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June 20 – Departures and Arrivals
Across the Pond

I had booked the bulkhead seat, having flown in this row long ago when my son was an infant. It provides a great deal more leg room than the other rows in tourist class. I wasn't, however, able to book a window seat, so I sat perched on the aisle. I realized as soon as I was seated that I had made a mistake. It was the busiest little area of the jet.

The lavatory door opened and closed constantly. The flight attendants walked back and forth between my seat and the wall which held the movie screen. I could hold my arm out (which isn't very long, as vertically challenged as I am) and touch the movie screen without leaning forward. No matter, I told myself. We'd be off the ground soon and I'd have a nice warm meal and a glass of wine and nod right off.

NOT. We taxied out onto the runway and came to a dead stop. The pilot's voice filled the plane. "Good evening folks and welcome to US Airways Flight 196 from Philadelphia to Manchester England. The good news is that we have a great tail wind for this flight and should be arriving in Manchester an hour and a half early. The bad news is that we are ninth in line for takeoff." My stomach grumbled in protest, but to no avail.

The flight was scheduled for an 8:30PM departure and 8:45AM arrival. I adjusted my watch accordingly for the time difference as we left the ground. It was now magically 2:00AM. By 3:00AM I had a meal before me but the desire for food had completely eluded me. Though, by my body-clock, it was only 10:00PM, all of my mental and physical faculties begged for sleep.

I pushed chicken lasagna around the little tray that had been presented to me with my fork, sipped from my water bottle, which had turned out to be a brilliant purchase after all, shivered, pulled my little blanket up over my head and attempted to go to sleep. A voice from above announcing that the evening's entertainment was about to begin startled me from my reverie.

I peeked out from beneath my blanket skeptically, then cringed as a flight attendant adjusted the movie screen. I was about to be entertained whether I wanted it or not. The film was "Agnes Brown," starring Anjelica Huston. I took the headphones off after about five minutes and watched the movie through my eyelids. The screen was so close that this was almost possible.

I laugh when I think of this now, but I wasn't laughing then. I haven't seen many films with Anjelica Huston, but there does seem to be one common thread. She chain smokes through all of them. I felt this was uncalled for torture for the smokers among us and noticed quite a few fidgeters.

Finally, finally the film was over and the screen went dark. I put the headphones back on and found a classical music station on the little armrest radio. I felt myself easing into slumber. A short lived respite as it turned out. A woman leaving the lavatory elbowed me in the temple as she passed, apologized and hurried on. I resigned myself to a long flight and a longer night.

It was at that moment I realized it was now June 21st – the Summer Solstice ... the longest day of the year.

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