Mild Turbulence?

It’s too early to be up, but that’s how it is travelling nowadays: up at 5, airport a little before 7 and wait. It’s almost 11am when finally our expectative ends. One cannot imagine a real reason to wake up four hours before the flight, plus two of delay.

It could be our rush to be back. It could be a certain notion that European fair weather in December doesn’t last forever. It could be the time needed for this and that. Actually, we were one of the firsts to check in. We had time for a quiet breakfast with family and then it was chaos.

The queue for the security control is long, but seems to flow fast. It stops here and there, now and then, while people behind rush for a faster post control. I can see the difference between people used and less used to fly. We are a good example of that. Behind me is a lady who almost strips from head to toes. She doesn’t want to stop the sheep-like flow for sure. She puts belt, shoes and all her belongs over a suitcase next to her. I signal to Paul: “Are they this serious?”

The question is that we leave Mozambique in a way and expect to return the same way. No way. Paul suddenly remembers that he carries two new knives for his collection and I remember my nail set. Paul goes back to send those objects by a secure system and I step away. Many other sheep after, I am back to the line. Another lady follows me. While I help Paul to place our hand luggage on the moving platform, I cannot help noticing the way she bites her nails. Isn’t she exaggerating? It cannot be so bad! But it is.

In front of Paul, a gentleman and a Brazilian security move forwards. The alarm sounds. That same Brazilian asks to another Brazilian next to us: “What was that?” “That was that animal there…”, pointing to a man who had just crossed to the other side. I could not believe he said that. But he did. We heard him clearly. The man he was referring to had just had problems because of a computer and now it was his belt.

We are okay, but our hand luggage is not. “Too many liquids!” they say. We were asked by too many Brazilian-speaking individuals to open our luggage over one of the checking tables. In the end, from Paul’s they only got a small shaving-foam can. It seemed small before. Now, standing impressively blue against the white Formica, it looks like a terrible weapon.

They start to take object after object from my vanity case. I feel guilty like hell. It’s perfume, contact lenses liquids and a few more I cannot remember. How upsetting is to see strange people going through our stuff! And in the end for what? The sizes were all okay, not exceeding the allowed 150ml. They only got my face cleaning foam. I was aware of size, but I also knew it had less than 50% of the content. So, it should be okay. No way. I concluded it’s not the content that matters, but something else.

As explanations like how difficult it is to get some products in Mozambique couldn’t move Brazilian hearts, I negotiated another solution. Paul bought a box with small plastic bags to where I could squeeze a bit of foam, so that I could wash my face for the next few days. How wonderful! The rest of the objects were allowed after tightly closed in a second plastic bag. During this operation they discovered a nail file that accidentally had fallen from the set already dispatched. Bye-bye, nail file!

Maybe there’s another reason to arrive at seven: they want us to take a nice walk through the airport! It’s an hour or so (depending of the sheep speed) to the embarking gate. I suppose it’s the African thing. A colonial posture? Though, it’s curious to notice that the majority were tourists identified by the name of well-known travelling agencies. Good for Mozambique. Bad for tourists. Not to say that the above “animal”, curiously too, wasn’t African and spoke good English. At least he didn’t seemed to be South African, so I concluded he wasn’t African.

Here I should speak about eek flight food, but it’s already long and I have to be selective. So I hop to the mild turbulence. We were at less than two hours from our destiny when I was awoken by an awful sensation and hair-raising screams. Before that I had watched three movies and was almost done with the fourth when I fell asleep. Thanks to that I avoided the worst moment. Later Paul said the plane was severely catapulted up and forward, with no previous warning. Only within a distance of hours, we lived the same described here, though we calculated in half the duration of the incident. It’s so strong, so fast and so powerful that we immediately realize that the plane is no longer under control, moving the normal way, with the normal speed and to the normal direction, and we are about to die.

So I woke up with the screams. Paul said they came mainly from the crew, a lady caught inside the toilet and another lady sitting near us, who cried all the way and had to be assisted during the landing. The amazing thing is that at the moment we were still badly shaken and I opened my eyes, I have done something I wouldn’t if I had a complete notion of what was going on: I opened the small window next to me and I saw the most beautiful and frightening thing I have ever seen and hopefully shall ever see. A thunder light had involved the plane, which was glowing in the middle of the dark night. It was a vision of seconds I shall never be able to put adequately in words, except for saying that it was pretty scary.

As for danger, I had only a really notion of it when we landed and a member of the crew said that, in many years of flying, she had never faced such situation and that it had been bad because of the lady inside the toilet and “the colleagues who had been thrown away, fallen and hurt. She also said it seemed the longest flight after the incident. Longest and scariest, obviously. After landing, the crying lady asked to the element of the crew, with the assertiveness of someone who doesn’t keep things inside herself: “The plane could have fallen!”

The same idea crossed my mind. Instead of tears, I started a new movie, about a guy who falls badly for a girl, and I had enough spirit to notice the moment he falls for her. It was when she quotes a passage of The Smiths’ lyrics. Besides, the audio offered an all The Smiths channel. It felt opportune. It felt strange. I just couldn’t understand if it was a good or a bad sign. In the end, it was just a sign and a way to get me through the rest of the flight.

It was a long, difficult hour before land. We didn’t suffer other major turbulence, but we could feel the tense way the plane was driven. Paul had skipped one detail: we were inside the same plane that went down half way to Brazil. He knew I would never travel in it without a fight, mainly after a change of our scheduled departure. He said we had just faced the same situation, but our pilot didn’t panic or disconnect the autopilot. I believe in the effectiveness of a five computers ruled plane, but I have serious doubts about the panic part. Believe me when I say that before, during or after the ordeal no one from the crew spoke a single word, gave a simple explanation or whatsoever. I believe that’s why some didn’t cheer (after landing the pilot got a standing ovation, out of pure relief) and even left the airport complaining: “They didn’t say a word before or after. They should say sorry, at least.” The next day this episode was reported as “mild turbulence”.

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2 thoughts on “Mild Turbulence?

  1. It was a bad moment but we have a great capacity to forget. Something I wanted to show – and the news prove it to be true – is that, despite all, we don’t feel safe. It has to be another way.

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