Three days ago:
So I was on this plane taking me from Dakar to Istanbul, an 11 hour flight, cramped in a unbelievably small seat. I was flanked by two stern -looking middle aged guys. How in the world is my time going to go by?.. I had stomach cramps all afternoon just before getting on the plane. No doubt, it was in anticipation of this trip. It was the anxiety of someone who was going to be confined, deprived… Stress, stress, stress, cramps, cramps, cramps. All afternoon, it was the same symptoms any addict would have before involuntary rehab.
Now it had become a reality and the anxiety was aggravated by armchair cramps and sleeplessness. Should I add a dry mouth? and the beginning of a sore throat with this cold air blowing throughout the plane? And no, the dry peanut snack is not helping. It is just suffocating me . I understand that this cold air is to keep the air crisp (not musty) and to keep bacteria at bay, but it is polar cold in here, and it is making me BI-POLAR because I just left my beloved hot African sun.
In the midst of my complaints and spinning brain, I look up and see a light on that displays a cigarette crossed in red. So there are still people in 2013 who don’t know smoking is strictly forbidden on planes? What an unnecessary painful reminder for an addict trying to shutdown his neurotransmitters…
At the sight of the non-smoking sign, I( the non-smoker) NOW FEEL EVEN MORE TRAPPED. This was the reminder that some people are just going crazy in here or could go off in a few minutes from being smoke deprived. I’m talking about eople who can easily burn a cigarette or more per hour. They’ll now have to be on an involuntary fast. How will they survive the trip? Ranking high, smokers belong to the ever growing group of “social -something” addicts. I’m putting them in a similar group as the chronic texters, the Twitterers, the Facebookers, the ramblers. All of these man-induced habits that could jeopardize the safety of our flight if left unchecked.
BUT I AM AN ADDICT TOO! I am addicted to fresh air, to freedom of movement ,and a comfortable bed. In short, to my first world comforts. I am extremely unhappy right now and terribly fidgety. Plus, I did not want to leave my vacation house. I just want to scream. This flying business is a nightmare in economy class, but I feel even more terrible for those who are enslaved to their nerve wrecking and cell-damaging habits. How do they feel?
I befriend one of the grumpy looking passengers toward the end of the flight. Looks can be deceiving. We are all in a bad mood because THIS FLIGHT IS JUST TOO LONG AND WE ARE ALL ADDICTED TO SOMETHING that we cannot have, so the unexpected interlocutor and I communicate in sign language and very broken monosyllabic English.
He’s a Turk captain of a cargo ship, and I am a French Teacher. What a pair! I am sleep- deprived, moody and nostalgic, but he is in overdrive mode, speaking in a very fast staccato fashion in Turkish to the Turkish flight attendant. I sense he needs my sympathy, my humanity, and he gives me his crackers and some of his sparkling water as I toss and turn in my mini seat in the artificially darkened cabin .(Remember this flight is 11 hours long so the boundaries of time and space have vanished).
Even in all of this, I think: Sorry I cannot offer you sir what you are probably craving the most:” a cigarette. I myself am learning to be deprived of what I thought was the most basic necessity: freedom of motion, lukewarm air, a bed, but the lesson was bigger for the hypothetical smoker that I imagine to be. I must continue to treasure my own addiction-free lifestyle. I have to help others see its benefits.
Why add on to the natural hardships of life and travel? Because I do not smoke or tweet, even with my slight cramps, I am better off than the smoker next to me!
Eleven hours later: As he gets off the plane, my fellow passenger the ship captain, gives off a big smile and reaches for his pack of cigs and confesses what I knew all along. I smile back, mildly shake my head, and whisper to him “Smoking no good!” And he gives me that look that I know too well, implying it is his decision.
Good luck, Captain! Until we meet again.