80 hours from US to S'pore

80 hours from US to S'pore

After an 80-hour journey back from the United States to Singapore, mostly spent waiting in one airport or another, my jelly-kneed fear of flying disappeared into the crazed horror of being grounded.

My US trip should have ended on May 30 but that day, United Airlines cancelled my flight out from Charleston, South Carolina, to Washington D.C., where I would make connections to Tokyo and then Singapore.

Booked on a later plane as a stand-by passenger, I strapped myself into a seat only to be ejected because the flight was overloaded.

Reaching Washington D.C. the next day, 24 hours after I was supposed to arrive, I had four hours to kill in the airport terminal before catching a flight to Tokyo.

I stood or walked, trying to ease an aching back, which is still recovering from a sprained ligament.

An hour after we took off from Washington D.C., the plane turned around because of "improper baggage loading".

Barrels of jet fuel were jettisoned mid-air, and an hour later, more than 200 passengers were back on the ground, wondering when or if we would take off again.

We sat strapped in our seats, as the pilot assured us we would soon be in the air again. The seasoned traveller next to me snorted and unfastened his seatbelt.

"They're going to cancel the flight," he said.

Any residual fear of flying evaporated in the heat of my growing anger.

I have always found it hard to be on planes. As a child, I threw up. As an adult, during take-off or turbulent weather, I need to grip white-knuckled at an armrest or some friendly hand.

I have a little too much knowledge of the many ways a flight can be compromised by human error or natural causes. At work, it is impossible to avoid receiving breaking news wires or on-the- ground updates during major aircraft disasters and the disappearance of MH370 is still freshly frightening.

My fear is usually sublimated in a ritual, fake-cheerful phone call of farewell to my family and dearest friends before I board a plane.

But there were so many faux starts in this recent journey that I could no longer afford the roaming charges.

For this plane to be grounded as well seemed grossly unfair. Hadn't I suffered enough?

Not only would I miss two days of work, I would miss a rendezvous with my mother in between her work trips, and even more horrifying, run out of reading material. The two books and three magazines in my carry-on bag were not meant to last more than one day.

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