Wednesday, January 31, 2007

gut feeling

Yesterday afternoon, Auntie M dropped us off at Joburg Airport. Both Sugar Daddy and I were feeling distinctly unwell, a bit dizzy and lightheaded, slightly queasy. I wondered why we were feeling this way. It couldn’t be the altitude because we’d been at that height for six days and hadn’t felt this awful. Maybe it was a low blood sugar moment but we’d just had brunch a couple of hours before. My stomach had been mildly grumpy for the last few days, but that’s not all that unusual. Sugar Daddy suggested it was just the stress of packing up and getting to the plane on time with Swee’pea that was causing our discomfort, but somehow that just didn’t make sense to me. I started to worry that some nasty tropical bug would overtake us on the plane, leaving us both feverish and unconscious in a pool of our own vomit, Swee’pea weeping nearby for human contact. I soothed myself that it was only a two-hour flight, and any bug would be unlikely to make take us down THAT fast; and anyways, if it did, there would be flight attendants who could help us take care of Swee’pea.

We rested after checking our baggage and before going through security, and I took a trip to the loo. Through my queasy fog, I was able to muster a chuckle at the signs for the “Female Toilets” and the “Male Toilets.” I even managed to point them out to Sugar Daddy, who had already noticed and chuckled to himself, and we chuckled together. I couldn’t quite muster the energy to actually take a photo though. We staggered through security and down the stifling hallway lined with wilting passengers-to-be to our gate.

Sugar Daddy got some cheese sandwiches, hoping food would make him feel better (which it did, happily), and because at nearly 3 in the afternoon, Swee’pea still hadn’t had any lunch (he slept through it). I was too tired to traipse to the café with him, so I stayed and nursed Swee’pea between two middle-aged men. The two strangers alternated their contact with Swee’pea, tickling his feet and face, and I felt mildly uncomfortable with their attention. Swee’pea seemed to like it though, reaching out to touch their hands and give them his own version of high fives. Later, a young man, his pregnant partner and their young child of maybe two came up to one of the men, so I guess being a grandpa makes him enjoy other people’s babies when he encounters them. Somehow that made me feel better about the whole interaction.

Our flight was delayed, because the plane hadn’t landed by the time we were supposed to board, and we hung around feeding bits of grilled cheese to Swee’pea, me nibbling here and there too. South Africa has a real cell phone culture; Cousin R recently commented that if you don’t have a cell phone, you just can’t participate in life here, you can’t get by. This became clear when every single person around us immediately pulled out their cell phones and started phoning and texting the people who were supposed to pick them up in Cape Town. We had no cell phone, so no way of notifying Grandpa Cape Town that we would be late. Eventually, the plane landed and was cleaned, and we got on it. The captain said that there were storms a few minutes out so the Fasten Seatbelts sign would stay lit for longer than usual. Yay, I cheered sarcastically. As it turned out, the sign stayed lit for over an hour, and at times the turbulence flung even the experienced flight attendants against the seat backs. Swee’pea fell asleep and I mostly read Bill Bryson, who is funny enough to keep me relatively relaxed through all that turbulence and veering left and right.

It was clear over the Karoo, and Sugar Daddy pointed out the huge expanse of empty brown land, punctuated only by small peaks and valleys and rings of ancient volanoes, like the top of a meringue. Despite my anxiety, I was mostly glad we weren’t on a 24-hour train ride across that – I think. I haven’t landed in Cape Town in daylight before, and the mountains surrounding it are huge and beautiful. We started the descent and Swee’pea woke up and started squirming and pushing into my full bladder. The full bladder combined with my grumbly belly and usual anxiety to begin clenching my bowels. Then I noticed us going up then back down then back up while something on the outside of the plane buzzed back and forth.

"Something's going on. Something's happening," I told Sugar Daddy. He said nothing's happening, we're just landing. But I was certain, to the depths of my gut, that something strange was happening. I figured the wheels weren’t coming down and the pilot was considering aborting the landing. I imagined us flying around Cape Town until we ran out of fuel and we had to land on the steel belly of the plane, likely ending up in a huge ball of fire. I waited for the announcement to go into the brace position that the attendant had schooled me in before takeoff.

