I’ve had some wonderful flying experiences. My flight to Singapore was not one of them.
The first leg from Houston to Moscow was as close to perfect as I could hope for. I watched movies, had plenty to eat, and even got some sleep. If you ever have a chance to fly Singapore Air, do so. The service is spectacular; it is by far the best airline I’ve ever flown. Let it be known that my judgment is not clouded by the fact that I had three seats to myself for the entire trip, all 22 hours.
As we were descending into Moscow, I rose from my slumber to catch a peek behind the iron curtain. I understand that Communism allowed little room for individuality, but I didn’t think I could tell that looking down from an airplane. First off, Moscow reached for miles and miles, but it all looked the same. I thought at first it must be because everything was covered in snow, but after a closer look, I found that it was basic, plain, and cookie-cutter. It was like looking at tract housing in Suburban Town, USA, only not as nice. That was my impression of Moscow from the air.
The airport was desolate, a good 30 miles from the city. There was absolutely nothing around the airport but trees, frozen ground, and snow. NOTHING! As we were landing, the pilot announced that we would deplane and go through security. He also made it known that the temperature was 2 degrees. TWO!
When I stepped off the plane and walked up the long, windowed hall to the terminal, I let out a resounding yelp. Yes, it was that cold. Holy cow! I made it through security and took a walk through the airport to get to my gate, which happened to be just one big circle. I’ve never seen DME on any best airport lists, and now I know why. There was absolutely nothing in the airport but gates and a small store to buy snacks and papers. Bare necessities only. No frills here.
After a short time at the gate, I was able to board again. Learning from my previous leg, I looked around for the coveted three open seats. Jackpot! I quickly gathered my stuff, and laid claim to my home for the next 11 hours. After a few seconds, I realized that I might not have chosen so wisely. I had two burly, rowdy, Russian men behind me. They were both loud, but one was decidedly louder than the other.
I contemplated moving back to my original seat, but decided that once they got their headsets they would settle down for a movie. The headsets came and the noise continued. To add fuel to the fire, after the headsets came, so did the drink cart. Glasses of Stoli Vodka were poured and drunk just as fast. I thought, “Is the ability to stretch out and possibly sleep worth putting up these two guys?” The food came next, and I thought perhaps that would quiet them down. This did work for a short time, and then they were at it again.
At one point, the “quieter” of the two reached over the seat and rubbed the top of my head. Yes, that really did happen. I turned around and looked at him with my teacher what-the-hell look. He mustered a sly smile and lowered his head.
About two hours into the flight, not a peep was heard from the brutes behind me. I popped an Ambien, and thought this would be the time to get some sleep. I did get to sleep, but I’m not sure how long, maybe 30 minutes before my neck pillow slipped to the feet of the “louder” Russian. While speaking his guttural language, he reached down to get the pillow. I reached back to get the pillow, gave him a polite smile, and thanked him.
He wouldn’t give it to me!!! I pulled, and he pulled back. After doing this routine three times, I said,
“Give me my f-ing pillow!”
Yep, I said it. I don’t know if it was the tone of my voice, the look on my face, or if the only English word he knew started with an “F,” but he returned my pillow.
I was left alone for a few hours. I got back to sleep, but was awoken by the hand of the “quiet” Russian quickly rubbing my head two more times. I rose up, turned around, and told him to “quit f-ing with me.” The word seemed to work so well the first time, I thought I would give it another go.
Shortly thereafter, a flight attendant came and asked me if the gentlemen were bothering me. I told him, “Not anymore, but they wouldn’t give my pillow back and rubbed my head three times.”
The flight attendant’s eyes almost popped out of her head. “They laid their hands on you?” she said. I confirmed, and she quickly proceeded to chastise the Russians behind me. The remainder of the trip, they used their indoor voices and didn’t bother me again. When I finally arrived in Singapore, I figured that I just experienced the worst flight possible.
I was wrong. Dead wrong.