On my last trip to Australia, while flying overnight, I woke and looked out the window.
For me the ordeal of flying is increasingly distressing. 1-hour taxi to the airport’s LCCT (low cost carrier terminal), standing in line to check-in (Air Asia does not allow online check-in to Melbourne for some reason), waiting for the gate to open in predictably busy surroundings: screaming kids, footy teams on their way back from a week of celebrations/drowning sorrows, all during late, late hours.
I try to fly overnight to Oz if I can get a cheap ticket. It’s an 8-hour flight and the more of those hours spent sleeping the better. Not that I’m very good at sleeping on planes; I prefer my sleep lying down. The fact that Air Asia need to peddle their meals and merchandise makes sleep all the more difficult. No matter what time of night it is, the cabin lights remain on until the staff have announced, trolleyed, and sold as much food and drink as they can. Flying a budget airline means none of this stuff is included, and they need to make money somehow. The lights stay on a good hour (or more) into a 1:35am flight.
I always pay the extra RM70 to choose my own seat too, opting for the window every time. This usually gives me somewhere to rest my pillow and my head, and allows for a tiny bit more comfort. It also ensures no one will wake me when they get up for the tandas (loo). I never need to go on an 8-hour flight. Call me gifted[1. I think they call this gift “truckies guts”.].
So after the ordeal of getting on the plane, taking off, and finally getting to sleep through the blinding cabin lights, I woke a few hours later to a cabin with lights switched off and everyone — especially babies — asleep. I peered out of the window to see the silky doona-cover-like clouds below us, dimly illuminated by the moon. Above us, a super crisp and clear night sky, the Milky Way, and the Southern Cross. There were no city lights at 38,000 feet. It was beautiful. I was calm.
I remember camping when I was an early teen and sleeping out in a field with family and friends and dogs and sleeping bags. I remember watching the night sky for hours and laughing at stupid jokes cracked in the delirium of trying to stay awake as long as possible. Looking through the airplane window now at the night sky, it gently teased these memories back from the depths. I smiled.
And then I saw shooting stars.