Rutgers - Science Summer Abroad 2010
Nine Science Undergraduate Students Around the World

Friday, May 21, 2010

Written May 18th, 2010 on Delta Flight #200

Traveling by air remains my biggest fear. There's just something about cruising at 31,000 feet above the middle of the Atlantic Ocean that I find very unsettling. But hey, as crazy as it sounds, I'm here aren't I?

Peeking out of my window doesn't provide much solace. There is nothing but a black abyss staring back at me. I imagine that this is what the bottom of the sea is like. Realizing this isn't a place I want to visit anytime soon, I push the thought out of my mind. It's funny, we think we know so much about the world when, in actuality, most of it lies at great depths, beyond the touch of sunlight, inhabited by creepy, crawly things.

By using a touch screen located on the back of the headrest facing me, a multitude of entertainment options becomes available, literally, at my fingertips. Most of the programs are complimentary, and it doesn’t take long to find many options for killing time. There are a few simple games, like a version of Tetris called Caveman, but the slow response of the touch screen is crippling and would prevent even the most seasoned Tetris master from completing four levels. Frustrated, I decide to peruse the available TV shows and movies. Both categories are organized by genre (comedy, drama, documentary, etc.) and contain many choices. I begin with an episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Twenty minutes later, the credits are rolling and I realize that watching a movie will be a much better time-killer. I’m surprised by how recent some of the titles are (e.g. Avatar). Eventually, I settle on Inglorious Basterds for three reasons: I have yet to see it, I (mostly) enjoy Quentin Tarantino films, and most of it is in captions. Since my dog, Baxter, destroyed my headphones before I left, I have had to depend on the complimentary pair provided by Delta Airlines. Playing the movie at a regular volume level means missing out on the details of dialogue, but listening at full blast means losing my eardrums and missing out on hearing into my thirties. Finding the perfect middle ground is an ongoing process. Now, if only I could wrestle the armrests from my neighbors, it would almost feel like the movies…

Fifteen hours is a pretty long time to be cramped in between two people. My previous trip to South Africa was blessed with good fortune. I had an aisle seat with no one sitting next to me. Though it was convenient for writing and watching movies, it did nothing to help me sleep. It's true, not even a wink. This time around I have a trick up my sleeve: Unisom tablets. Before finishing my in-flight dinner, I down the chewable tablets with some water, resume watching Inglorious Basterds, and wait for them to take effect. Beginning as a slight ache in the back of my head, drowsiness slowly creeps forward around my cranium and before I know it, my eyelids are heavy and yawns dominate my breathing. This is a very welcome feeling, now only if it were a little quieter... Since I don't exactly have $300 to dole out for Bose quietcomfort headphones, I make do with the $1 earplugs I found at Whole Foods. I squish them down to the size of Q-tips and wiggle them into my ear canals. As they expand, the incessant drone of the engine begins to fade away...ahh, that's more like it. I wouldn't say that I'm comfortable, but this is as close as I am gonna get. I close my eyes and let unconsciousness sweep over me...

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