When you fly from East to West across the Atlantic, your afternoon becomes an eternal evening. I left Budapest around 1 p.m. local time and landed in New York around 9 EST. I watched the sun set for eight and half hours.
I booked my flight on Norwegian Airlines. It was cheap, and conveniently timed, with only a two-hour layover in Stockholm. After I bought the ticket, I happened upon some negative reviews. One read, “Unless it is pointed out clearly, you assume if you are booking on Norwegian you will be flying to NY on a Dreamliner operated by Norwegian, with all their promises of clean aircraft, tasty food, free WiFi, etc. None of this is the case. The cost of the flight is not cheaper if it is a nightmare journey. Be advised. Check before booking.” I disregarded these, refusing to be one of those complaining passengers. No one really loves flying right? And only angry passengers leave reviews.
Nevertheless, a week before my flight was to leave, I received a notification text from none other than Norwegian Airlines, notifying me that my flight would have no in-flight entertainment. If I so desired, a full refund would be provided. I did not desire this, and assured myself I would be fine without any movies. I’m not a movie person anyway—to quote a friend of mine, “you never know when they are going to end!”—and I had plenty of Jim Dale narrated Harry Potter books downloaded to my phone and three New York State Teacher Certification exams to study for.
But boarding that eight hour transatlantic flight, I had a fleeting sense of hope that maybe, just maybe, there would be baby TVs on the back of every headrest, because at that moment I wanted nothing more than to tune out reality. I didn’t want to think about how quickly I had packed up an entire life abroad into two 20-kilogram suitcases, or worry about how I had to drive to a job interview in the Bronx the next morning, even though I hadn’t driven a car in ten months.
Disappointed with every new row of seats, I made my way to 26B. IN 26A was slim, dark-haired girl who looked about my age. She was dressed entirely in black, including her platform clogs, and complaining loudly and profanely to someone on her iPhone. She clearly had not received a text notification about the lack of in-flight entertainment. Her iPhone died within thirty seconds, prompting her to acknowledge my existence. She absolutely couldn’t believe this shit and expected to be compensated. I didn’t tell her about my notification text.
If anyone was the opposite of my neighbor, it was our airline pilot. I soon began to think that the reason we had no in-flight entertainment it was because he wanted to be the in-flight entertainment. His tone was Mr. Moviephone-like for every announcement, beginning our time together by informing us we would be flying over some “pretty cool land formations!!!” and waking up a half-sleeping plane to tell us that if we looked out the left-side windows, we could “see Greenland!!!” I looked. We could only see the usual plane wing over cloud layer so often captured on Instagram. And the sunset, of course.
It was the pilot who brought us together. We couldn’t help but laugh at his enthusiasm and excitement. A shared laugh is more bonding than a shared complaint. Daphne (she eventually introduced herself, post-rant) and I ended up talking for the majority of the eight-hour flight, occasionally pausing when we collectively decided we would try to get some sleep. (We never did.) I found out she was originally from Sweden, and her parents were artists living in New York, who had responded unkindly to her desire to spend a year abroad with her aunt, working on nothing but “finding herself.” She felt betrayed by this. I listened to her, pausing my Harry Potter audiobook whenever I sensed that she needed to process something, which was often. She was cynical while still being friendly, which I appreciated. She thanked God that she had me as a neighbor, and even hugged me goodbye at baggage claim. Even though I had shared virtually nothing about my life with her, I almost stopped her so that we could exchange numbers. She had carried me from one life to another and provided a strange link between my life abroad and my life back in NYC, which I was both excited and terrified to return to.
Plane rides are difficult because they are in-betweens, and it’s difficult to appreciate the in-betweens. Lately, I’ve discovered just how easy it is to get annoyed at how long my commute to Brooklyn is for my teaching program. But on the train-ride home from to the suburbs I can watch the sunset (for a normal length of time) over Harlem and then the Bronx.
Caroline (Higgins) Nyczak (’11) lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she spends the vast majority of her time teaching English Language Arts. You may also find her at barre exercise classes or playing (and losing) at bar trivia. She continues to be inspired by the energy and diversity of New York City and the beauty of that certain slant of light.