Regarding Iceland Air. (viva Lufthansa)

The train from Budapest to Kosice covers two hundred and seventy kilometers, crosses one national border, and does it in four hours. That’s a pretty good chunk of Hungary and Slovakia, and I assume the scenery is excellent. It is quite dark, however, so I am stuck assuming, and reflecting on my last four flights. And also admiring my reflection in the window, and wishing my beard would grow back faster. Shaving is bad, kids. Do not let them peer pressure you into removing your manly facial hair.


Anyway. I left the United States on Iceland Air, with a stopover in Reykjavik, Iceland and on to Schiphol, Holland. I’m going to say that those two flights comprised the most miserable ten hours of my life that didn’t involve a break-up, broken bone, wrecked car or asthma attack. My seat was 17B. The 17 is the row number, and ‘B’ stands for ‘between,’ as in, ‘between a rock and a hard place.’ But we’ll get to that.


Iceland Air is very modern airline, very design-conscious and eco-friendly. It means a lot to them to be one with nature. When it came time to buy seats for their new aircraft, they recycled. I think they bought some used wooden pews and covered them in a thin layer of slippery fabric.
As levered myself into the seat, I pictured the woman who coached one of my high school plays. She was forever quoting formulas about power, responsibility and good hygiene and how they related to memorizing lines of dubious importance in high school plays. That lady would have loved Iceland Air. The seats were rock hard, tilted one degree back from vertical, and just long enough to contain my whole but… provided that my cheeks were clenched. Her favorite one-liner was “Broomstick Backs!” This phrase referred to a posture composed of right angles. I was incapable of performing the “Broomstick Back” posture in high school. As it turns out, I still am.


In my bliss at being on a plane for the first time in six months, I was willing to forgive the church pew, but it was also rather warm in the aircraft. That temperature ramped up by an order of magnitude when my row-mate came to sit down. She was, to put it delicately, quite large. She poured herself into the aisle seat like a water balloon into a coffee mug (with the same slurp of suction), tilted my way as far as the chair arms allowed, and was asleep before boarding even ended, her hand resting comfortably upon my thigh. The last person in the row had the window seat. She raised a dubious eyebrow at me across the mound of flesh in the aisle seat, shrugged, and mountaineered the two of us to reach her own seat. She took in my situation, sympathetically said nothing, and squirreled herself into the intersection of wall, seat and window for the rest of the flight.


Which was long, hot (the air kicked on as the plane took off, but never got much cooler than tepid) and generally miserable. Flyers were allotted one glass of water. There was a beautiful menu of excellent Icelandic foods, but each one had an exorbitant price beside it. Prices were listed helpfully in Euros and Icelandic currency. The hostesses were quite friendly about it. “You see, sir, at Iceland Air we offer you the opportunity to choose from a wide variety of foods instead of one boring in-flight snack.”


So all I have to do is sell my firstborn child and I will be able to afford a snack. Six baking hours to Reykjavik, a variety of sweaty palm-prints steamed into my thigh, and not even a second helping of ice water to comfort me?


Bring it on.


Now let us take a jump in space and time. Two weeks and a couple of thousand miles have passed by train, plane and automobile, and I’m sitting in in Robert Chimbiti’s living room in Mvurwi, Zimbabwe. My beard has grown back, and I am contemplating letting it grow to a righteous length. I have watched breakers crash on the southernmost coast of Africa. I learned about the importation of frozen meat products from a fellow passenger on a flight to Amsterdam. I ate at LUV DAT CHICKEN. You would think I would have gotten over my Iceland Air grudge by now.


I have not.


Viva Lufthansa.