Olympic Airlines flight 690 surprisingly landed without technical failure in Malta's Luqa International Airport the 26th of September, 2015.
That's how the air traffic control memo read in my mind as we closed in on the landing and the safety of ground was within reach. Having sweat through each layer of my traditional airplane uniform of black leggings and everything else that wouldn't fit in my bag, I was ready to deplane and strip down. I needed to remove my clothes, and if at all possible, the memory of this most recent experience.
Even though it felt like I had aged in years rather than hours, it had been just 120 minutes earlier that the nightmare began.
I had optimistically walked onto the tarmac only to discover I was going to be flying in what looked more like a discarded idea from the Wright brothers during their early attempts at conquering aviation than an actual plane. And in the rain of all weather conditions. The speciman in front of me couldn’t possibly be deemed suitable for flying. There must have been some mistake.
Yet, as I was the only one that seemed to hold any amount of hesitation, and not really having a plan B or any idea how to unchoose this terrible decision I made, I carried on. Two men held the staircase to hell as my fellow passengers and myself made our way up and inside the metal beast. As I pushed through I looked down at my ticket and realized I had a window seat. And with a perfect view of the propeller too. How ideal! A front row seat to my own demise.
The wing that held the rotating malignant monster was marked with an off brand Olympic logo. The image turned sideways and missing a very essential seventh ring. Well this is just grand, I thought. Already starting off incomplete, which is never something you want when you are about to climb 30,000 feet in the air. I imagined the pilot coming on board, saying, "well sorry folks it looks like we went ahead and forgot to refuel", just as nonshalantly as they managed to forget the seventh ring. And furthermore, why associate yourself with an organization that symbolizes strength and unity to the world when you are clearly not even equipped to pull your weight in the most special sort of games. If this plane was a country in the Olympics it would without a doubt be BangladeshAnd that is saying something. They have never won a medal - EVER.
I looked around; the plane was less than half full. Fewer casualties, I thought positively to myself. But then there was the general observation of my fellow passengers. NO. Please don't let this be the group of people I go down with. How could I possibly share a last minute passionate kiss with a middle aged woman who couldn't be bothered to shower but had at a spare 60 minutes this morning to paint using the canvas of her own face. If we were to embrace one another her lipstick, eye shadow, crème and pencil would ultimately rub off all over my own face and no one would be able to identify my body. My mother would say, “No that’s not my daughter. She wasn’t really into drag.”
The free wine made the Xanax flow stronger and ultimately the flight more bearable. But haziness of the mind could not shield my eyes from what they were seeing. Nothing but the vast beautiful ocean, ready to swallow us up at any moment. I convinced myself with the amount of cruise ships transporting aging old Americans from one over populated tourist attraction to another there must be a spot for us to land in one of the seven pools they so widely promoted having onboard. If and when the engines decide to fail us. Or maybe those barges carrying tons and tons of tiny plastic toys from China to a gift shop near you. Surely it was possible.
The frigidly cold air at 30,000 feet was seeping in near the area where my shoes were stuck to the repulsive carpet. There must have been a hole in the plane because nothing else could explain the drastic temperature changes from the palms of my hands to my toes. Another reason this plane was absolutely unsuitable for air travel on that particular day.
And then the most insufferable part began - the start of the descent. My heart might as well have leapt out of my chest and powered the winding down propellor. It had enough power at this point and I thought it might be trying to overcompensate in some way and accidentally end my life in the process.
A man named Georgios welcomed us as we were approaching the end of our time together. We had been in the air for over 100 minutes and this was the first time he had announced his presence. I couldn't make out what he was saying. Welcoming us to where? Our final destination? Please let it be life.
And just like that we were on the ground. The doors opened and it was as if there hadn't been ounce of fear present. I lifted my slightly lighter body out of my seat, having left a few pounds of perspiration behind, and said, "goodbye", to the stone faced flight attendants who did nothing to make me feel more comfortable. Hoping my smile would warm their heart and save the next brave soul boarding this treacherous plane.
Get me to the beach and sand, I thought. But first let me, without hesitation, jump in a taxi cab with no seatbelt and a driver with an obvious BAC of .12. I sighed a bit of relief and set out from the one safe place I had probably been all day into a world of unexpected chaos. Alone.