No Sleep on This Flight!!
Trip Start Jun 02, 2012
20Trip End Jun 28, 2012
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The first clue was that they were the last ones to board an international flight that was already 30 minutes late when boarding. started. The second clue was that their entourage included two flight attendants carrying the assorted paraphernalia of parenthood while each parent toted a toddler. One attendant was clearly pushing to get the family seated so the plane could pull back from the gate. Yet the father, at least, retained a relaxed, unhurried, the-world-will-wait-for-me demeanor.
We took off uneventfully, if a little late, and I didn’t notice the toddlers (one looked to be about 2, and the other 3 or 4 years old) during the first hour while eating dinner and plunking around on my laptop. In fact, I noticed them sleeping when I walked back through the dark cabin to use the restroom. That might have been a good time for a general announcement by the crew that “The little darlings are asleep; anyone seated in rows 12 through 29 should strongly consider following suit at this time!”
Trouble started brewing during dinner. I was watching a Japanese WW2 movie about Admiral Yamamoto, lone dissenter among the Japanese brass against their treaty with Germany and the concept of attacking America. Amidst an accelerating duet of full throated wailing, complaining, and even laughing, I discovered that multi-tasking (I started plunking on my computer again after dinner) is not compatible with watching a foreign movie with subtitles.
By the time I finished the movie (it ended sadly), the rout was on! Only the heaviest sleeper had a chance from that point forward. It became clear that the father’s laissez faire attitude about timeliness for international flights extended to parenting. These were clearly kids whose parents didn’t believe in applying any restraints, who gave voice, loudly, to whatever emotion they felt. These did not seem to be expressions of pain, rather boredom, or ploys for attention.
With about 5 hours left in a 10 hour flight, I decided to try to get some sleep. I donned blackout eyeshades and was wearing my noise cancelling headphones , but anyone who’s used them knows they don’t cancel out high frequency sounds. Airplane engine drone is greatly muffled; screaming toddlers are not.
After attempting mental discipline – trying to block out the noise and direct my mind anywhere else that might lead down the path to some facsimile of sleep, I resorted to my ultimate noise defense. I’d stashed a new set of Ohropax earplugs in my pack in the overhead bin for this trip. In the dark of the cabin, I got up and opened the bin, fumbled around in the back pocket of the pack, and secured the little box of earplugs.
While up, I took opportunity for a closer looks at this interesting, insensible clan, about six rows behind me (I can’t imagine what it must have been like to sit directly in front or behind them). The father had a friendly, unaffected bearing…still. He appeared to have that amazing ability to remain fully oblivious to the mental darts that were zipping his way from all over the cabin. No measures were taken to quiet the children. It was as if they were someone else's kids.
Now I had my Ohropax wax earplugs firmly in place, my noise cancelling headphones on over top of them, and was playing my “Classics for Reading” album at the top end of the volume range. It didn’t work! The wailing, shouting, crying, sliced through my noise shield like a diamond-tipped scalpel.
Somewhere over Ireland I gave up. Like many around me, I opted to read or watch a movie rather than stew behind my eyeshades. I landed in Amsterdam having logged a personal best in the category "longest flight without any sleep".
In Amsterdam, I transferred to the ongoing flight into Stockholm where I picked up a rental car and pointed it down the motorway. I kept it between the white lines about an hour before pulling off the highway into a McDonald's parking lot for a 30 minute nap followed by a cup of coffee. My objective for the evening was the small town of Finspang, where I was scheduled to meet the walk host for the walk we're doing here near the end of the tour.
Åke picked me up at the hotel and drove me through town showing me sections the walk route and finishing at his home. Here I met his gracious wife Lillemore, and shared another cup of coffee (did I say strong European coffee), an amazing slice of pineapple pie (actually two slices), and a brainstorming session about our walk together on Midsummer day.
Now it’s 10:30 pm and I'm back in my room, wired by the coffee, looking out the window at a sky that isn’t yet dark, and still not feeling like it's time to go to bed!