The flight from Chicago to Singapore is much like running a marathon; no one really wants to do it, but they brag about completing it and prepare for it by lying. “My back has been acting up and I’ve been having trouble sleeping,” they tell their doctors hoping to score muscle relaxers and sleeping pills. “I think little Johnny might have a touch of ADHD,” they say with great concern to cash in on a prescription for Ritalin. And the final lie they tell themselves? “This will be fun!” But make no mistake about it; the flight to Singapore is not fun. Men grow beards and women complete menstrual cycles on the 9,357 mile 22 plus hour flight that takes them over the North Pole to a country where every flight departing or arriving is international.On my third trip to Singapore my penniless company booked a flight for me on United Airlines. Singapore Airlines, my previous mode of travel, was deemed too expensive. Gone were the sumptuous seats, exotic meals and beautiful, meticulous flight attendants with shellacked hair and Zen like faces known as the “Singapore girl.” They were replaced with knee eating chairs made of wood, a gray meat like substance and Tyrell. This was Tyrell’s first international trip as a flight attendant and he was “pumped.”
“Singapore! Can you believe that? I’m gonna’ take care of you. You want liquor, just say the word! Singapore!” Tyrell exclaimed as he practically galloped down the aisle. I raised one eyebrow and looked sideways at my seat mate, who was busy implanting ear plugs. “Rookie,” he sighed as he began to inflate his neck pillow. The pity I felt for Tyrell, who was sprinting out of the gate, was trumped by annoyance. “He’ll learn,” I said as I choked down an Ambien.“Scotch or gin?” Tyrell asked me just as I was dozing off.
“It’s 11:00 AM,” I replied, not wanting to experience a hangover during the flight.“Tomato juice and vodka?” He asked enthusiastically.
By hour six Tyrell was beginning to lose steam, the sweat beading on his brow. He and his fellow flight attendant, a rotund Asian woman, were carrying two pots of steaming liquid each. “You want some, man?” he asked in a less than enthusiastic voice. “What is it?” I asked back. He flipped the lid open and stuck his nose deep inside. Whatever it was, I wanted none of it. He screwed up his face as if the pitcher contained boiling piss. “Some oriental shit,” he replied as the other attendant cut daggers with her eyes. “Asian,” I whispered attempting to point out his politically incorrect statement. “Asian Oriental shit,” he corrected himself.When the captain announced that we were over the North Pole, I saw Tyrell briefly re-energized, bend and look quickly left and right out of the window. I swear he was looking for a red and white striped pole.
By the time we departed Narita, Japan for the second leg, Tyrell was done, but there were seven hours left. I found him propped up against the lavatory door rubbing his head. “I’ll have that drink now,” I said cheerfully. Tyrell slowly looked up and said “I’m just about ready to join you.”When we finally landed in Singapore the wrinkled passengers rubbed their eyes, stretched and felt the stubble on their faces. As we slowly filtered out of the plane I passed by Tyrell, who was sitting in a seat, wrapped in a blanket, his glasses slightly askew and his eyes red rimmed. “Long flight,” I said trying to commiserate with him. “Man, you have no idea. I’m just glad I have a couple of days here in between my return flight. Just enough time to experience some oriental delights,” he replied with a wink and a nod, implying that I might enjoy the same type of debauchery. It’s a mistake that many long haul rookies make, but one that I have never taken such delight in pointing out. “You know you lose a day when you travel to Singapore, you might want to check your schedule,” I said smiling as I jogged off of the plane for the win.
It’s all about setting a pace and keeping up with your time.