Flying to South Africa from the USA

Ah, what a life we lead. I was privileged to spend a couple of weeks back on the East Coast of the USA this November, to the main purpose of running the New York City Marathon, but also to catch up with old friends, do some new stuff, and of course go do some retail therapy.

First, onto the marathon. My friend Kapp and I heroically crossed the finish line with a time of 4h48min. This puts us in at 30,000 spot out of 50,000 runners. Some people might say that makes us under average. I say that puts us at above average, considering we are from the southern hemisphere and all statistical inferences are therefore inverted. Put that into your pipe and smoke it.

Doesn’t matter anyway. We had a blast, supported by 2 million New Yorkers and my fiancee. We were incredibly blessed to be hosted throughout our stay by the Mesquitas, Lou and Tina Cothalis, the Sterns, Jeff Kahn, Hanna Zubko and even the chaps from Dimension Data. It was a glorious few days in the Big Apple, before Kapp flew home and Caroline and I started our road trip. It was lovely to meet up with old friends, and reaffirmed how grateful we are to work with people’s dreams every day.

Our road trip, of course, was typical epicality. A few days in Boston… Duck Tour? Check? Cheers Bar, where everyone knows your name? Check. Get an M.I.T. little genius shirt for our impending arrival in April? Check? Walk around Harvard and refuse to put our hands on that statue for good luck because all the students tend to exercise body fluids onto it? Check. Have a vegan smoothie on Newbury avenue and pretend to wear a tweed jacket and know advanced geometry? Check.

From Boston, there was a mandatory stop at the Woodbury Outlets (I bought four pairs of Sauconys. And a suitcase. Among other things). This was closely followed by a trip down memory lane at my old stomping grounds of Lehigh University, and catching up with the team from yesteryear and spending some time with the Busses and the Hunters. Sherry, as always, was an amazing host, and we got to hang out in their spanky new den, go to a tailgating party and overindulge in home cooking.

Finally, Philadelphia. Our last stop on our road trip would include more memory lane, specifically a gentle run along the riverbanks from Rittenhouse Square, and a triumphant run up the stairs of the Philadelphia Art Museum with the Rocky theme blaring in my ears. There was some air punching. Don’t judge me.

We returned to New York by train, and after another night in Queens hosted by Lou and Tina in spectacular fashion, I prepared for my journey home while Caroline jetted off to Arkansas to go visit the mother ship.

So my flight back to South Africa is a 15.5 hour non-stop from JFK to Johannesburg. This can be easily navigated by an aisle seat, three mini-bottles of red wine and two medium strength sleeping pills. This implies that you do not have a plus-sized individual in the seat next to you, there is little turbulence and you have no screaming children in your immediate vicinity. All these criteria were in place, and I was all set.

Only, we didn’t take off. Time passed by, and I was struck by the unique nature of the issue. 150+ people were sitting for over three hours, quite content to wait, as the one thing in life you don’t want to rush is airplane technical issues. We eventually were offloaded and told we would fly the next day. Queue overnight at the airport hotel, free meal and binge watching of Revenge.

When we were reloaded on the next day, things changed dramatically. I no longer had an empty seat next to me – SAA decided to consolidate two half-empty flights – but blessedly the chap was of the dimunitive type, so that was a plus. On my other side was an athletic looking chap with no obvious red flags, and I was gearing up for smooth sailing.

The stewardess walks up. I overhear her asking dude on my left if he minded switching with a lady in the back.

What followed was 15.5 hours of screaming 18 month year old, doing his first flight back to the mother continent. It was Mommy’s first flight out of the States, and the kid was practicing for the toddler screaming olympics. Screaming for food? Sure. Screaming for attention? No problem. Screaming for the hell of it. Of course. My three (four/five?) servings of red wine, as well as the couple of medium strength sleeping pills, had zero effect against this onslaught. I was forced to resort to the substandard video offering on SAA, but fortunately I am a geek fan of Hugh Grant movies and Music and Lyrics kept me distracted for about three hours. But you can only watch that twice and it also becomes old hat.

In an exercise of mind over matter, restraint and techniques learnt at yoga camp and on the Seven Habits Seminar, I managed to marginally retain my sanity. I was, however, incredibly glad to touch terra firma back in Johannesburg, and really didn’t mind the additional two hours to wait for my flight to Cape Town.

My friends tell me this is great training for fatherhood. My instinct tells me that that kid was slightly above-average on the screaming stakes. Or below average. Depends on your perspective…





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