“Ladies and gentlemen, as we start our final descent, please make sure your seat backs and tray tables are in their full upright position. Make sure your seat belt is securely fastened and all carry-on luggage is stowed underneath the seat in front of you or in the overhead bins. Thank you.”
I flew a dozen times from Europe to Asia, flight time is usually more than ten hours, so like my current quarantine I also prepare for it very carefully. I make sure I always have two Japanese eye masks with me, the ones that when you open them, they will generate heat to comfort your eyelids when you put them on. These masks make sure, that I almost instantaneously will get into a kind of Zen mode. Next, I also bring in-ear earphones, to suppress the white noise from the aircraft. I always pre-download a Spotify Playlist with instrumental relaxing music. Furthermore, I bring my blue Ikea inflatable neck-pillow. This is another key item for me, as without it, when sleeping for let’s say an hour, my neck is hanging on the top of my body like a new born baby. Besides the fact, that it looks a little strange for the passenger who is sitting next to me, it hurts a lot when I wake up out of my coma. Another item that I bring with me, is a 500 cc Thermos flask that is filled with water, so I can drink whenever I want, without disturbing the crew to request for some water. Finally, I have at least one item with me, to make sure, when I feel bored or energized, I can kill some time. Mostly it is an electronic book. The more you fly, the more you can acquainted with the process. I am one of the happy few, that sleeps at least half of the journey, which makes the day when you arrive almost feel like a regular day, despite the time zone change.
I remember my first flight, when I was 18 years old, flying directly from Amsterdam to Los Angeles. I was thrilled, excited, everything was new! I didn’t even think about the possibility to kill time by sleeping. I used the inflight entertainment system like an addict, and maximizing it out, used it till the last second, like giving that extra pressing force on your orange to release that last drip for your morning juice. When I arrived at the airport, my body was full loaded of adrenaline, ready to breath everything in LA: the big cars, the palm trees, the different road signs, the language, everything. I was blindly in love with the new environment. So interesting, that at that time, my mind could only see the positive things. Right now, my view of the US in different, I would say much more balanced, and I think that is a much more healthy view. The more I experience something that repeats it selves, such as these long flights, I try to optimize the situation, to make it the best possible experience. I always have been that kind of person, to observe and analyze a situation or problem, and then digest it, take it apart, turn it upside down, and look to it from all kind of different perspectives. And the next phase, I to try to find the best solution, or ways to take care of the situation. Most difficult part is to define ‘the best solution’, as that really depends from which perspective you are looking to the issue. I try to look it from a holistic view, don’t focus and optimize for one single part, but see it as a human body, all organs need to work in order to have a full functional body. I know, it is difficult to always focus on problems holistically , but almost every time I least I try. Like my example of the airplane, right now, I have a much better experience than let’s say two years ago. And still I found some points in my last trip, that I want to improve for my next flight.
Someone my think that I am not happy in a situation in which it is not ‘optimal’, and only happy when it is perfect. No, that is not true at all, in fact, I love it when things are ‘not optimal’, because I feel there is a lot of work to do! A lot of opportunities! But by summing up all the things that from my perspective could be improved, might give the impression that I, myself, am not happy. But, I separate my feelings from the actual situation, like a Chinese wall between them. On the flipside, for a different kind of situation, someone could regard me as cold robot, who is not expressing his feelings while solving an issue. In these cases, I feel removing this wall could definitely helpful.
Let’s go back to the initial message from the captain. When I hear this message in the airplane, my mind shifts directly from the surviving zombie mode to a state in which I need to prepare for the arrival. Today is already day 11, and when I woke up, I had for the first time the feeling that I really need to prepare for the time after my quarantine. Some people already hinted to me, that you have a life before quarantine BQ, and a life after your quarantine AQ. I am not so sure whether the quarantine has really such a big influence on me, but it would be better, to judge that for example one or ten years from now.
I open the door, and a small box with a beverage is ready for me to be enjoyed! I bring the two products to my desk, removed the rubber band from the small box, and lift the cover. I cannot believe my eyes! It might sounds strange, but I become a little emotional. Today, day eleven of quarantine, against better judgement, hoping every day for my steamed buns, I received them! Like a present from heaven. Delicately, I take a bite of the first bun, slowly, the broth, locked up in the bun, is released is my mouth. The delicious warm and oily liquid, is spreading, covering every surface with it. Next step is the bun with some filling, the inside is pleasantly chewy, and the skin not too thick, dissolving slowly in my mouth. Okay, these buns are not from the Taiwanese Michelin Star restaurant Dǐngtàifēng (鼎泰豐), but are definitely welcome and my waiting for it has finally been rewarded! I log in to the System and provide them with my body temperature, like every morning around 8 am, and with a big compliment for their choice of breakfast today! Quickly, I get a response: “You’re welcome it’s our pleasure”.
As I feel I need to prepare for my arrival, I want to double check a lot of things, and luckily the System could respond all my answers. So this Sunday 24.00, or technically it would be Monday 0.00 am I may leave my room, but, I can’t check out immediately as they need to run at that time an update on the computer system. But I can use the elevator, so I can bring all my stuff directly with me downstairs. They indicate that probably 30 minutes after midnight, they can check me out. I hope, this is an under promise, and I truly hope, that they will over deliver. So, it was a disappointment for me to hear, that I can’t jump directly in the taxi and to do whatever I want, I still need to wait, to check out. Furthermore, they also need to issue a “certificate of accommodation” for my stay! Wow! I really did not expect that, and feel almost that I need to frame it, and put it somewhere in my house, as a memory of my stay here. I also need to pay attention to my body temperature for the seven days after my quarantine, and if I have a fever or other related symptoms, I need to seek medical attention immediately. Finally, I need to wear a mask when going out, especially in public places, to protect my own safety.
Okay, that is very clear, I feel more prepared now, and know what I can expect. I open the Foodpanda app on my phone and order a snack. It is a kind of sweet sugar cane soup, with all kind of items such as sweet potato balls, taro root, peanuts, barley and almonds. I wish we would have this snack in Europe! I wait, while sitting on my chair, reading the latest news, and start thinking about Monday, the day that I am free!
“Flight attendants, prepare for landing please.”