I stare at the back of the seat in front of me. It’s fabric. Blue fabric. I look down at the beer in front of me. It’s VB of all things. How did it come to this?
I write this, somewhere above the Pacific Ocean, flying from Sydney to Los Angeles, as part of a very long journey bound for New York.
The plane itself is a 747. It’s old. Not in a biplane sort-of-way, but relative to other planes, this one seems prehistoric.
I take another sip of VB. Victoria Bitter. Despite being named after my home state, I wouldn’t drink it at home, and prior to this moment, I wouldn’t have drank it on a flight. But it’s my only option other than light beer. Meaning it’s my only option.
I look back at the blue cloth on the seat in front of me, and then up at the LCD screens hanging along the aisle. That’s where the entertainment is. I pull the inflight magazine from the seat pocket. There are movies. Not bad movies, but not ones I would choose to watch.
I take another sip of beer and look up at one of the screens. It’s a computer animated comedy about a really fast snail. I remembered seeing the posters for it. You would know them if you saw them. The posters didn’t exactly thrill me, but then, neither did the beer. I pulled on my headphones and looked up at the screen.
At first I found it entertaining, but a little average, and not really worth my time. But just as I was about to plug my iPod in, I took a glance around the cabin and noticed that instead of a hundred eyes watching a hundred movies on a hundred screens, everyone was focused on the same screen. It’s true that we all take what we can find in these scenarios, but there was something suddenly captivating about the feeling in the cabin. And as each passenger wore headphones, it was almost like we were all in a drive-in cinema. It was a community of people united through a most unlikely experience.
And somehow, this feeling of community made the film a little better, my fellow passengers a little friendlier, and even the beer, a little nicer; and I didn’t think that was possible.
I glanced over at a man in the far aisle. He’s leaning back and watching something on his laptop. I wonder if he’s having the same experience we were.
Once the movie was over they switched to some documentary. But I didn’t have an interest in it so I switched to the classical music channel. I look around. There far fewer eyes are watching the screens now. I wonder if they are listening to classical music too.