There are always adventures to be had when flying. First, the good news: Austrian Airlines has the best food I’ve ever tasted on a plane in my life. The shrimp on creamy cucumber salad was tasty (and i hate cucumbers!); the grilled chicken breast was moist and had a pleasantly light aftertaste, as did the celery puree and ratatouille. Mmmmmm, yummy.
Now, the bad: The economy seats on this Boeing 777 airplane were so tiny and cramped that it’s almost impossible to sleep during the 7+ hour flight to Vienna, from New York City’s JFK. (It doesn’t help that a spoiled little girl kicked my seat for about 4 hours straight as I pleaded with her mom to make her stop. Mom just smiled at me as if her kid wasn’t doing a thing. As a parent myself, I found it as obnoxious as sitting through a full episode of Bravo’s corny NYC Prep.) And that wasn’t the worst of it.
It’s unsettling to fly in a plane where the stewards have no control over the passengers. People refused to sit in their assigned seats. Across the aisle one lady of at least 70 challenged a male steward to go fisticuffs with her because he would not allow her family members to sit in one row. The steward lost. The same thing happened in front me (hence, little spoiled girl and mom sat in behind). Folks were crunky and ready for battle, especially the older ones. And for a moment, it felt more like a rowdy flight to the Santo Domingo (ay, mi gente, mi gente…) than Vienna. (The flights I’ve taken to Europe have just been more chilled-out than anytime I’ve janted over to the Caribbean.) But that wasn’t the worst of it.
From jump, the captain and stewards announced that congregating wasn’t allowed on any section of the plane. Well, “some people weren’t liking it!” About an hour in to the flight, a considerable amount of male Hasidim started amassing on either side of the emergency exits. One man in particular started to caress the door. Everybody in view perked up. People were staring and even a few dudes got up to see what was going on. A couple stewardesses pleaded with them to sit down. They refused, they said, because they needed to pray. Honestly, I have been on many a flight with these band of brothers and I have to admit, I really admire them (and Jewish folks in general) because of the way they preserve their history and pass it forward (to say they have knowledge of self is to make a gross understatement, and with knowledge comes wisdom, and with wisdom comes success). But I’ve never seen them posse up like the Transformers on a plane until now. More importantly, I didn’t understand what palming the emergency exit door and peering out the window so intently had to do with praying. These days, watching that is more unnerving than anything else. At any rate, they did not disband. They prayed. And while the stewards looked on crazy annoyed, the passengers looked like they were ready for anything. I wonder if the staff would have been more forceful if it were a group of Muslim men who wanted to get together and pray.
Ah, when we finally landed, it felt more like an 11 hour flight than just 7 hours. We drove from Vienna to the second largest city here, Graz, for two more hours. The greenery here is breathtaking. I feel like I’m on the set of the Sound of Music—if it weren’t for large and interesting graffiti pieces that dotted the route to Graz—and not bound for a hip-hop convention. Well, after a nap, I’m ready to put my terrible German to use. Thanks to my homegirl Tamara (@tamaratam) for all the leads. And i’m out to explore to hip-hop scene here and see where life takes me. After visiting a coffeehouse, that is. Stay tuned.