Sleep, even before the flight pushes off from the gate. A departure time of close-to-midnight can greatly help you meet this goal.
Because on very long international flights airlines seem hell bent on stuffing you within an inch your life with all manner of food items, you will soon be awakened by e smell of the first of several meals being wheeled up and down the ever-narrowing walkways. If you and your row-mate are lucky, the seat between you will be empty allowing you some requisite personal space which will turn out to be nothing short of life and sanity saving on this very long journey across ocean, over islands (and here is where you kick yourself for not thinking of stopping in Hawaii instead of LA!) and through multiple cloud formations that move in and out of your dreams from their vantage point in your peripheral vision.
Accept the meal, and remember that a glass of wine can go a long way in helping you return to your earlier blissful state of slumber (until you realized that your flight bound leg spasms were daring to rear their ugly head lest you reposition your awkwardly bent, oddly long appendages — balanced out, to your long-standing dismay, by your too-short torso thereby rendering the long-leg advantages moot).
By now you have discovered the in flight entertainment in the form of the little screen in front of you, affixed to the back of someone else’s seat back thereby necessitating that any adjustments you make will necessarily annoy the person in front of you. (you hope and pray that retaliation does not come in the form of maximum seat reclining). You start with something familiar — a familiar episode of a familiar show in a mockumentary serial style about the workplace. Meh. You flip through again and find another familiar episode, this time one situated in a high school focusing on a group of gleeful, singing misfits. At least, that’s loosely what the description says. You laugh, you cry, and try not to sing along too loudly.
Fall back asleep. (see earlier note about wine if you experience trouble with this step.)
You may dream that you are dreaming or your standard brand of unpreparedness anxiety dreams may become warped as an understandable aftermath of your earlier imbibing or simply a result of exhaustion. You may have to remain vigilant to ward off the fleeting sensations of nervousness that you have, once again, forgotten something — this fear of forgetting will range from your travel documents to your toothpaste to the very reason you are even flying in a tin can in the sky in the first place. And then you remember, and all is momentarily well again.
Stay asleep as long as you can. You won’t know this at the time, but you will likely face an expected stop for refueling, a missed connection, and a delay on the flight onto which you were rebooked.
You will wake up and if all has gone well, at least 8 hours will have somehow elapsed since your 1 am dinner. Snack time has come and gone. Pick up the bag of treats next to you which may contain a bottle of water, a bag of chips, and some other candy-cookie-crunchy-sweet-salty combination item. You’ll likely be dehydrated, so crack open the water and begin exploring the in-flight media menu again. It is a good idea that if you do happen to have in your available videos anything featuring Mr. Clint Eastwood, select it without question. Chances are your previous viewings have been mediated by the various other distractions that are not available to you on a non-wifi flight. If the selection happens to be Dirty Harry, even better. You watch, pay attention, and appreciate the creepiness factor that is not gore-filled, a subtlety to the filmmaking (yes, even with the moments of excessive gun and physical violence). You may realize – as if you didnt know already – that you have you a soft spot for tortured souls. The conclusion of the film will call for something lighter, less serial-sniper-filled. You oblige with a three episode arc of a widely-panned, then quickly popularized sitcom. It seems true that even in the seemingly worst of television programming, there are glimpses of humor, humanity, and a surprising amount of charm.
By now you have been fed, visually and gastronomically, and it may be time to glance at your presentation. You are, after all, scheduled to talk about your work in the company of a group of people you have never before met. Anxiety rises again. Will your decision to go all iPad be a good one? Will the videos work? Do you have a plan B? If you are very good at procrastinating and freaking yourself out, this self-imposed inquisition can last for up to an hour and in between these surges of doubt you may also tweak a slide, add another photograph, change around some text. Trust that you know the material and that pressure can bring about the glimmer of shiny new ideas. You hope.
As the flight attendant, who is an even more Mediterranean version of Hank Azaria, walks by, you oblige his request to open the window shade that he asked you to shut several hours earlier. The next several minutes will pass with a series of musings about how the real Hank Azaria and Helen Hunt got together in the first place. And why they broke up. And why she always seems to be in the news even when she isn’t filming something. And how on earth she got Colin Firth to star in a movie with her. And whether there really is going to be another Bridget Jones movie.
And just like that it will be time for breakfast. As the new set of smells fills the cabin, another realization will hit you: you completely skipped an entire day. It was Tuesday when you boarded the plane and now, as you await yet another tray of food, you are being told that it is Thursday. What happened to Wednesday? The international dateline, that’s what.
Denouement. Prepare tray tables and seat back for landing. Landing gear down. Pull near gate. You may use your electronic devices and mobile phones. Await refueling (as you desperately try to stream any and all wifi to let your guests, who are planning to pick you up, know that you will, in fact, miss your connection. You may have no luck, so go ahead and give in to your curiosity to watch the poorly framed movie about a clichéd set of gender relationships and absurd cameos. You give up. Stupidity has won.) Tray tables up, electronics off, prepare for take-off.
Another leg of air travel stands before you and your temporary landfall. So stock up an overprice chocolate muffin and marvel at the fact that no matter how far and wide you travel, Earl Grey tea has a surprisingly consistency in taste.
Marvel, also, at how no one approaches the airline representative when the next flight is also delayed, at which point your own East Coast, city-ified, walk at breakneck pace, perpetually raised shoulders posture starts to relax. There’s really nothing you can do, so you get ready to finally enjoy – without obsessively documenting – the ride.
Congratulations! You have survived and kept yourself entertained from one end of the earth to another.