Traveller's tales

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Air travel 1

What have the Carpathian Mountains, chicken biriyani and gin and tonic got in common? Here’s a clue , the time is 4 in the afternoon or 10 at night, and I don’t normally drink alcohol at any time – the answer is; they all figure prominently in one particular day in my life – the day I fly from Manchester to Dubai – along with three hundred and odd people, who, like me have spent the last three hours watching that funny little plane crossing Europe at a snail’s pace (500 mph +) and being given continual updates on our ground speed, altitude, outside air temperature and estimated time of arrival in Dubai.

As I intimated earlier, I wouldn’t normally consider a G & T at any time, but hurtling across the Alps, 30,000 feet below, time – earthly time, seems somehow – well, timeless – irrelevant. It’s the time right now sitting on this plane that matters – the time ticking down on all the TVs – one for each of us (don’t get me started on lowering our carbon footprints just now, please).

We had already watched people bolting down overpriced burgers and fries at 11 am in the departure lounge in rainy Manchester, wondered at the constitutions of men gulping down pints of lager prior to boarding, and half-anticipated bouts of air-rage an hour later.

Reading about how to diminish my own carbon footprint – 9.99 from Waterstone’s in the departure lounge, does little to increase my desire not to fly – my main concern is pacing myself so that I don’t land in Dubai with either stomach cramp or gin on my breath at passport control.

After all, I wouldn’t want to insult my hosts, the Customs officials courteously and patiently waiting for me to produce my passport. Prolonging my journey is not an option I want to even consider. All I want to do is fight my way through the throngs of relatives impatient to meet their loved ones from the sub-continent, spot my main man and leave the building.

A full hour stuck in the car park with the engine running – with everybody’s engine running hasn’t exactly made us environmentally conscious travelers, but all anybody wants to do after modern, high speed travel is to get home and sleep – Earth’s problems will have to be put on hold until tomorrow, I fear.

The trouble with that is that every busy airport from Dubai to Dublin is a’ city that never sleeps’, each and every minute of every day (notice I avoid the cliché 24/7) tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, probably, are doing just that – letting the environment go hang until they get some shut-eye.

The sun, it used to be said, never set on the British Empire – now it never sets on us churning out more and more pollution - our final destination seems to be getting close.
Robert L. Fielding

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