Now, with my feet firmly on the ground, I still think I was right, that the wheels weren't coming down, then suddenly did, but it is tinged with a hint of doubt. It WAS the first time I've sat directly over the wing, so perhaps those were normal sounds that I just haven't been close enough to the wing to hear before. But going up and then down and then up again is certainly now something I've experienced before.

Finally we landed, after I nearly broke Sugar Daddy’s hand in my terrified grip, and I nearly cried. As soon as we got to baggage claim I had to go to the loo again. I really never want to do this again. I don’t know why the domestic flights are so much scarier than the long flight over the Atlantic and down the entire length of Africa, but they are. Maybe next time we’ll take a leisurely drive along two-lane roads.

I haven’t written much about Grandpa Cape Town, who was waiting for us, mostly because I consider him to be a sort of public figure, and I haven’t been very careful about anonymity. He’s a novelist, and a recently retired journalist. He’s very reserved; kind, warm, generous and with a dry sense of humour, but very reserved. He was awfully glad to see us, and even caressed Swee’pea’s head and feet. I wonder if he was having visions of us crashing too? He has seemed more demonstrative with Swee’pea since we’ve gotten back to Cape Town, which makes me glad.

Anyways, we’re back in Cape Town, and my stomach continues to grumble in a mildly bad mood. Swee’pea is teething, and the last couple of nights have been a bit rough. One tooth has emerged from his gum (his seventh), and I can see white spots where I believe he is working on his first molars.

My camera battery has run out, and I can’t plug in the recharger. I’ve been phoning around this morning trying to find a way to charge it, and a place on Long Street does it for R30. So we will spend the afternoon in Long Street again while it charges. I’m a bit wary with the state of my stomach, but there are lots of cafes and bathrooms, along with great used book stores, so I’m sure we’ll be fine. I’m also going to have a look for some new sandals that don’t smell. Sugar Daddy found some in Joburg, and he mentioned that he chose the rubber sole thinking that it might absorb less odour than a rubber sole. Last night in bed, I mourned that my sandals smell.

“Like what?” he asked.

“Like stinky shoes.”

“Oh… I hadn’t noticed.”

“Good.” (I was worried that I was stinking up cars and rooms, and everyone was noticing.)

I’ve been wanting to write about some of the language here, how South Africans use the words now and just now, but I’m tired, so maybe just now.


Em said...

I think you'll have to take a trip to Australia and check our lingo etc. There are plenty of male and female toilets here :)

penelopeto said...

Forgive me, but for all the trauma of your joburg-cape town flight, and the bad tummy, and the no sleeping teething baby, what really made me gasp was the stinky shoes. that would truly send me into a panic (i'd be totally preoccupied with wondering if anyone else could smell 'em), and essentially time would stop for me until i got a new pair. which would probably be overpriced and ugly, as desperation purchases often are.

besides that, loving the posts. rock on with your smelly feet.

Beck said...

The haunting fear that your feet have been secretly stinking up everywhere is a terrible fear. It sounds like you're having a very memorable trip!

NotSoSage said...

I always have smelly feet, and it's terrible to be aware of the fact that it's the elephant in the room.

You're not on the road much, but my favourite english South Africanism was "robot", for traffic light. Our friend and guide while we were there told us that the many cows you are likely to encounter on the long road between Durban and Capetown were called "robots of the Transvaal". I found that so funny.

Thanks for more stories!

Mad Hatter said...

I tried to comment yesterday but butt-head blogger was blocking me. I just wanted to say that soon you will be back home on solid ground and you can stay put for a good long while.

BTW, Sugar Daddy's gene pool sounds most impressive.

ewe are here said...

The stinky shoes got me, too. I'd be out trying to find another pair asap as well. ;-)

The domestic flights sound like what I'd call 'puddle jumpers'; I don't like them either. Much prefer the bigger long haul planes.

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