Imagine: You board a plane an hour before takeoff. The seats are comfortable, but cramped, with stiff backs that cannot be reclined until the plane is in the air. After the passengers board, you are shown a safety video and the plane backs away from the gate. So far, so good.
“Due to the rain,” your captain announces, “there’s a long queue waiting for takeoff. Looks to be about forty minutes.” This is to be expected, you think. Weather happens.
Your plane joins the line and moves slowly toward the front. About twenty minutes pass before the captain comes back on.
“The engineers have noticed something unusual with the plane. It’s nothing major. We’ll get it fixed and be on our way.” The plane leaves the queue and returns to the gate.
You wonder what’s wrong, how visibly damaged the plane was for it to be noticed. Your back is beginning to ache, but the screen in front of you comes on, and you can choose a movie to watch. (Being a child of the ’90s, you choose Cobain: Montage of Heck.). The movie is engaging, and, before you know it, half an hour has passed.
The captain returns, informing you that the problem has been resolved. He just has a bit of paperwork to do. Great, you think.
But the flight attendant announces that they have to re-show the safety video as the plane sets out again, which interrupts your movie. You will have to start it over and fast forward.
The plane returns to the back of the queue and you wait your turn–again. It takes an hour to be cleared for takeoff. By now, you’ve been sitting on this seat for three hours, and your plane is just lifting off. You still have six hours and fifteen minutes of flying time to endure.
The crew serves a nice dinner, and you finish your movie. You manage to get about 90 minutes of sleep before the stewardess opens your blind, letting the harsh yellow of the sun jar you awake. She feeds you an oily muffin and some flavorless yogurt.
The plane lands without incident, and you breeze through customs. You are dragging your suitcase and wearing a heavy backpack, and you’re tired and sore from the trip. Fortunately, it’s just a short Tube ride to your hotel.
Shit. Tube workers are on strike, which means your researched route is totally useless. You can take the Heathrow Express for £21 a person, which is only like $34 each, and it gets you to a station where you have to catch another bus! Or, you can ask various strangers for advice and construct a piecemeal trip that involves a train and three bus changes. You choose this approach to save money.
You get to your hotel about two hours after starting out from the airport. They cannot check you in for three more hours. They do take your bags, though. Your wife, luxuriating in her newly unencumbered state, decides that you should walk to the British Museum, which is only 1.2 miles away.
The museum is nice, with gorgeous architecture and–most notably–mummies. But it is quite large, and by now your legs feel like cement pillars. You still have over a mile to walk back to your hotel.
By the time you finally check in and lay down, you realize that you still need to call your children, and that it is only 3:30 PM in London. You can’t give in to jet lag. You shouldn’t go to sleep!
But you do.