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Between the lines

I’m not a person who has a whole lot of superstitions. But when it comes to flying, I have two. They are so discreet and so innocuous that if you were to travel with me regularly, you wouldn’t catch on. If you were to record my every movement on each flight I took and compare and contrast, only then might you be able to tell. Maybe.

The first is that I like to look out the window and gaze upon the city I’m leaving or arriving at, until it’s lost in the haze of distance or we’re stationary and my view ain’t gonna change until I get off the plane.

The second is that I need to have both feet planted flat on the floor of the plane for all departures and landings. Now that’s got nothing to do with safety and entirely in the realm of what cannot be explained through logic.

It’s inexplicable, but I can trace its history – all the way back to early adolescence. During school holidays, I used to attend vacation care. And on vacation care, we used to take trips now and then to all sorts of fun and not-so-fun places. On some longer bus rides, we might go over a railway track. The old wives tale associated with this act was that if your feet were on the floor when you went over the tracks, you’d fall pregnant.

Clearly these were our pre- sex-ed days.

We didn’t question this belief, though, as it was harmless enough and it didn’t cost us anything to lift our feet. Sometimes, we’d get caught up in talking and joking around and forget to lift our feet. And we wouldn’t question either why nothing happened to us.

So that’s the origin story. As to how this translated into what I do today, I really cannot say. And of course I know that the safe passage of the planes I fly on are utterly disconnected from what I do with my feet. But it costs me nothing to keep doing it, so. Whatever, right?

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I was seated next to a couple who were around my age. Mild, nice fellow travellers. But really fucking strange. The only item they seemed to have brought with them for entertainment for that 13 hour flight was an adult colouring book. And a set of Jumbo Junior colouring pencils.

The woman took the first shift. At first I thought the book was hers exclusively to fill in, but somewhere over the Pacific her husband expressed an interest in doing some colouring too.

It was at this point that I got out my phone and began to take notes of their interactions. Here’s what I wrote:

He enquired if he could do some colouring. She said sure. He said he wanted to do a difficult one. She said, ‘You can do whichever one you want’ in that very particular voice of hers – a proper Australian-British accent, every word falling finely crafted from her mouth.

He wound up spending about the same amount of time as her with the colouring book. They were both pretty conservative colouring-inners; sticking to safe choices of colours for the different patterns. Her: pink for a love-heart design. Him: orange and yellow for shapes that resembled flames.

Okay, so seriously, they were really good travelling companions. We didn’t get to know each other, but they passed my food tray down to me with a smile and didn’t grumble when I needed to get past to use the restroom. And they most likely haven’t written about me on their – probably shared – blog. Which is more than I can say for myself.

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