Nadia’s Travelblog: PMSing During International Travel

Air travel is hard enough without PMS.

PMS, for the remaining few of you who do not know or have been fortunate enough not to experience it first or second hand, is a monthly condition that afflicts women all over the world and that causes their brains to swell. This swelling of the brain can put the best of us in the worst of moods, to say the least. Of course, PMS – premenstrual syndrome – causes other things to happen to a woman as well, but in this particular woman, it is the swelling of the brain that is the main cause for distress; for her and for anyone within a 5 km radius.

I write to you from an airplane headed from Salt Lake City, Utah to Paris, France and with my knees crammed against a deceased leather chair. I will remain in this position for 11 hours. My swollen brain is throbbing and I’m displeased to announce that I am well on my way to a full-blown case of PMS.

As I entered the plane on my previous flight five hours ago (I have three flights on this trip from San Diego, CA to Cairo, Egypt), I watched the male flight attendant place the carry-on bags of the two passengers that preceded me into a compartment right next to the airplane door. When my turn came he told me I’d have to check-in my carry-on all the way to Cairo. There’s no room for my carry-on anywhere on the plane, he told me. But I have three flights and I need my carry-on, I protested. Do not ask me exactly WHY I needed it. I just did. What if I decide to buy something at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris during my six hour transit, for example (this is usually inevitable)? Where would I put it? My carry-on also contained my computer – larger than my purse. I can’t allow my computer to be placed in a piece of luggage that will be mishandled while being thrown into and out of the belly of three airplanes and finally onto the creaky conveyor belt of Cairo Airport. And it is beyond logic to expect me to carry my computer in my arms during three flights and two transits. So I NEEDED my carry-on!

I explained to the flight attendant that I’m traveling to Cairo, and surely either one of the nice gentlemen who entered the plane ahead of me would be willing to check-in their carry-on in order to allow me to keep mine on the plane. Surely they had closer destinations than I did! The mean man, the very mean, mean man, refused that I even ask their permission. When I protested yet again, he asked me to step out of the plane. TO STEP OUT OF THE PLANE!
I went back along the armway (that tunnel thing must have a name, but I don’t know it) to the counter that allows us to board the plane. On my way there, I bumped into the pilot who asked me if I had a problem. My eyes swelling with tears (possibly ooze seeping out of my swollen brain) and my voice choked, I tried my best to contain myself as I explained that I had a very long trip ahead of me: “I’m flying to Cairo and the attendant wouldn’t allow me to take my carry-on with me!” The pilot tried to calmly explain that the flight is full and that if all the over-head compartments are full with luggage it’s only normal that I be asked to check-in my carry-on. “But I’m flying to Cairo!” I repeated, clearly struggling to keep the brain ooze in my eyes rather than rolling down my face.

So the pilot, the very nice and compassionate pilot, took me back to the plane and stepped inside while I waited outside. Clearly he did not want a case of a woman’s brain ooze staining his plane’s floors. After a few short minutes he came back and took my carry-on from me. He had made space for me in one of the over-head compartments. I could have hugged him. I literally felt that he had saved my life and if my swollen brain hadn’t had a shred of sanity left in it I probably would have thanked him for saving it.

I’m now on my second flight on my way to Cairo. I think I would have preferred riding a camel (the animal that comes to mind at the moment) all the way there rather than take Delta Airlines again.

I do not understand why they do not have enough room in their overhead compartments for all passengers. I have never seen this happen on other airlines. This is the second time I’ve been on a Delta flight where I’ve had to struggle to get space for my carry-on.

I also REALLY do not like their leather seats. They can get quite cold. As I first sat down, my seat was so cold I thought it was wet at first.

On internal flights inside the US, you actually have to buy the headsets if you want “in-flight entertainment”. BUY THE HEADSETS! Who buys crappy headsets for US $3? And where is the in-flight entertainment? Not on a screen on the back of the seat in front of you, where it very well should be. It’s on screens on the airplane walls and ceilings as was the case in the olden ages. The result is that I have a choice between stretching my neck upwards and to the right to watch the movie on the screen one meter almost exactly above my head or watching the upper half of the screen on the wall a few seats in front of me while the lower half of the screen is occupied by the over-puffed-up blonde hair of the woman in seat 17B. I also don’t get to choose between a wide array of movies, television series, games, and the likes. Who flies nowadays without having that sort of choice? What has gone wrong with the Americans??

