both have endless interesting, funny, serious or even hilarious discussions, usually over alcoholic fluids, but that one was by far the weirdest. However, we were pretty sober and for the eyes of the other travellers we were just having fun, as we wanted to be pretty quiet.
In the next hours – actually I had stopped counting after the first two hours – we continued drinking and eating, but with some intermediate gaps for quick naps – their frequency and duration increasing as the time was passing by. It was almost 6 times my friends had visited the back of the plane for … clean glasses and to my surprise he told me that the air steward had told him “if we are drinking something other than drinks served in the plane, I ought to know”. I just wanted to see both their faces. Apparently he was too good and she just kept the clean glasses going. It was so much fun. It was like a dream and actually we were celebrating the realisation of that dream. We were neither in London, nor in each of our countries, nor in any … casual exotic place. We were over the Pacific Ocean and we were heading to make the dream of any 25 year old guy who was raised in Europe come true. At points we would stand up and rush towards a window and look outside to see yet again plain sea everywhere we looked. It looked scary, but yet the thrill of seeing somewhere in the horizon the Hawaii islands humbly and shyly appearing, made it even more exhilarating.
It was around one hour before landing and we decided to call it a day. Apparently we decided that after such a tiring trip and if we were to disembark fresh, jet lag-free and in style in order to find our way out of the airport and not board any flight back to the US – or to Japan – we had to sleep for some time.
I woke up only with the jolt as the plane’s wheels touching the runway. It was like my inner guts got a pretty bad beating. It was like somebody was playing drums in a synchronised way in my inner guts and organs. It was pain – it was agony. However, I wished the taxing took some more time as the process of moving my body outside the plane within the next 10 minutes seemed like a colossal task. Well, the taxing did take around 15 minutes and I remember I was still not happy with this development. When the doors opened we made our way towards the terminal core building. It was only at that time that I started realising where I was. It was then that the humid Hawaiian air – not that it has a copyright anywhere – hit me in the face and I started gaining proper consciousness.
It was like breathing from an oxygen mask and I immediately regained consciousness. My soul was probably somewhere there at an altitude of 33K feet and I somehow grabbed it and put it back into my body and I opened my eyes realising that I could not afford to miss a single moment from this trip – especially arriving there! The weather was hot and humid and it was a feeling I have felt in other parts of the world – Asia for instance – but that humidity had a stamp saying “USA”. It was the same feeling as the one I felt some months later when I landed in Miami’s or Los Angeles airports – this USA humid and hot air. I looked around me and realised I finally touched my feet on that island in the middle of ocean almost 12 hours’ time difference from my home country. This childish feeling of travel anticipation that was transformed into exhilaration conquered me entirely. It also felt weird being in an island in the middle of the ocean. At some point I thought I was in the Atlantis!
Looking around, the scenery looked very different. However, even in this condition I remember clearly rushing into the first shop I saw and buying some garlands, wearing them around my neck and getting some really silly photos with the locals! After that moment, I realised that if you mix jet lag, childish thrill, along with a bit of tiredness, funny food and a couple of drinks offered and gladly accepted in the airplane, you can have a blend of funny chemical reactions taking place in your body that also take form and shape on ones face. I basically looked slightly spaced out especially after this harsh trip. The photos are the best testimonials.
Getting out of the airport we got our first fix from the real Hawaii. Humidity, hot air, tropical trees, people with shorts and no single man with trousers. People looked happy, easy going and smiling. An air of easiness was diffused all over the place. There was an air of relaxation, but at the same time exhilaration for the tourists disembarking from the airplanes. It seemed that people living there permanently enjoyed probably the best life a person can get – at least on USA soil – provided money is plenty. OK, maybe I exaggerate, but I believe Hawaii could easily be a place one could spend a large part of his life. It looked like a place you can settle down and relax, write a book, consolidate or just surf or be eaten by a shark.
It was a glorious arrival and I decided that I had to have a great time while being there.