Dear friends and readers of my blog,
First, my apologies for a bit of a hiatus from blogging. I’ve been traveling. But I hope my blogs over the next few days will make up for my absence. As I jetted around the globe, I kept a bit of a blog diary, complete with my fun adventures, which will, of course, include books! I didn’t want to post these blogs until I returned home, somewhat because of a weird paranoia regarding telling people where I am (a product of my upbringing that is completely contrary to current insta-travel story culture) and also because I viewed these posts as a cohesive series I wanted to have a beginning, middle and end. I suppose that part is the novel writer in me.
Now, for the first blog in my travel blog series.
The Butterfly Effect, or How I Unexpectedly Ended Up in Dubai (A Travel Adventure: Days 1-2.5)
A butterfly flaps its wings in the Amazon setting off a chain of events culminating in a devastating hurricane in Florida. This is the concept of the butterfly effect. Semi-terrible but somehow enthralling, Ashton Kutcher movie aside, the butterfly effect is intriguing both as a thought experiment and as an everyday occurrence. The actions or lack of actions we take in our daily lives may impact complete strangers in ways we never realized.
Today or yesterday, or at this point, it could have been three weeks ago, with all the time changes I’ve lost track of days…Let’s just say at some point in the near past I got on a plane and thought I would end up in Singapore. And, I did…eventually…
As I sat on the runway waiting for takeoff, all the shiny amenities of my business class seat (personal bar, chair-to-full bed recliner, iPad and wide screen TV with an insane number of channels) distracted me from the disembodied voice over the PA system. Instead of snapping selfies to send to my husband (proving how much I don’t belong in business class) and reveling in my temporary fancy-pants status, I should have been listening.
To fully understand how it felt for someone like me to fly on a double-decker plane where business and first class had the entire top level complete with a lounge at the back for hanging out, let me take you back to the iconic 1980s movie Big. Imagine Tom Hanks as his childhood self running around a toy store. This was my FAO Schwarz scene.
Runway models turned flight attendants, or at least that’s how they looked, came by every few minutes with tempting offers. Pillow top mattress for your seat? Champagne? A gold bag filled with an assortment of Bvlgari lotions and perfumes? It felt strange like I was living someone else’s life. Nice? Sure. But this jeans and t-shirt girl felt very much out of her element, like a child dressing up and playing pretend. I kept wondering at what point they’d realized someone made a mistake and kick me back to coach.
I’d flown this airline, Emirates, previously and had been, as I usually am, in coach. Even there I felt like a queen compared with other airlines. In fact, when I first flew Emirates and saw they had an entire channel devoted solely to the Gilmore Girls, I nearly lost my mind. I think I squealed and told the person next to me with extreme enthusiasm that this was “the best airline ever.” To which the person gave me a totally appropriate “please don’t talk to me crazy lady” scrunched face response.
So you can imagine how I reacted to business class. Although I stocked up on books for the 24-hour in-total trip, a random assortment of YA, Singapore literature (aka, SingLit) and astrophysics books, it’s possible the sheer options of entertainment may have affected my book reading on the flight. (Translation: I gorged on TV and movies like a starving person at a buffet.)
My book list for the flight included (which I earnestly believed I would get a good portion of the way through)
- A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
- Ponti by Sharlene Teo
- Kappa Quartet by Daryl Qilin Yam
- Grey Wolves series by Quinn Loftis
What I actually did on the flight
- Read SOME of A Brief History of Time and Ponti
- Tried to catch up on my NANOWRIMO book, but was so far behind I didn’t think writing even for 24 hours would get me back on track
- Watched: Mama Mia!, Mama Mia! Here I Go Again, the entire season of The New Girl, and to make myself feel better about NOT reading and writing more, a wonderful little movie called The Bookshop (highly recommend it!)
Caught up in the decadence of my hot towels and an unlimited supply of entertainment, I failed to fully register the earlier announcement that our plane had been delayed because someone had to get off the flight and his or her luggage had to be removed before we could take off.
Now I don’t know why this person left the plane. Perhaps it was an emergency. But I do know this one act caused a chain of events that left me sitting 15 hours later at a Dubai Airport hotel with my long winter pants pulled up to my knees, getting nipped by flies in the hot dry sun, while I watched two adorable kids frolic at a pool.
Since the stranger and his suitcases made me miss my connecting flight, my layover was extended from 2 hours to 18 hours. The airline kindly shuttled me over to a nearby hotel to rest and try to sleep. By Dubai standards, the airport hotel was mediocre. (By normal people standards it was nice. The Dubai Likert scale for almost everything ranges from Pretty Darn Nice to Super Fantastic Crazy Amazing.)
Ever-pervasive cranes and construction blotted out any view of the downtown area, which was too far away for a quick jaunt into the city and I was too exhausted to go anyway. Apparently, sitting in a luxury class cabin for half a day is equivalent to running a marathon. Who knew? The distance to downtown Dubai, the fact that my internal clock was at 1 am despite a bright shining morning sun, and my lack of appropriate clothing options meant this airport hotel would be my oasis for the entirety of the layover.
As I silently cursed my butterfly – Mr. Better Have Had A Real But Not Life-Threatening Emergency – a breeze drifted over my bare feet. Above me, cottony clouds spread across the sky. Yes, I was disappointed not to be heading to Singapore, where my best friend had already arrived for our girls’ vacation and waited for me. But, could I really complain about being in Dubai on a surprisingly cool, by Dubai standards, morning?
Plus, I made a friend during the trip, a fellow traveler named Nathan, also stuck on an extended layover. We bonded instantly over that thing that bonds so many strangers – worry. We fretted together and jointly grilled the flight attendants over whether we would make our connection. Then we commiserated over being re-booked on a flight 18 hours later.
We became a pair, walking through the airport, going through passport control and sharing a car together to the hotel, where we went our separate ways for the day but made plans to meet up for the return trip. It was nice to have a companion on my unexpected trip to Dubai.
By the way, I like the poetic irony here. I missed my plane connection, but I made a personal connection. Is that irony or just a happy coincidence? (At the time I wrote this, I had not slept since I left the US. So please forgive me if I used the term incorrectly.)
Perhaps this wasn’t the best way to start my vacation. But honestly, sitting at the pool with the sun shining on my face wasn’t so bad. Perhaps I would forgive my little butterfly, eventually.
My advice if you’re ever stuck in a situation like this, make the best of it and focus on the positive. My positive: One beautiful warm Dubai morning by the pool, a brief, but enjoyable, friendship and a chance to get myself on Singapore time.
After I my morning reading by the pool (since no Vegas-style sensory-overload entertain system existed in the hotel), I drew the blackout curtains in my room and forced myself to sleep right around bedtime in Singapore.
A few hours later, I’d head back the airport. And, finally, I’d arrive at my final destination, Singapore. But that’s for the next blog…