SOME SCENES FROM A TRIP HALFWAY AROUND THE WORLD
* Took a Super Shuttle to the airport, scheduled pickup at 5:30 a.m. Have used Super Shuttle several times and have placed numerous visiting friends on the distinct blue vans to ferry them to the airport. Always been on time. Efficient. This time the driver didn't show up until 6 a.m. and had the look of a guy on the run from a sheriff's department. He heaved my bags into the back, then demanded to know how to find Park Terrace East. The drivers usually have great knowledge of the streets and onboard maps. This guy had the latter, but the knowledge was lacking. I directed him a block over and we picked up his final passenger, who let him know he was 45 minutes late for her pickup. So I guess I shouldn't have complained. But he did get me to the airport in plenty of time, keeping Super Shuttle's record of efficiency intact.
* Watched a 10-year-old boy with a pot haircut and a few missing teeth entertain his dad and older brother by walking the wrong way on the flat escalators in the terminal. This was high comedy for all three.
"I'm moonwalking!" the stupid child announced to his enthralled audience of pop and brother, who had the enthusiasm of the French after Lindy's landing. Finally a worker told the future hoodlum to stop. He sulked, slowly carried backward by the escalator. Thank you, JFK employee.
* Scored a seat in the emergency exit row. For a person stuck in economy class, this is as close to first class as you can get without actually breaking through to the other side of that foreboding blue curtain. All the room in the world and no one sat next to me, giving me leg freedom for 18 hours. In exchange, the flight crew simply needed to know that I could handle the door and help with passengers in the "unlikely" event of a water landing or some other crisis. I'm sure I could. But even if the worst happened and I proved I wasn't up to the task, my failure as an emergency exit row patron would be the least of anyone's worries. On the incident report, it probably wouldn't be listed until about page 485.
* South African Airways planes show entertaining safety videos, featuring a cartoon character with an enlarged head who suffers a series of indignities in the film, from being hit by falling luggage from the overhead bin to struggling with his life jacket after that unlikely water landing actually happened. Much more enlightening than the standard instructions flight crews provide.
* I didn't hear a single screaming child on the entire flight from New York to Johannesburg, breaking my string of sitting next to devil babies on about 10 consecutive flights. I did see babies onboard, but their parents either drugged them beforehand or they simply handled international flights better than their bottle-sucking brethren.
* Each seat has a TV screen and the choice of movies or programs. Watched District 9, The Informant and Wall Street. Trivia tidbit: When Louise was growing up in South Africa, she watched Wall Street and told herself that one day she'd move to New York City. She actually walked outside her home, looked up at the stars and thought, "That's the same sky that's over New York. Someday I'm going to be in New York and I'm going to be under that same sky and I'll remember this moment and realize my dreams came true." This is real (she could be a strange and ambitious child). The movie, the deals, the excitement, Charlie Sheen, it all enthralled her. I've seen the journal entries. That was in the early 90s. About eight years later she came to America and has been in the big city for a decade. Meaning, Louise might be one of the seven people who are happy that Wall Street 2 is filming and will be released this year.
* Trip was uneventful, as was the connection from Johannesburg to Cape Town. One oddity - at least for Americans visiting - is that at the Johannesburg airport, passengers take a bus from the gate, onto the tarmac and to the plane. They walk off the bus and then up outside steps to the inside of the plane. Feel like the president boarding Air Force One.
* Greeted at the airport by Louise, her brother, his wife, and their cute 18-month-old daughter. Weather: 75, sunny, no humidity. This I can handle for the next two weeks.
Alas, I will not be able to stay up for the two NFL title games, so will go to sleep now not knowing if the Brett Favre Experiment leads to a Super Bowl berth or yet more disappointment for the Vikings. I'm predicting victory for Minnesota. And if that ultimately proves wrong, I blame jet lag.