Above is the nervous conversation I had with my friend Dan, in line for our flight to Johannesburg, South Africa, clutching our paper tickets. Disbelief, nervousness, excitement. Lauren had commented just minutes before, "I just want to get there so I can see it and get all the stereotypes out of my head." Amen, Sister. We got there, we got the stereotypes out of our heads, we learned, struggled, laughed, etc. But before all of that Dan and I made fools of ourselves on the airplane.
In between our repeated comments back and forth of "that plane is going to Africa, and we're getting on it," Dan and I took the time to notice that our seats appeared to be next to each other, B & C or something similar. We took comfort in this, as twenty hours is a long time to exacerbate one's anxiety, as well as a long time to be bored sitting next to a stranger. When we got on the plane, however, we discovered that our seats were sort of next to each other, but they were separated by an aisle. We bartered with a woman sitting near us to switch with one of us so that we could sit next to each other. Reluctant at first, later on during the flight she commented on how comfortable she was in her new seat, her feet slung over the armrest into the empty seat next to her, covered with a blanket, enjoying a movie.
When we first made the switch and Dan scrambled across the aisle with his arms full of stuff, he muttered to me, "I think she thinks we're together," and we snickered at her mistake.
Once settled and waiting for takeoff, we modified our previous conversation to "We are on the plane that is going to Africa" (progress in the world of skittish minds), and were then quickly distracted by all the buttons around us. And let me tell you, there are a lot of nifty buttons on international flights. We had removable remote controls in our armrests, to control our very own TV screens in the seat backs in front of us. We looked at the electronic map of time zones, perused our movie choices (Miss Congeniality 2 & Madagascar) and CD collections. We dug through our goodie bags--eye masks, toothpaste, ugly yellow socks (put on promptly).
And then we discovered the wing. We were seated right next to the wing, by the window. The wing was huge. Impressed, were we. "Whoa!!"
Finally, take off (which, you hardly feel on such a large aircraft). "We are flying to Africa." Our flight took off from Atlanta, and we quickly realized that we hadn't the slightest clue where exactly Atlanta lies in relation to the ocean. Glued to the window, we thought we saw the ocean about ten times before we actually saw the ocean. "Ahh, we're over the ocean!...Oh wait, nope, still land."
Eventually we settled down, and the woman across the aisle was probably relieved not to be sitting near such misbehaved children. One thing kept us entertained throughout our twenty hours across the Atlantic and over half of Africa, however: the wing. Whenever boredom would sink in, trying to read one of our assigned books for the semester but too nervous to really comprehend the philosophy of race relations, Dan would catch the sag in my face and tap me. "Wanna see the wing again?" My eyes would light up and I'd raise my posture in my seat, like a dog eager at the prospect of a car ride, nodding my head to say "Good idea." And Dan would raise the window cover, and we'd calmly peer out at the clouds by day, or the stars by night, for a moment both forgetting and easing into our adventure ahead.