A flight too many

After leaving Cape Town at noon on Saturday, I finally arrived in Lake Tahoe at around 9pm (SA time) on Sunday. That’s too much flying for one weekend, and not an experience I’ll want to repeat anytime soon, especially considering that American toddlers are even noisier than normal ones. Furthermore, American parents seem somewhat reluctant to shut the damn things up. In this case, perhaps that’s because the parent in question was too busy changing the nappy of one of her noisy brood, right there in the seat, two rows ahead of me.

But I survived that leg with sanity relatively intact, even though it came after the CT-JHB-(Dakar)-DC ordeal, in which my plans to self-medicate into a stupor were relatively unsuccessful. The traditional method (involving lots of booze) may be best, as the high-tech Stillnox-Melatonin combo neither knocked me out (even though I combined it with 2 small bottles of wine), nor got me to Reno un-jetlagged (which was the point of the stupor in the first place).

Anyway – I survived that leg, and we went off to Denver, where I espied (in the airport) a few tornado shelters, men in cowboy hats, and a Wolfgang Puck eatery. It was at this point sometime between 1am and 11pm, and I wasn’t sure if I was hungry, so I simply had a beer while waiting for the last connection, which would take me to Reno. We boarded that plane on time. The only problem being that it had no pilot. There the pilotless plane sat, pointlessly, for two hours, one of which involved failed air-conditioning. And the babies screamed (this time, perhaps more justifiably).

Flying into Reno is not for nervous passengers. There is significant turbulence when close to the ground (landing or takeoff), and my neighbour on the plane (a local) claimed this had something to do with the mountains, and that our flight was not at all anomalous. And so, of course, the babies screamed some more. Some adults had sharp involuntary intakes of breath, and water bottles rolled down the aisles and banged into cupboards (galleys?). This is true. But we landed, now too late for the shuttle I meant to take to Lake Tahoe. So another 2 hour wait for the next one, followed by a 90-minute drive to the hotel.

Then, finally, the shower I’d been longing for for over 30 hours. It was good. I took a stroll around the casino (huge), but realised that I was far too much of a zombie to attempt any betting decisions, so went to the room, had a nightcap, and slept until 3 hours later, when the alarm a previous resident had set on the bedside clock-radio screamed at me. So, while there is still a bit of zombie left, this day is nevertheless far more pleasant, as evidenced by the view from my hotel room, and the blurry Bloody Mary on the desk (a “Spicy Mary”, in fact, made by someone in the indirect employ of Sammy Hagar – ex-Van Halen – at the Cabo Wabo tequila bar and greasy food emporium).

Now, the work (sort of) starts. Conference registration: done. Welcoming cocktail party: I’m on my way.

Fake snow? I don't know.

By Jacques Rousseau

Jacques Rousseau teaches critical thinking and ethics at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and is the founder and director of the Free Society Institute, a non-profit organisation promoting secular humanism and scientific reasoning.