Another thing that annoys me tremendously is the fact that I can’t check-in online because my reservations were made with Air France. Delta is the US partner of Air France and takes over its internal flights within the US. Air France, you gotta reconsider your partners, dudes!

As I prepare to leave you, I spread the airplane blanket over my legs to get me some much needed shut-eye. I’m pretty sure it’s made out of recycled (and previously used) medical gauze.

As you can see, I’m very annoyed, distressed, and outraged. No one should have to travel this way.

And when ON EARTH is someone going to find a REAL solution for PMS??

Disclaimer: the above post does not necessarily represent the views of this blog, Inner Workings of My Mind, and its owner, Nadia El-Awady.

GPS Lady is Back with a Vengeance

The privileged few among you who follow me on Facebook will remember GPS Lady, who started communicating with me by telepathy for the first time during my road trip across Ireland in the summer of 2009. Today, GPS Lady returned with a vengeance; and with an American accent I am unaccustomed to. British GPS Lady was mean. She made sure I took the narrowest, most winding roads possible all over Ireland last year. When I yelled at her, she would telepathically respond in a cool, unnerving voice. The more she could irritate me, I could just tell she was quietly contempt on her GPS insides. American GPS Lady is cold…so very cold. After a full day together, she has not once attempted to communicate with me by telepathy. She issues orders and coldly expects to be obeyed. When I yell at her, she does not answer and continues with her orders unabated. And I have a mean yell, I tell you. You know how mothers ignore their children’s temper tantrums? That’s American GPS Lady. I didn’t like British GPS Lady. I despise American GPS Lady.

Today, while parked in my rental car in San Diego, I asked American GPS Lady how to go from where I was parked at a small mall to a supposedly nearby Mexican restaurant she had recommended. She took me out of the parking lot, onto a freeway, off of the freeway and right pass that same parking lot before having me end up at the restaurantthat turned out to be pretty much just across the street from the mall. She couldn’t just tell me, “Nadia, get out of the car and cross the street.” Nooo. She had to make me drive half way around California. And no matter how angry my yell sounded, she could have just cared less. As I said, I hate American GPS Lady.

GPS Ladies aside, I love the freedom one gets by renting a car in a new city. It’s so much more liberating than taking a taxi or riding the bus. I feel in control. And rather importantly in my case, it gives me the added benefit of a trunk for my inevitable many purchases. As usual, I have no idea whether I’ve gone overweight for the flight back home. I don’t really care though. I am now the proud owner of some extra, much-needed mountaineering gear and some diving gear! I cannot wait to try it all out. Oooh, oooh…and I bought rock climbing shoes! I’ve been wanting to try that for quite sometime. So next time I find someone who teaches it in Egypt, I am ready dude!

One of the most difficult things about driving outside Egypt is staying within the lines. It’s more difficult than they make it out to be, you know. If we do have lines painted on our roads in Egypt, none of us notice them. Two-lane roads are usually filled with four lanes of cars. We don’t like spaces in Egypt. I don’t like spaces between cars more than the average Egyptian. In Egypt, be sure I’ll yell at you if you leave a small buffer space around your car. That space could have brought me 0.5 meters closer to my destination, lady! When I drive outside of Egypt, I MUST drive within the lines and leave spaces between me and other cars otherwise I’ll have to pay a ridiculous fine. It is a challenge to say the least. Today I remembered trying to color a frog in 1st grade. I wasn’t very successful at keeping within the lines then and I wasn’t very successful keeping within the lines today. GPS Lady made it even more difficult by telling me I needed to be in the right lane at the very last second several times. So I basically ended up doing a lot of swerving. I have a line memorized in case the police pull me over: “I’m from a foreign country. I’m Egyptian. And GPS Lady is giving me hell. Show mercy.”

I hope to have interesting news for you tomorrow, so stay tuned!