I read in a magazine that the Sahara Desert has a humidity of 20-25%, and that airplane air has about 1%. This may be why I feel like my contacts are going to stick to the insides of my eyeballs when I fly. Any why my tongue swells to twice its original size as I sit, strapped into my blue upholstered chair, and think about the bottle of cool, clear, "geyser-fresh" water that TSA made me throw away.
Sleeping in the arid airplane cabin is especially awkward for me. I clench my jaw in the hopes that muscle memory will spare me the humiliation, but I have a sneaking suspicion that my jaw hangs down like a stroke victim's any time I manage to nod off. My mouth and sinuses feel like they have been swabbed out with cotton when I jolt awake to the sadistically loud and staticky captain announcing that we are experiencing some minor turbulence.
Last week, flying back from China, I had my first experience flying east-to-west across the international date line.
Our flight left the eerily empty and modern Beijing airport at nine in the morning on Saturday. I wore my pajamas and my glasses (see above: "contacts") in the hopes of sleeping the journey away.
We flew for what seemed like a weekend. I ate several meals. I watched a couple movies (have you seen The Hulk? Pretty good!). I read about two hundred pages of my book (Wild Swans - meh). I flipped through the in-flight magazines and the duty-free catalogue. I went on several field trips to various lavatories.
We landed in San Francisco and almost exactly the same time we took off out of Beijing. Nine am, Saturday morning. So really, I was coming from the future.
But if I'm any indication of the future, here's what it's like:
The future is peopled by a bunch of staggering zombies with thick tongues, haggard skin, and dark circles under their eyes. Their fashion seems to consist entirely of jersey-knit pajama pants and chenille sweaters.
Their priorities upon arriving from the future appear to be twofold -
1. Locate, overtake, and habitate any sources of fresh water and western-style toilets
2. Begin the search for an allusive, holy-grail-like item known only as "baggage"
People from the future are desperate to get their baggage. It is not uncommon to hear them say things like "Where is baggage claim?" and "Don't leave your baggage there, what are you crazy?" Be careful, people from the future are liable to move in a mob created by singular purpose. You do not want to get between them and their baggage.
But, above all, if you encounter people from the future who have just landed in their metallic, cylindrical vehicle, and traversed, on foot, a "jet-way" and maybe even a "moving sidewalk," treat them gently.
They will most likely be cranky.