Long haul travel is similar to surgery; you choose to undertake a period of pain and discomfort for some greater outcome (and accept the small risk that things might take a turn for the worse). At least with surgery you're guaranteed a good sleep.
My flight out of Melbourne wasn't until around midnight, and I had plenty of things to organise during my last day in Australia. I ran around the city getting last minute things, running into familiar faces and stopping for chats. It was a busy, tiring day in itself, and the travel hadn't even started yet.
It was going to take three flights to get me to Berlin. Melbourne to Dubai, Dubai to London and London to Berlin. Departing a bit late, around 1am Melbourne time, I was ready for a sleep after the first meal. I had scored one of the seats without a seat in front, and in payment for some nice things I must have done in the past, the seat next to me was also free during the first leg. With all the stars aligned I managed a few hours, sleeping through the second meal (a shame I'll never forget).
Landing in Dubai I turned on wifi to receive a torrent of emails. It seems that after years of running happily without being touched, as soon as I hop on a long haul flight a bug developed in Repertwa, my sheet music website which meant people were paying but not receiving their orders. People weren't happy. It had already been 12 or so hours without a response from me. I whipped out my laptop in the 30 minutes I had before reboarding the plane and sent each customer their music manually. There wasn't any time to fix the bug, so I just pulled the site down until I could fix it.
For the second leg the free seat was occupied by an aviation nerd who wanted to discuss the differences between this flight and a Singapore Airlines flight. I was pretty close to requesting my oxygen mask fall from above but he eventually settled down. He was that sort of hyper-friendly person and I thought there was some slight chance he was flirting with me. Until I saw a picture of his girlfriend. His Hail Mary after we landed was a nice little reminder of why I shouldn't assume anything.
I carefully spaced my bathroom visits to give me something to do, but of course you're at the mercy of the cabin crew to clear your tray tables after meal service. I was finally clear and able to go to the bathroom when I stood up and treked down the aisle. The plane took a dive and I started to walk like a drunk mime. There was a small crowd gathered for the bathrooms, and one cabin crew member preparing the duty free purchases. The drops and jolts got more violent until I was looking around for something better to old onto. People started to lose balance and fall into each other. The crew member looked up and checked the seat belt sign, but it wasn't lit. "I think you should go back to your seats." Back we went. A few moments later the flight crew turned on the seatbelt sign and then ordered the crew to be seated immediately. That's never a good sign. For the next 30 minutes we sat, strapped in and jolted through the sky. I was desperate for that pee when we were finally allowed to stand again.
One of my pet peeves is the rudeness of people who stand up first, immediately after landing. Their bag is more important than ours. They must be at the front of the customs line. They need the first taxi. They are more important humans than us. Well I say no. If I was in charge of the universe, everyone who stands before the seatbelt sign is turned off has done the wrong thing and must be punished. Everyone who stands prematurely (ie. the arseholes) will be made to sit with their seatbelt fastened until the last passenger, even those in wheelchairs and requiring assistance, are removed. One of the cabin crew on the other side of the plane is clearly on my side and screamed at the arseholes as they jostled for their bags. "YOU MUST SIT DOWN. YOU'RE NOT ALLOWED TO BE STANDING." At the top of her lungs. I could have proposed to her right there and then. Truly someone after my heart. Well the arseholes ignored her as if she was a street preacher. The moment she stopped screaming, the seatbelt sign went off and her cause was extinguished.
Walking through the economy cabins of the A380 after a long flight must be similar to visiting a flood or tornado ravaged country. How people can do that much damage in such a short time is incredible. There are food scraps on the floor, drink stains down the seats and tray tables, blankets, pillows and their respective wrappers strewn across the cabin. It looks like we forgot how to be human.
By the time I got to London, I hadn't slept since those first few hours. I was feeling pretty ragged. I would have paid a plump stranger to let me sleep on them for 20 minutes. By the time we boarded for the final, thankfully short flight I was starting to lose control of my body. Everything from my right butt cheek down to my foot was aching and making sitting very uncomfortable. I slouched forward and fell asleep in an uncomfortable curl. I woke up, probably only five minutes later with patch of drool in my lap. I would have been embarassed but the man next to me was still sleeping in the same position as I had been.
Finally reaching your destination is glorious. It had been 30-something hours since Melbourne airport, and probably close to two days since my body had been horizontal. There wasn't much more to do than to crawl into bed and stay there as long as possible.