The American Airlines plane that carried me from Los Angeles to London was a Boeing 777 … and that sucker is huge! Intellectually, I already knew that, of course, but you can’t come to grips with how big it really is until you see that behemoth sitting right there on the tarmac in front of you. My seat was well toward the front of the economy section … and I was in Row 25!
We took off on time and, really, the flight was fine. Long — not quite ten hours — but fine. I had a window seat and the middle and aisle seats were occupied by a couple of young girls, both in their 20s, strangers to each other as well as to me. And, typical of air travel, despite the fact that they were close to the same age and both appeared to be students on their way to London, they didn’t say a word to each other throughout the entire flight, let alone to me. Funny isn’t it: Airline passengers don’t converse; rail passengers do.
We left Los Angeles at 8:00 p.m. which meant that more than half of the flight was in the dark. And because we were flying toward the sunrise at 600 miles-per-hour, most of the passengers were dozing long after we had flown back into daylight. I raised the window shade and peered out to behold a magnificent landscape of snow and rivers of ice and rugged mountains tinged with a faint orange glow from the sun just coming up directly ahead of us. A quick look at the video screen tracking our flight left little doubt: we were flying along the southern coast of Greenland.
I fumbled for my camera and managed to get two shots before one of the flight attendants appeared in the aisle and, in a stage whisper, hissed that I must close the shade immediately because I was disturbing people trying to sleep. I assumed a pleading expression, pointed out the window, and mouthed the word “Greenland”. She shook her head vigorously while pantomiming a pulling-down motion. I did so, although none of the other passengers were even looking in my direction, let alone appearing to be annoyed.
The evening in London got off to a great start with a thoroughly enjoyable dinner with my niece and her husband at the Duke of Cambridge pub in the Islington section of London. When I told the cabbie where I wanted to go, he burst out laughing. “That’s the pub where I bought me very first pint in public,” he said. “I was just a lad of 16 at the time and I was sure they would ask my age and throw me out.” A cheerful follow, appearing to be in his fifties, he said he hadn’t thought of the Duke of Cambridge or that first pint for years … not until that very moment. We spent the rest of the ride in quite an interesting conversation about the selective memory that comes with the advancing years.
The American Airlines flight attendant notwithstanding, it would seem this trip is off to a very good start.